Tammuz 5771 July 2011

Dear Friends of Makom Bagalil,

The past year has seen an intensification of the long-running debate over just what role Diaspora Jews should play in discussions regarding Israel's policies in various areas - from foreign relations to issues of religious freedom and personal status. Throughout the centuries of life in ghettoes and shtetls, there was no question that the community must present a united front against an often hostile environment. Now that we live in democracies - and that we even have our own democracy - and now that we are a player on the stage of history, with a sovereign state and an army, the rules of the game have changed. We are left struggling to find the right balance between that traditional commitment to unity and our belief in individual freedom, in the importance of open debate, and in our acceptance that there can be multiple morally-grounded points of view on issues of communal and national policy. This struggle has led to strident confrontations in the media and in communal organizations - and, for those with no stomach for these, to a lapse into disengagement.

It is our belief that the more you know Israel in depth, the more sympathetically you can listen and respond to diverse and opposing views of the path the state should take - and the more you can be engaged in the process of helping to clarify and realize the vision of a sustainable Jewish state. Our educational motto is ''complexification.'' Whether it's Arab teens in an encounter with Jewish peers, American Jews grappling with definitions of a Jewish state, Israeli learners in a beit midrash on social responsibility, readers of our bilingual website, or teachers in a Diaspora Jewish school ''teaching Israel,'' we hope that everyone experiencing our programs will leave the room more confused than when they came in. We operate on the assumption that rich experience and exposure to different voices help to open minds. And that open minds can lead to open hearts.

Thanks for your interest and support. Best wishes for a pleasant summer.
Rabbi Marc J. Rosenstein, director

...a little help from our friends

The reason we weren't much affected by the Madoff crash was that we have no endowment that we could have invested with him. That's the good news. The bad news is that we have no endowment to invest with anyone, meaning we live from year to year and month to month from program income (35%) and contributions from friends and grants from foundations (65%). There are good years and bad years. This is looking like a bad one, as we have had a few major disappointments, leaving us with a looming deficit that will require cutbacks of programs in the second half of the year. We want very much to avoid this scenario. If you'd like to help we would be most grateful.

For example:

  • Direct contributions via Israelgives (online) or PEF (by check; write us for instructions).
  • Bring your Israel tour to one of our programs - study tour, circus performance, Neighbors encounter.
  • Contribute to the Galilee Circus in honor of a happy occasion, especially a bar/bat mitzvah; a suitable acknowledgement will be sent.
  • Order Chava Alberstein greeting cards (see below).
  • Choose one of our projects as a mitzvah project for school or youth group.

If you would like to receive further information about any of our programs, or about the above suggestions, we'll be happy to provide it.

Another way to help: if you participated in our Neighbors program of encounters with the Arab citizens of the Galilee, we'd love to get your feedback - to fill out a 3-minute online evaluation questionnaire, click here.


The ''Jewish Spirit in the Galilee'' coalition of adult Jewish education partners in our region gained significant momentum throughout its first year - a year that ended with an extremely successful Tikkun Leyl Shavuot (the day before Shavuot) at the Karmiel public library. With a grant from the New Israel Fund, we were able to invite musician Shlomo Bar to lead a ''drumming circle'' to open the evening; then representatives of the various coalition partners (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and communal organizations) taught workshops on aspects of the ten commandments. And of course there was cheesecake. There were around 120 participants, and a very festive spirit, leading us to believe we may be on to something. We are pleased to report that the Pittsburgh/Karmiel/Misgav Partnership has decided to support the continuation and expansion of this project for the coming year. Tova Sacher from our staff taught one of the workshops; the night before, Sigalit Ur represented us in a community tikkun at the Misgav public library, while Rabbi Rosenstein was leading a tikkun for students, parents, and teachers at the ORT high school in Hatzor.

Comings and Goings

We are sorry to announce that Shiri Horesh, who joined our staff as a Galilee Fellow and then stayed on for six years, will be leaving us at the end of the month. She and her family are moving out of the area. Her unique voice in our staff deliberations, and her coordination of the Neighbors and Galilee Circus programs left an important mark on us and our institutional culture - and on thousands of program participants. We will miss her, and we wish her much success.

Sarah Herr will also be departing this summer. Though she has only been with us for a year, as a volunteer intern working with the circus, her impact has been huge, on the staff and on the kids. When she arrived, we had no idea what to expect; but her unique combination of modesty, strength, initiative, and commitment soon became evident. While we are trying to figure out how to get along without her, we wish her much success in her continued studies in Holland.

And we welcome summer intern Gabe Hendin, from St. Louis, a student at the University of Michigan. Gabe is spending the month assisting with our Neighbors' encounters, and helping with research for curriculum projects and with program documentation and PR. He hit the ground running, and we fear that his month will be over before we know it.

We're anticipating the arrival of Max Pepose, a performer who was part of the St. Louis Arches youth circus delegation we hosted last summer. Max is coming for the Maccabiah games, but will be spending some time hanging out with his circus buddies here and doing some volunteer coaching.

Remember New Years' Cards...

...before e-cards? As mentioned in a previous newsletter, singer-songwriter Chava Alberstein has donated a set of her paintings from her latest CD booklet, to support www.dugrinet.co.il, our Hebrew-Arabic website. We have converted the paintings into colorful 4 x 6 in. top-fold note cards, and will be happy to send out packets of 8 assorted cards with envelopes, as follows (via air mail):

Contribute $18 - receive one packet of 8; $30 - two packets; $40 - three packets; $50 - four packets

To donate, click here; then send us an email with mailing instructions.

Sample card:

Feel free to forward this offer to friends who might be interested!