United in Spirit: Temple Emanu-El’s Mission to Israel

by Rabb Sara Sapadin

January 13-18, 2024, marked a significant journey for Rabbi Joshua Davidson, Rabbi Sara Sapadin and 17 devoted members of Temple Emanu-El, including Temple President Harris Diamond and Board Member Margaret Streicker. On behalf of the entire temple community, they embarked on a Solidarity Mission to Israel, a heartfelt endeavor to stand with the Israeli people, confront the harrowing realities of the October 7th atrocities and affirm our community’s unwavering support for Israel in both good times and bad.

Covering extensive ground in just four days, our group engaged deeply with the land and people of Israel. We were honored to hear from a survivor of the October 7th attacks, learning about the enduring impact on his family. The poignant words of Lee Siegel, brother of hostage Keith Seigel, resonated with us, urging us to share their story and to continue advocating for all the hostages still in Gaza.

Our itinerary included meeting volunteers and NGOs who responded valiantly to the crisis, visiting communities hosting displaced families and exploring Israel’s state-of-the-art Magen David Adam blood center. We engaged in hands-on support, from donating blood to assembling care packages, and participated in dialogues with journalists, politicians and advocates, each offering unique insights into Israel’s current challenges and future.

The unique value of our Congregation Emanuel trip to Israel is that it engaged us in direct, substantive and constructive dialogue with many Israelis on the front lines of Israel’s  battle against terrorism and movement to protect democracy.” – Jim Gabbe

The mission profoundly deepened our connection to Israel and its people. Witnessing their resilience and indomitable spirit in the face of adversity filled us with respect and admiration. Our congregants reflected deeply on this experience. Danielle Greenberg emphasized the importance of “showing up” for Israel and the global Jewish community.

Rabbi Rinat Safania of V’ahavta, the Reform Community in Shoham, poignantly captured the essence of our visit: “After October 7th, we felt alone. But your visit made us feel less alone.”

Several members shared powerful thoughts encapsulating the essence of our journey. Jennifer Geiling expressed her pride in being a Reform Jew, lauding our commitment to equality, social justice and inclusivity. Jim Gabbe highlighted the mission’s unique value in facilitating direct dialogue with Israelis at the forefront of combating terrorism and defending democracy. Dr. Phyllis Mervis reflected on Golda Meir’s words about Israel’s “secret weapon” – its fierce determination and optimism, which we witnessed firsthand. She also acknowledged the gratitude expressed by many Israelis for our visit and thanked Temple Emanu-El for making this trip possible.

“I left Israel proud to be a Reform Jew. We are leaders in standing up for equality, social justice and inclusivity.” – Jennifer Geiling

Here at Temple Emanu-El, we reaffirm our commitment to stand with Israel, advocate for her and uphold her right to defend her people. As such, we want to express our gratitude to all mission participants: Harris Diamond, Judith West Edelman, Ellen Rothschild French, James Gabbe, Jennifer and Charlotte Geiling, Karel and Danielle Greenberg, Stephen Harris, Phyllis Mervis, Mollie Levison, John and Bonnie Rotenberg, Rebecca Rozen, James Solomon, Margaret Streicker and Samantha Triolo.

Am Yisrael Chai – The people of Israel live!