Guest Column: Shalom Hartman Institute Welcomes Michigan Participants Back to Jerusalem

Members of the Michigan Delegation to Israel

Participants joined more than 150 leaders from across North America for this program.

Why Israel? That’s the question the Shalom Hartman Institute campus in Jerusalem asked itself this summer as it excitedly opened its doors to North Americans after a pandemic-forced two-year hiatus.

Rebecca Star
Rebecca Star

The campus was filled with diverse learners and leaders from late June through July, including a number of visitors from Michigan. Attendees sought to immerse themselves in large lectures and small group discussions with thought leaders from across North America and Israel. These scholars offered their insights to help participants consider their own relationship with Israel amid the growing complexity of conversation in today’s politically charged and polarized atmosphere.

The local leaders were part of a year-long curriculum offered by the Hartman Institute that focused on using values-based discourse about Israel. They capped off their learning with an immersive 10-day experience through Hartman’s Community Leadership Program (CLP).

Attendees included Bradley and Robin Axelrod from Ann Arbor, Marc and Ellen Lipton and Susan and Jeffrey Klein from Huntington Woods, Dafna and Greg Kaufman from Grand Rapids, and Larry Winer from Oak Park.

“On a personal level, I loved the conference. It has nurtured my soul and helped me sink deeper cognitive, spiritual and philosophical roots that allow me to withstand the heightened turmoil we are all experiencing in this time of pandemic and political upheaval,” noted Jeffrey Klein. .

Larry Winer added, “One of the most important aspects of the program was the discussions which provided ideas and tools, especially those dealing with communication and reflection. If we can speak openly and honestly, we can accomplish so much.

Participants joined more than 150 leaders from across North America for this program.

After the Community Leadership Program ended, Hartman welcomed more than 160 rabbis of all faiths and affiliations to the Jerusalem campus for an opportunity to learn with faculty. Among the group were four rabbis from Michigan, including Rabbi Ariana Silverman of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, Rabbi Aaron Starr of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, Rabbi Joshua Whinston of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor, and Rabbi Alan Alpert of Muskegon.

Rabbi Ariana Silverman, Rabbi Joshua Whinston and Rabbi Aaron Starr
Rabbi Ariana Silverman, Rabbi Joshua Whinston and Rabbi Aaron Starr

Rabbi Whinston said, “Too often conversations about Israel are one-dimensional and reductionist. The Shalom Hartman Institute engages us in wonderful Torah learning, thoughtful conversations, and complex questions of identity and people. There are few Jewish spaces today that are so genuinely pluralistic and interested in difficult conversations. I still feel deeply nourished by the Torah I learn with Hartman and thrilled to share this Torah with my community. Hartman offers the Jewish community the opportunity to engage in a safe and meaningful space. It was a blessing to be with my colleagues for the past 10 days.

Rabbi Starr added: “Proverbs tells us: “As iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). After spending these weeks learning from the Hartman faculty and studying with fellow Hartmans, immersed with Israelis, and celebrating with friends of Shaarey Zedek visiting Israel, I return home wiser, passionate, and ready to grow in my leadership of the Jewish people.

The Jerusalem Institute also brought together day school officials, journalists, campus professionals and Muslim leaders from across North America for specialized learning opportunities throughout the summer.

Rabbi Lisa Stella, director of religious life and education at the University of Michigan Hillel, was part of the meeting of campus professionals. She said, “I am extremely grateful for the time I spent at the Shalom Hartman Institute with my colleagues from around the campus. We had the opportunity to meet and learn with and from so many people who have expanded and complicated “Israel’s story” in powerful ways. As we often tell our students, there is no learning that compares to experiential learning on the ground, in the dirt, and face to face with the people who live there. Being able to then process and chat with each other was invaluable.

The Shalom Hartman Institute is dedicated to engaging local professional and voluntary leaders with thought-provoking insights and ideas in the hope that their leadership will help shape the future of Jewish life. Michigan representatives visiting Hartman’s Jerusalem campus this summer are renewed and excited to bring their learning back to the local community.

Rebecca Star is the director of regional programs for the Shalom Hartman Institute.

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