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Pledge to Help Rebuild After Haifa Fires

747 Supertanker drops retardent on Haifa fires.
Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz is thrilled to serve as the Rabbi of Adat Shalom in West Los Angeles.  Since Nolan’s arrival, Adat Shalom has presented innovative programming, has welcomed new members and has announced to once again reestablish a new religious school in the Fall of 2016. Nolan... Read More

For the last two weeks, I have woken up each and every morning and checked Jerusalem Post with extreme reluctance and fear.  Fires have raged across the State of Israel, destroying everything in its wandering path.

Since November 22nd, the fires have destroyed more than 7,500 acres of forest and more than 2,700 acres of urban area.  Roughly 30 suspects have been arrested for arson.  These suspected terrorists range from Israeli-Arabs to Palestinians with prior arrests for arson. 

This might be the scariest and most fascinating narrative in Israel in quite some time.  Never has it been so apparent that those who wish to harm Jews and the Jewish State are so consumed with the fire of hate that they are willing to ignite indiscriminate destruction with no care as to who or what is killed or burned or maimed in the process.

With the brunt of the urban damage focused in the Haifa area, there have been several videos posted online displaying the incredible damage to Kehillat Moriah, the Conservative Masorti Synagogue in Haifa. The images are devastating, the top floors destroyed, the children’s playground and toys gone.  Glass everywhere, soot and dirt cover charred scattered pages of prayer books and other holy Jewish texts lay buried under rubble.

Yet, this also might be one of the most hopeful moments for Israel as well.  In the last ten days, countries from around the world including the United States, Russia, Egypt, Jordan and yes, even the Palestinian Authority, sent aid to the Israelis to try to help put out the flames.  We are not isolated from the world.  Thank God, the Jewish State has friends and alliances, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu, many more than could even be publicly acknowledged.

At the Los Angeles Jewish National Fund Breakfast on Tuesday morning at the Beverly Hilton, I heard the story of a Russian firefighter who observed that the Israeli firefighters combat fires differently.  He said that in Russia, they approach the fire and draw a line in the ground.  They try to put it out but if they can’t successfully contain it, they just move backward and draw a new line.  In Israel, the Russians watched the Israeli firefighters literally draw lines and refuse to back up, refuse to grant the fire another inch of Israeli soil.  The Russians observed that it’s as if the Israeli firefighters love the land as much as they love their own lives.

Every inch of Israel is holy.  The land is special.  Because each inch of Israel could be waiting for its future owner or occupant to show up – our children could choose to live in in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat and so on and so on.  Each and every one of our kids has real estate spiritually and physically waiting for them.  Israel is unique.  Its land is wholly, entirely different than other lands.  It belongs to the entire Jewish People.

Israel is a national home to our national family.  All of us share a responsibility for what happens to our family home.

Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed last Monday, “In the place of every tree that was blackened, another 10 green trees will bloom.  That is what our predecessors did since the establishment of the Zionist enterprise, and that is what we will do as well: plant, build and deepen our roots.”

It is time to begin rebuilding the Haifa area. 

A wonderful article appeared in The Times of Israel yesterday December 2nd, it was titled “Israeli Arabs donate wood to rebuild Israeli synagogue.”  The synagogue is none other than Kehillat Moriah.  In the article, Rabbi Dov Hiyon of Kehillat Moriah said, “I had tears in my eyes when I heard what was happening. It was so emotional to hear that Muslims were asking to donate to a Jewish synagogue.”  Walid Abu-Ahmed, one of the Muslim timber suppliers, said, “Jews and Arabs live together in Haifa, and there is no discrimination.  We must continue with this co-existence and promote peace.”

Now we must take the cue from Abu-Ahmed and contribute to the rebuilding efforts ourselves.

We learned this week that there will be a process where the Israeli government and insurance companies determine who gets covered and in what priority.  However this bureaucratic process unfolds, I can assure you that Conservative Masorti Synagogues will not be covered for the rebuilding efforts until after the orthodox synagogues are rebuilt first.  For this reason, I wrote to Yizhar Hess, CEO of Masorti in Israel, and volunteered that Adat Shalom step up to pledge support to help rebuild Kehillat Moriah in Haifa.

Now, I am asking every member of the Adat Shalom community and members of the Jewish Community at large to give whatever we can to our synagogue Adat Shalom and we will then earmark those donations for Kehillat Moriah.  Adat Shalom will make one large contribution to the rebuilding efforts of Kehillat Moriah.  I would love for Adat Shalom to adopt a cause that Kehillat Moriah has detailed such as new children’s toys for two thousand dollars, or an entranceway for eight thousand dollars, or the playground equipment for ten thousand dollars. 

The State of Israel imbues us with strength and direction throughout the year.  Let’s now return the favor.  Let’s stand with our Conservative Masorti brothers and sisters who rely on that space in Haifa.  Let’s take a leading role in the American Jewish Community.

Part of the amazing growth and renewal we feel here at Adat Shalom can’t just be bound within our own walls.  We have to share it with the larger Jewish community as well, especially the Jewish community in Israel. 

Once again, leave your checks in the office made out to Adat Shalom after Shabbos and write in the memo “Moriah” or “Haifa” and we’ll make one large contribution as a community.  Or, you can call the office at 310.475.4985 and charge your donation as well.

“Kol Yisrael Aravin Zeh LaZeh” – All Jews are responsible for one another.  Now more than ever, it’s time to show it.

I pray we help Kehillat Moriah rebuild into a bigger, better, brighter version of itself -- for the sake of the Haifa community and for the sake of the world Jewish community.

Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz