If the smiling faces and warm greetings of B’nai Israel Congregation members weren’t enough to make guests feel welcome at a movie screening held at the shul on Monday, Feb. 18, the sight and smell of bags filled with freshly made popcorn convinced moviegoers they were in the right place.
The Orthodox synagogue in Norfolk was the second host temple for the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s five-part Step Up for Israel film and discussion series.
After greeting the 60 community members assembled in the temple’s contemporary social hall, Rabbi Sender Haber introduced Israel Inside. He noted the movie’s efforts to showcase the positive aspects of Israel, without bringing up politics, religion or anti-Semitism. Perhaps the audience may want to talk about those filmmaking choices in the discussion after the film, Rabbi Haber suggested.
“There is so much to enjoy about Israel, and this movie certainly shows that,” Haber said. “As Neil Lazarus says, it’s too late to argue should we exist or should we not exist. Israel exists.”
Before pressing the play button to start the DVD, Rabbi Haber invited colleague Rabbi Gershon Litt to briefly speak about his personal experience with JerusalemOnlineU.com, the organization that compiled the Step Up for Israel series.
Rabbi Lit explained that the organization works with college students, teens, adults and organizations, such as the CRC, to increase Jewish and Israel education through its online portal and community classes. College students get paid for completing the online courses, he said.
Following the 38-minute feel-good movie, Rabbi Haber moderated a lively discussion, filled with a variety of commentaries and suggestions contributed by the diverse audience. “I thought that the movie was powerful,” said Harvey Eluto, co-president of Kempsville Conservative Synagogue in Virginia Beach.
“I think it should be used for dialogue among groups and at schools—it emphasizes what everyone can understand.”
The next topic in the film and discussion series will be Israel and the West with Rabbi David Barnett at Temple Emanuel in Virginia Beach on Wednesday, March 20, followed by Creation of a State with Rabbi Roz Mandelberg at Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk on Thursday, April 11. The series concludes with Speak Up for Israel with Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz at Norfolk’s Congregation Beth El on May 1.
To learn more about the CRC, its upcoming events, or to find Jewish and Israeli advocacy resources, visit www.jewishva.org/crc.
Click here to see more photos from the event
article and photos by Laine Mednick Rutherford