The Sinai Temple Israel Center Rabbinical School Fellowship has launched a new program for the next generation of rabbis to address the centrality of Zionism within Judaism.
It will support rabbinical students across denominations to visit Israel and explore the theologies of diverse religious groups that live there. The 12-month program will also examine controversial questions about Israel’s founding, the history of anti-Israel actions by the United Nations and contemporary policies from U.S. presidential administrations.
Students will focus on primary text and exposure to scholars in the field of Israeli history, thought leaders in the realm of Israel-Diaspora relations, and rabbinic leaders in North America.
They will meet with such groups as the Co-Existence Program in Jerusalem, the Israel Law & Liberty Forum and the Israel Democracy Institute. They will also tour the city of Bethlehem, in addition to the Jewish settlement communities of Elkana and Arie.
Rabbi Erez Sherman, the incoming co-senior rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, which sponsors the fellowship, is heading the program. He said the new initiative is geared to fill “educational gaps for our rabbis of tomorrow.”
Sherman conceded that rabbis hold diverse opinions, noting that “differing views is at the heart of Judaism, but Ahavat Yisroel, ‘love of Israel,’ as the birthplace of our people, and the home and safe haven for Jewish people across the globe, is something we can all agree on.”
The program was created in part in response to growing anti-Zionist sentiment among rabbinical students. In 2021 as a reaction to the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, a letter was signed by 100 non-Orthodox students at multiple seminaries that accused Israel of being an apartheid state that engages in “violent suppression of human rights.”
Other fellowship sponsors are Jewish National Fund-USA, the Paul Singer Foundation, and the Lisa and Michael Leffell Foundation.