Site Visits


Buses to Israeli Reform Judaism In Action | Thursday, May 18 at 10:00:

Departing directly from the Kotel immediately following Shacharit, buses will stop for an overview of the city’s growth before heading out for tours and site visits of programs, leaders and congregations from the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ). Experience first-hand how our Reform Movement is seeking to put Progressive Jewish values in action to create a more pluralistic, just, and benevolent Israeli society.


Tour A: Emerging Communities & Inclusion [Shoham]

Over the past six years, the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) has doubled its number of congregations as part of its “u’Faratztah” strategic community development initiative. This tour will visit two vibrant and expanding congregations. Meet with student rabbi Rinat Tzfaniah, of Kehillat Shoham, and with Rabbi Galit Cohen-Kedem from Kehillat “Kodesh v’Hol” in Holon, along with congregational leadership, municipal representatives and representatives of the “Partnership Together” program of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). The second part of the tour will visit IMPJ projects that focus on inclusion of people with special needs, led by IMPJ project coordinator Yuval Newman.

Led by: Yuval Newman [Israel], Rinat Safania Schwartz [Israel]Shani Wiss-Goldman [Israel]


Tour B: Success Stories in State Funding of Reform Rabbis & Arab-Jewish Shared Society [Gezer]

In 2012, following a seven-year legal battle, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of a petition filed by Rabbi Miri Gold and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) to mandate the State of Israel to pay rabbinic salaries to non-Orthodox rabbis operating in regional councils. Five years after this ruling, eleven Reform rabbis are serving regional councils around the country, connecting Progressive Judaism to suburban communities such as kibbutzim and small  towns. This new model in Israel is allowing our rabbis to reach out to a larger part of Israeli society and create significant change in how people in suburban areas conceive their Jewish identities. Visit Kibbutz Gezer to learn about Kehillat “Birkat Shalom”. The tour will also explore interfaith programs at Reform congregations and point to some of the achievements and challenges faced by the IMPJ and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) in their efforts toward religious coexistence in Israel.

Led by: Rabbi Miri Gold [Israel], Rabbi Yael Karie [Israel], Sharona Yekutiel[Israel], Yonatan Melamed[Israel], Majed Mohammed Abu Bala[Israel]


Tour C: Giyur (Conversion) and the Successes & Challenges of the Reform Beit Din in Israel [Tel Aviv-Jaffo]

More than 240 individuals were converted to Judaism last year by MARAM, the Israeli Council of Progressive Rabbis. This tour will meet with a few of  those who have converted and the rabbis who lead this sacred work. Learn more about the issues and policies of conversion in Israel with Nicole Maor, Advocate for the Legal Aid Center for Olim (LACO) of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). The tour is most suitable for visitors involved and interested in issues of conversion, interfaith marriage and Jews by choice in Israel.

Led by: Rabbi Yehoram Mazor [Israel], Rabbi Galia Sadan [Israel], Advocate Nicole Maor [Israel]


Tour D: Training Rabbis for the 21st Century in Israel [HUC-JIR]

This tour will take place at the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute Religion (HUC-JIR), where we will meet with students in the Israeli rabbinic program. We will explore various programs for educational and spiritual leadership and study issues relating to peoplehood and the challenges within Israeli society. While walking around the campus, we will examine concepts and values of Reform Zionism and participants will meet with students in the various programs, as well as the academic staff of the College. Come and study the fundamental principles that empower Reform Rabbinic Leadership in Israel and North America with us in Jerusalem.

Led by: Rabbi Naamah Kelman [Israel], Rabbi Ofek Meir [Israel]


Tour E: Cutting Edge Reform Education in Israel [Jerusalem Area]

Encounter the challenges and achievements of Progressive Jewish education in Israel with educators and students at schools and pre-schools of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ). Visit TALI Bayit Vagan elementary school, one of the movement’s flagship schools in Jerusalem, to meet with the principal, Aya Meiri, and hear from students and educators about the school’s unique curriculum. Visit a nearby IMPJ preschool before sitting with Dr. Oded Avissar, IMPJ Director of the Education Department, for an open discussion on the issue of Reform Jewish education in Israel.

Led by: Dr. Oded Avissar [Israel], Ada Brodsky [Israel], Reut Noyman [Israel], Rabbi Galit Kedim-Cohen [Israel], Rabbi Stacey Blank [Israel]


Tour F: Gender Segregation & Religious Extremism [Beit Shemesh]

Visit Beit Shemesh, where gender-segregated sidewalks, buses and stores provide the backdrop for the contentious issue of women in public spaces. Meet with local female Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox leaders of the struggle for equality in – and access to – public spaces.

Led by: Anat Hoffman [Israel]


Tour G: Inside Israel’s Knesset & Supreme Court [Jerusalem]

Walk the halls of Israel’s top legislative, judicial and governmental bodies – the Knesset and Supreme Court – with activists and advocates from the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). Learn about landmark past and current cases IRAC is fighting for, and meet with Members of Knesset Michal Biran and Nachman Shai. Note: passports and long trousers are required.

Led by: Rabbi Noa Sattath [Israel], Advocate Riki Shapira [Israel], Lauren Puris [Israel]


Tour H: The Jerusalem Security Fence, Perspectives and Implications [Jerusalem, Surrounding Area and Hebron]

Sponsored By: Rabbis for Human Rights

Understand the implications of Jerusalem’s “security barrier” by meeting the people and touring the sites most affected by its towering division. Examine Israeli and Palestinian perspectives on the issue from Jewish sources regarding the moral dilemmas that the barrier presents. Witness the wall’s impact on daily life in East and West Jerusalem. Experience the difficulties and challenges, both from the Israeli and Palestinian sides, of crossing the wall, and examine the tension involved in trying to balance between security and human rights. *All locations are on the Israeli side of the barrier.

Led by: Rabbi Nava Hefetz, [Israel]


Tour I: Gush Etzion, the Complexities of Land and its People [Gush Etzion]

Partnership with Department of Diaspora Activities, World Zionist Organization [WZO]

Located southwest of the city of Jerusalem, Gush Etzion is the first regional council of Jewish settlements that was established in the territories of Judea and Samaria after the Six Day War. Over the last decade, the area has doubled in population to more than 20,000 residents. While the region is best known for being a hotbed of political issues, both national and international, what is less known about the “Gush” are its diversity of residents – religious and secular – and towns – from kibbutzim to small villages to larger cities. Tour the area, meet the people, hear the history, and take in the breathtaking landscape.

Led by: Gael Grunewald [Israel], Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman [Israel]


Shabbat Afternoon Activities | Saturday, May 20 at 14:00:

Spend your Shabbat afternoon resting or reengaging with Jerusalem in new ways with our activity options. Note: Tours leave from Mercaz Shimshon Lobby.


Activity A: Jerusalem Interfaith Walking Tour [Christian Quarter]

Hana Bendcowsky [Israel]

Tour the Christian Quarter of the Old City to learn about the presence of the local Christian communities in the Holy Land: their history, heritage and identity. Explore the challenges of Jewish-Christian relations as they are reflected in the daily life of the city of Jerusalem within the unique context of a Christian minority and Jewish majority.


Activity B: Meet Jerusalem’s LGBTQ Community [Around Jerusalem]

Moti Shushan [Israel]

Join tour guide Moti Shushan to encounter the lesser-known heroes and stories of Jerusalem: the LGBTQI+ individuals whose actions, from the Mandate period to present times, have impacted everything from the city’s urban development to its social and political agendas. Discover a diverse and vibrant Jerusalem that is pioneering issues of coexistence and acceptance beyond national, political and religious boundaries.


Activity C: View the Old City Through the Eyes of Youth [The Old City]

Mathilda Wise [Australia], Mili Haber [Australia]

Tour the Old City’s Jewish quarter, Arab shuk (market) and Christian quarter and discover fun and obscure facts along the way.


Activity D: Seudah Shlisheet [Beit Shmuel Patio]

Boaz Dorot [Israel]

Join fellow delegates for an afternoon of music, relaxation, and nosh. Bring your instrument, voice, and spirit!


Activity E: Hayehudim Baim [BS, 1st Floor, Big Hall]

Rabbi Josh Weinberg [USA]

Hayehudim Ba’im (The Jews are Coming), a satirical TV show, which completed its first broadcast season in January 2015, and began its second season in January 2016. This is a contemporary Israeli television program, broadcast on Israel’s historic Channel 1-for many years the only TV channel in the country-devoted not to spoofing contemporary Israeli politics but to sketches that target the entire history of the Jewish people since biblical times. Here the laughs depend not on an intimate knowledge of all the ins and outs, scandals and skirmishes of Israeli politicians and its parties, but on central moments in Jewish history and culture throughout the ages. The title of the series itself marks a shift in focus, announcing, as it were, the coming home of Jews and Jewishness to Israeli humor. With Hayehudim Ba’im, Israeli TV satire of the Jewish Holy Book has returned but this time, better and funnier than ever.  This is NOT for the light of heart or for those who do NOT appreciate dark humor.