Masorti Leads Mass Purim Services in Hostage Square

This article was provided by The Masorti Foundation and published on Friday, March 29, 2024

During the Purim period, we gathered twice in Hostage Square, to stand alongside the families of the hostages and express our hope that all would “be reversed”, as in the Purim story.

On the Fast of Esther (last Thursday), we prayed an egalitarian minhah service together with Yarden Gonen, sister of Romi who was kidnapped to Gaza. Yarden, in her own unique and special way, moved everyone to tears, planting deep hope in the hearts of everyone present. We all cried out for the release of the hostages and prayed for “relief and deliverance” for them and for all the Jewish people.

The service, including the fast day Torah reading, was led by Rabbi Nathalie Lastreger (pictured right reading Torah) from the Masorti kehillah in Kfar Vradim and other Masorti rabbis. Such an egalitarian service is still not a typical sight in Hostage Square and other public places in Israel, so the participation of the general public made this into an even more moving event.

On the day of Purim (Sunday), we held a Megillah reading in Hostage Square, which reminded us of the Jewish story and our inherent fortitude as a people. Over 250 women, men and children joined the reading, including some of the families of hostages. The picture below shows some of the people in attendance and, in the forefront, favorite foods of some of the hostages, prepared by their families and offered as mishloach manot to people visiting the square.

The Megillah reading was led by Rabbi Yoav Ende and members of the Masorti kehillah in Hannaton. The yellow graggers (chosen to match the yellow ribbons that show our readiness to welcome home the hostages) and the moments of silence that accompanied the Megillah reading accentuated our struggle and pain, alongside the mitzvah to make merry on Purim.

Does it help to pray at Hostage Square?

Rabbi Leora Ezrachi-Vered, one of the many rabbis who lead Masorti’s pluralistic daily prayer circle at Hostage Square, asked this question, replying, “I don’t know. Honestly. But sometimes that is all we have. Perhaps all it does is calm my heart and those of the people present in the square at that moment. Every day, thanks to the Masorti Movement and Elisheva Barak (Masorti’s director of National Projects), a heartbeat of hope, prayer and devotion is offered up from there.”

Bar and Bat Mitzvah for Children with Disabilities Bar Mitzvah Boy Idan Moves All to Tears

This week we launched the 2024 ceremony season of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah for Children with Disabilities program. Even with many obstacles in opening the school year, due to the war and the lack of safe rooms in some schools, we have successfully worked with the schools and the parents to bring the program to fruition.

The program is run in dozens of schools, and we will hold more than 20 ceremonies this season. Yesterday (Thursday) we held the first such ceremony of the year, at Kehillat Neve Tzedek, and were all moved by the bnei mitzvah, Alex and Idan, from the Anoch School in Tel Aviv. They and their families, despite many challenges, did not give in to outside pressures, managing to study, prepare for and hold the bar mitzvah ceremony.

At the end of the service, there was not a dry eye in the room when Idan (pictured above next to his mother) asked for the microphone to offer a special prayer for the safe return of all the hostages and closed the ceremony by chanting “Am Yisrael Chai!”

Milestone at Masorti Kehillah in Nes Tziona: First Bar Mitzvah

Yesterday (Thursday), our kehillah in Nes Tziona, which first met six years ago for Yom Kippur services, took another step in the process to becoming a fully-fledged kehillah by holding its first bar mitzvah ceremony. Uri Avnon and his family wanted an egalitarian service and preferred to hold it in their own kehillah, instead of having to find a Masorti synagogue elsewhere. Uri (seen above reading Torah for his sisters), studied with Rabbi Maayan Belding-Tzidon (left) and the ceremony was led by Masorti’s Director of Development, Rabbi Mikie Goldstein (right).


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