At a time of so much worrisome news, from the prospect of an enriched and emboldened Iran to the deepening Washington-Jerusalem rift, allow us to note two positive events this week: the opening of the European Maccabi Games in Berlin, and what the Masorti (Conservative) movement in Israel called “a small but hopeful moment in Israeli society” that took place in Jerusalem.
The Maccabi Games, sometimes known as the Jewish Olympics, began in the late 19th century as a result of Jewish athletes being banned from sports competitions. The fact that the this year’s event is taking place at the site of the 1936 Summer Olympics, where American Jewish athletes were shamefully removed by their coaches from participating so as not to offend Hitler, is a sign of the survival and pride of the Jewish people as well as the openness of German democracy today.
And in Israel, a pre-Tisha B’Av meeting was convened by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at his official residence in Jerusalem, bringing together leaders of the local Orthodox, Conservative and Reform communities for a Torah study seminar.
The evening came about after months of bitter controversy that began when the charedi mayor of Rehovot banned bar and bat mitzvah services for several severely disabled children because they were to be held at a non-Orthodox synagogue. Rivlin, in seeking to resolve the rift by offering to host a service at the presidential residence, seemed to add to it by disallowing a Conservative rabbi from participating.
But all seemed forgiven at the pre-Tisha B’Av program, during which Rivlin spoke of the contributions to Israel of Jews of all denominations, and Conservative leaders praised his “generous gesture.”
Now if only the Israeli government would support religious equality in the Jewish state.