Rabbi Perry’s Upcoming Sabbatical

Keeping Connected January 2024

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, last winter I took the first part of a four-month sabbatical. I spent two months living in Argentina, Uruguay, and Mexico, during which time I was able to learn a great deal about the history and culture of the Jewish communities in each of those countries. My plan for the remaining months of the sabbatical was to go on a rabbinic mission to Israel at the end of January, 2024 for a culture and innovation tour, followed by a return to Argentina. However, so much has changed in the world since I originally made those plans.

After the terrorist attack in Israel in October, the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ trip quickly evolved into a solidarity and fact-finding mission. I wrestled with whether or not I would participate given the war and security issues, but have recently decided to go forward with my plans.

Although I do try to gain knowledge about Israel and Gaza from a wide variety of news sources, it is very hard to be in America hearing news that is filtered through different media platforms. It will be far more meaningful to listen and learn from a diverse group of people who have been directly impacted by the terrorism and war. I’ve included some of the highlights of the planned itinerary below, but everything is subject to change depending on the security situation on the ground in Israel. I will keep in touch with the congregation during this part of the sabbatical so that you may learn along with me.

Perhaps you have also been reading about Argentina in the news. Life there has dramatically changed since Hale and I were living there last year; since that time the country has elected a new president, Javier Milei, who is an economist and self-described “anarchist-capitalist”. I am not sure what that means exactly, but I do know that in the short time he has been president he has begun a sweeping plan of monetary devaluations, government cutbacks, the cessation of subsidies, and large-scale layoffs. Many consider the situation very volatile and there is the possibility of civil unrest. Given the instability in the country, Hale and I have sadly decided not to return this winter. We love the country and the Jewish community there, but do not want to risk being there at such a tenuous time. I feel terrible for the Argentinian people who are facing inflation of over 160% and I pray that demonstrations do not become violent. Just before the Covid-19 epidemic began, we were traveling in Chile when that country was facing significant upheaval. We witnessed fires in the street and had to run away when the police started shooting at demonstrators. We saw burned out buses and every bank and most businesses in Santiago were boarded up so that they could not be looted. I pray that the situation in Argentina does not become that desperate.

Given this change, I am now going to spend the time traveling through Portugal, Spain, and Prague. I have studied the history of Sephardic Jewry over the years and I look forward to being able to deepen my knowledge. I also hope to visit some of the progressive synagogues in these countries. Prague is unique in that it was one of the few places not bombed by the Germans during WW II and as a result, the city has preserved much of the rich Jewish history and architecture. Just as I did last year, I will be sharing my experiences on my Instagram account @sabbaticalrabbi. Please follow along!

The sabbatical begins on January 12th and I return on March 15th. During the time I am away, members of our community will be leading services at the synagogue and helping with shivah services. Rabbi Julie Wolkoff, who helped with rabbinic coverage last year, will also be supporting our community. If you need help with a life-cycle emergency during that time, please reach out to our congregation’s president Becky Abrams at 617-777-0027.

I am grateful for the support of the community during this time of renewal and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you in the spring.

I hope you and your families have a Happy and Healthy 2024!

Warm regards

Rabbi Shoshana M. Perry

Highlights of Israel Itinerary:

  • Meet with colleagues from MARAM – the Israeli Reform rabbinic association.
  • Walking tour of Tel Aviv’s recent protest art installations, including a stop at Kaplan Street to meet with local activists.
  • Meet with Gisha to learn about the rights of Gazans and their reality during the ongoing operation.
  • Hear from Rabbi Benjamin Minich to gain insight into the effect of the ongoing conflict on the local Russian and Ukrainian communities.
  • Drive north on the Trans-Israel Highway and see the Security Barrier which runs along the seam zone between Israel and the Palestinian territories.
  • Visit & volunteer with Or Hadash and learn about their community work during the ongoing war.
  • Explore the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood in Haifa.
  • Meet Arab and Jewish activists working on the Leo Beck community garden and discuss how recent events have affected their work.
  •  Visit Kfar Tikvah, a communal housing project for disabled adults.
  • Visit Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek, the temporary home of Kibbutz Nahal Oz and hear testimonies from the community and show support for families waiting for the return of their loved ones currently held hostage in Gaza. Meet with Reform rabbis from the Otef to hear about the state of their communities.
  • Stop in Modiin to volunteer at the Modi’in Hamal for disabled children with the Yozma community, led by Rabbi Nir Barkin.
  • Meet with MK Rabbi Gilad Kariv.
  • Visit the National Jewish Institutions and speak with Yaron Shavit, the IMPJ representative at the Jewish Agency.
  • Tour the newly opened National Library.
  • Words, poetry, and documentation: Morning dialogue with Eliaz Cohen, a poet, editor, and peace activist. Cohen has been working on poetry and literature written throughout the war in an attempt to portray the mood of the nation.
  • Inter-religious relations today: Visit the Old CIty and climb to the rooftops, overlooking the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the golden Dome of the Rock, and the famous Hurva Synagogue.
  • Meet with Alden Solovy and hear of his ongoing prayer writing project in Yemin Moshe.
  • Study session with Rabbi Dalia Marx about Pidyon Shvuyim (the mitzvah of freeing the captive) and its impacts on real life.