It has been a little over a week since nearly 300 of us from this community returned from a powerful eight days in Israel. This was the largest and most diverse delegation that CJP has brought to Israel in a generation, if not ever.

As we head into Shabbat, I am just beginning to process this extraordinary experience. For years we have been planning and building this initiative that we call Spark: Igniting Our Jewish Future. Spark is about more than an Israel experience—it is a multi-year opportunity for our diverse community of communities to engage and reconnect with one another, and with Jewish life and learning. There are no words for the gratitude I feel toward my CJP colleagues, our Spark Co-chairs, Geraldine Acuña-Sunshine and Brad Bloom, the educators, and spiritual leaders, volunteers, and philanthropic partners who have worked so hard together to make the Spark dream a reality. And we’re just getting started!

Thinking back over the week, we saw the best of Israel and its very real challenges. We wrestled with our relationship and our roles as American Jews, and we celebrated the incredible impact we have made. We learned, connected, and imagined what’s possible as we look toward the future.

(Photo: CJP)

Geraldine reminded us that the Jewish story began thousands of years ago with God’s calling to Abraham of “Lech lecha (go forth)” from your home and begin the journey toward the place that I will show you. From the beginning of our People’s history, there has been forward motion, aspiration, vision, and direction. Israel has always been a physical destination and historic homeland, as well as a powerful reminder to keep longing, dreaming, striving. Each of us has our own, personal story. And, since the time of Abraham, we have been a People with a purpose, whose collective story continues to unfold.

Israel at 75 years young is both a miraculous success and a young country facing significant challenges and questions about how to build a vibrant, inclusive, secure, and democratic Jewish state. As American Jews, perhaps now more than ever, we have an opportunity and responsibility to contribute our voices, our passions, and our imagination to the writing of the next chapters of the story of Israel and the Jewish People.

I love that we bookended the Spark Israel experience with joyous dancing in Haifa and Tel Aviv, celebrating over 30 years of Boston-Haifa and 75 years of Israel. One person shared that the dancing was a metaphor for the kind of community we aspire to build. As we circled the dance floor, she observed, many of us were looking around for those who were not yet in the circle, eager to bring them in. Here in Greater Boston, we are continually aspiring to expand that circle, and each of us has a vital role to play.

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(Photo: CJP)

That’s the kind of joyous, connected, inclusive, community I want to be part of.

This beautiful metaphor also reminded me of a Talmudic teaching that, in the world to come, righteous people will be dancing around in a circle, each pointing their finger to the middle of the circle and saying, “There is God [in the center of our circle].”

May we continue to build communities that are worthy of the Divine spirit, where each of us feels connected to something larger than ourselves, and where that connection also binds us to one another.