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JERUSALEM – Secular, Reform and Orthodox Jews rarely join forces in Israel, but the Reform Movement in Israel overcame that divide with a team of wartime volunteers.
The group included Orthodox students and soldiers, two local Reform rabbis, a Reform rabbi from Cincinnati and a secular singer, a native of Sderot who lives in New York.
They worked with residents of southern Israel who are under fire from Hamas rockets as part of Keren B'Kavod, the humanitarian aid arm of Reform Movement in Israel.
Each person had a special reason for volunteering.
The Reform Jews said they were compelled by the principle that "all of Israel is responsible for one another." The soldiers were from intelligence unit and, since they didn't face combat, felt the need to do additional service above and beyond their military duties. The Orthodox students knew a soldier who was killed. The American rabbi and her husband have relatives in Israel. The singer wanted to help her hometown, where her mother still lives.
They delivered food to the needy and toys to children, who are confined to bomb shelters for hours on end.
"Working with Israelis and Americans, soldiers and students, young and old, Reform and Orthodox, was incredibly unique, " said volunteer Lauren Joseph of Massachusetts. "When the work that needs to be done is really important, it doesn't matter which group you identify with, just that you came and helped out."
Joseph is an active member of the Reform community in the United States and is spending a year living in Jerusalem working for the Reform Movement in Israel.
"When the siren sounds, you have less than fifteen seconds to run to a protected space. So many thoughts run through your head, but after you hear the boom and know that everyone's okay you realize just how important it is that you are there, helping," she said.
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Israel Religious Action Center
33 Jaffa Street, P.O.B. 31936, Jerusalem, Israel 91319