18 Local Clergy Visit Israel on Interfaith Mission
By Stephen E. Lipken
A significant trip to Israel was undertaken by 18 Westchester clergy on May 14-20, 2022, encompassing Pastor Kiril Angelov; Rabbis Jeffery Arnowitz, Jonathan Blake; Reverend Jen Brown; Priest Yamily Bass-Choate; Rabbi Menachem Creditor; Reverend Tim Dalton; Elliot Forchheimer; Rabbis Howard Goldsmith, Daniel Gropper, Evan Hoffman; Senior Minister Martha Jacobs; Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe; Elder Mark McLean; Rabbis David Schuck, Jay Stein; Tali Strom; Pastor Lee Trollinger; Rabbi Annie Tucker and Rector Kevin Veitinger.
“It was an interfaith mission to Israel,” Temple Israel Center, White Plains Rabbi Annie Tucker stated. “The focus of the trip was really on creating relationships, getting to know each other so that the relationships we created in Israel could be brought back to our local community to create greater unity.
“A lot of our trip to Israel was visiting holy sites of all three faith traditions. We went to the Kotel, Church of the Nativity, Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Al-Aqsa Mosque at the Dome of the Rock. Another focus of the trip was learning and hearing the different voices in Israel.
“We went to the Lebanon border and heard from a retired Army Colonel about security issues in Israel and in Bethlehem, heard from a Palestinian living there about what it is like being behind the Security Wall. We visited Yad Vashem, the legacy of the Holocaust.”
“A special highlight was being in Israel for Lag B’omer,” CEO Of Westchester Jewish Council, Elliot Forchheimer noted. “Experiencing the joy and festive mood of the country and seeing so many bonfires made for a special evening/day.Meeting and learning with faith-based leaders from throughout Israel, touring the various quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem, hearing personal teachings of each of the clergy on the trip and Machane Yehuda/Shuk food tour has made this a week to remember.”
“The mission to Israel was truly a Pilgrimage, in the original sense of the word,” Beth El Synagogue Center, Rabbi Shuck added. “Our Christian brothers and sisters had an opportunity to visit places that are holy in their religious traditions. We shared ours with them as well. We prayed together, had heart-stopping conversations about our respective faiths, we talked about our struggles as religious leaders, and of course, the rabbis were able to share our deep love of the State of Israel.
“And now, we are dreaming about ways that the faith communities of Westchester can unite to be a source of hope in our country during this challenging time in the world.”