Israel Themes

Israeli-Themed Program Ideas That Can Be Used for Men's Club Shabbat

  1. Speakers – If your synagogue is located in or near a city that has an Israeli embassy, consulate, or other office, you might get an Israeli official to speak. Otherwise, ask your rabbi for suggestions of local speakers who could speak on a theme related to Israel. If all else fails, you could ask someone who has recently traveled to Israel to discuss the state of the country now.
  2. Youth Art or Essay Contest – Sponsor an art or essay contest with the cooperation of the Religious School with Israel being the theme. Award prizes according to grade level. Display the art around the synagogue and print winning essays in the synagogue newsletter. If you have a Friday night Shabbat dinner in conjunction with your Men’s Club Shabbat, invited the winners as your guests and also recognize them from the bimah.
  3. Have Israeli foods at the Oneg Shabbat – Offer salads, hummus, pita bread, baked goods, and fresh fruit. (You could also have this instead of cream cheese and bagels at Sunday morning breakfasts.)
  4. Purchase trees in Israel as “thank yous” – Purchase trees from the Jewish National Fund in honor of your Men’s Club Shabbat committee chairman and also present one to an outside speaker, if you have one.
  5. Have a two- or three-character skit at the Oneg Shabbat – Some possible themes are bashing stereotypes of Israelis; how Israelis look at the Palestinian situation; a discussion of the pros and cons of travel to Israel; why Israel is important to American Jews; or how the Conservative Movement (Masorti Judaism) is treated by the Orthodox in Israel. Your “playwright” should have traveled to Israel and be familiar with Israeli problems.

Other Israeli-Themed Program Ideas That Can Be Used Throughout the Year

  1. Israel Fair – If there’s one event that can drum up support for Israel, this is it. It would entail having several booths or stations around the auditorium dealing with various aspects of Israel. Among the booths could be: a travel agent specializing in tours to Israel; a booth with Israeli food; Israeli products for sale; slides or a movie about Israel;
  2. Subsidies for Youth Travel to Israel – You might add a couple of “strings” to the subsidies by requiring the father of the teenager getting the subsidy to be a Men’s Club member and also requiring the teen to do something during the course of the year to help the Men’s Club, such as helping to stuff Yom Hashoah candles into boxes, or helping to usher at services.
  3. Father/Child Art Project – Organize a father and child arts and crafts project with the religious school or a competition, on reating your own Israeli flag or your own mizrach.
  4. Solidarity Hot-Line – Set up a procedure through the synagogue so that congregants can respond to a crisis in Israel by calling a “hot-line” to donate food, money, etc.
  5. Furnish Israeli Reminders to the Religious School – Donate Israeli flags, travel posters, and Israeli symbols to the school; arrange for Israel screen savers on computers; provide Israeli-made snacks to pre-school students.
  6. Adopt-a-Synagogue/Adopt-a-School – The Men’s Club itself could “twin” with an Israeli Masorti synagogue in the World Wide Wrap and also make a donation. The Club could also donate funds for a specific project at Israeli TALI schools (Masorti religious schools). [Checks for Masorti synagogues should be made payable to the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 820, New York, NY 10115 with an indication of which Masorti congregation the money should be earmarked for. Checks for TALI schools should be made payable to the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 244, New York, NY 10115-0244 with an indication that the money should be earmarked for the TALI Education Fund or a particular TALI school.]
  7. Adopt-a-Family – Promote a project in the synagogue or the religious school to “twin” with an Israeli family. This is especially good for children to exchange information by e-mail.
  8. Create an Israel Affairs Committee for your Men’s Club – Have the chairman of the committee give a regular news update on Israel at Men’s Club meetings to promote a broader understanding of Israel and increase Israel awareness.
  9. Offer Conversational Hebrew Course for Those Traveling to Israel – If your synagogue or community is having a group going to Israel, offer a one-session course on some key Hebrew expressions that will be helpful on the trip.
  10. Solve the Israeli-Palestinian Problem – This isn’t a glib comment. Advertise this as an effort to draw boundaries that will be acceptable to all sides. Divide the audience into groups with about five people in each group. Give them maps of Israel with the various Israeli and Palestinian settlements, along with information on various peace proposals of the past. Ask the groups to come up with a consensus on how to deal with the issue of borders. (Provide each group with different colored Magic Markers to demonstrate their decisions on the map).
  11. Sponsor a Men’s Club Trip to Israel – Since it’s unlikely that one Men’s Club would have enough people willing to go at the same time, you should also consider opening it to others in the congregation or to other Men’s Clubs in your community. In planning the trip, try not to make it simply sightseeing. Contact Mercaz USA at  to see if your group can have one or two briefings on Israeli culture and history, and on political and religious issues while there.
  12. Israeli Investment Club – Get several people together who are willing to make regular investments in Israeli enterprises.
  13. Israel Experience Night – Anyone who has been to Israel is invited. Each person is to bring one item related to Israel that is special to him. Bring photos and a favorite Israel story. You will need a moderator to keep things moving, since you are likely to get a large number of people, and you may not have time for everyone. You might also consider asking high school students and their parents to attend in order to get them interested in participating in the USY Israel pilgrimage.
  14. Bring Israeli educators to your synagogue – Contact Melitz Centers for Jewish-Zionist Education (, or your local Jewish Federation to see if Melitz will be bringing educators to your community. Topics can vary. Melitz has an excellent group of speakers. If you can get one, grab him or her! Here are some examples of what they can talk about:
    • Coping and hoping – how Israelis live with terror and what can we learn from them
    • The limits of Jewish power – politics and the military in Israel (perhaps a lunch-and-learn with local lawyers)
    • The peace process – where to go from here?
    • Fun in the Sun or Sacred Duty? The role of Israel missions
    • Israel update – the ‘situation’ as it is today
    • Israel in the media – fighting back
  15. Send resource packet to college students – The packet could include historical data about the Arab-Israeli conflict, methods of presenting the case for Israel to other students, places to contact for help and further information, websites for news and information, and posters.
  16. Create an “Israel corner” in the synagogue lobby – This might include a large map of Israel with a weekly update of where newsworthy events took place, photos of congregants who traveled to Israel, information about trips being organized to Israel and about USY Israel pilgrimages, and information about Israel giving opportunities.
  17. Israeli wine sale – Many congregations schedule this as a pre-Passover event.
  18. Books and Bucks for Kids in Israel – This is part of a worldwide “Books for Israel Project.” You would collect “gently used” books in English plus $1 to cover shipping, Then arrange for the books to be sent to Israel for use by children learning to read English. For additional information, see

Suggested Movies About Israel

Have a Men’s Club dinner featuring Israeli food followed by a movie. (Some of the movies might be available in your local video store or from a community Jewish library.)

  • HaTikvah: The Hope (48 min.) – This 1936 documentary was produced by the German Zionist Union in an effort to inspire German Jews under Nazi rule to make Aliyah. It chronicles the earliest period of Zionist history and focuses on some major personalities of the Zionist Movement, the constructive work carried out in Palestine by the first waves of immigration, and the religious life of Jews from diverse backgrounds. (rental is $72 from the National Center for Jewish Film.)
  • A Wall in Jerusalem (91 min.) – A documentary about the beginnings of Zionism and the creation of Israel; narrated by Richard Burton. (#211 $59.95 Ergo)
  • Weizmann (57 min.) – The story of Israel’s first president from his early Zionist activities. Produced for the Cultural Affairs Dept. at the Consulate General of Israel, NY (free through Alden Films)
  • David Ben Gurion (29 min.) – A portrait of this Zionist leader who became Israel’s first Prime Minister uses rare archival photos. Produced for the Cultural Affairs Dept. at the Consulate General of Israel, NY (free through Alden Films)
  • They Were Ten (101 min.) – This first feature length film made entirely by Israelis recreates the establishment of a 19th century settlement in Palestine by ten Russian Jews. (#521 #39.95 Ergo)
  • Exodus (208 min.) – Film adaptation of Leon Uris’ novel about the establishment of the State of Israel. (#S02338 $19.98 Facets)
  • The Wordmaker (90 min.) – A dramatization of the life of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the “father” of Modern Hebrew. (rental $200 from the National Center for Jewish Film)
  • A Woman Called Golda (192 min.) – An Emmy-winning program about the life of Golda Meir and her contributions to Zionism and Israel. (S20834 $69.95 Facets)
  • The Masorti Movement in Israel (8 min.) – How the Masorti Movement is developing Masorti Judaism, with its Kehillots, from nothing to something against all odds to make Masorti Judaism the mainstream of Israeli Judaism. Available in video, DVD, and CD format. (Masorti Foundation)

Twin with an Israeli Conservative (Masorti) Synagogue

One of the most effective ways of strengthening the world-wide nature of the Conservative Movement is by “twinning” North American congregations with Israeli kehillot. “Twinning” can take many forms, depending on the strengths and interests of both partners.

Some possible activities may include (but are not limited to):

  • E-mail correspondence between youth groups
  • Home hospitality when traveling abroad
  • Overseas congregational memberships
  • Joint social action project
  • North American b’nei mitzvah celebrations in Masorti kehillah
  • Sharing the “World-Wide Wrap” experience

If your Men’s Club, or Congregation as a whole, is interested in finding an Israeli “twin,” please contact the Masorti Foundation office:

475 Riverside Drive, Suite 832
New York, NY 10115-0122

Who are the Israeli Masorti Congregations?

At the heart of the Masorti Movement in Israel are 52 congregations (kehillot) – ranging from small havurot to full-service synagogue centers. Unlike most Israeli synagogues, which serve only as Houses of Prayer, Masorti congregations offer a broad range of social and educational programs with Jewish content. These programs — designed for every age group – serve members of the congregations as well as the community at large. In addition to lectures, study groups, family education programs and holiday celebrations, Masorti rabbis attend to a variety of life-cycle events, such as circumcisions, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, weddings and funerals.

Just as in the United States, each Israeli Masorti kehillah has a different “personality” based on a variety of factors such as:

  • Size – Small havurot may have only a few families; larger congregations may have hundreds of members. Some are large enough to sustain a full-time rabbi; others have no rabbi at all.
  • Location – There are Masorti congregations from Eilat in the south, to Nahariya in the north; some in large cities and some in small towns.
  • Background of members – Some congregations are a mixture of different backgrounds; others have a majority of Latin American olim or Anglos. Some have large Russian contingents, and some are made up of mostly native Israelis.
  • Level and type of programming – Some congregations have large, active youth groups; others have substantial adult-education programs. Some have pre-schools; others have activities for senior citizens. Larger congregations have more and varied programs than smaller congregations.

Mercaz and Masorti

So what’s the difference?

It’s All in the Name.

Mercaz means “center”, and Zionism is central to Conservative/Masorti Judaism. Masorti means “traditional” and is the name of the Conservative Movement in Israel.


  • Membership organization (DUES)
  • Represents Conservative Judaism in the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency.
  • Promotes religious pluralism and support of Conservative/Masorti programs in Israel and throughout the diaspora.
  • Fosters Zionist and Hebrew language education and programming within the Conservative Movement in the United States.
  • Promotes short and long term Conservative Movement programs to Israel for youth and adults.
  • Supports Tnuat AM, the Aliyah Committee of the Conservative Movement.
  • Needs your membership to increase our influence and expand our activities.

Masorti Foundation:

  • Philanthropic organization (CONTRIBUTION)
  • Raises funds for Masorti Movement in Israel within North America.
  • Supports Masorti congregations and their educational projects and programs in Israel.
  • Publicizes activities and needs of Masorti congregations and programs.
  • Subsidizes programs, multi-lingual publications, and services for new olim and veteran Israelis.
  • Helps Kibbutz Hannaton and the Shorashim Communal Settlement.
  • Needs your contribution to help the Masorti Movement grow and flourish