Responding To The Crisis in Israel and Gaza

Our Rabbis Words

We actively explore the profound moral concerns and highlight voices fostering understanding, advocating for peace, and leading initiatives toward a just resolution to the ongoing conflict.

Event
2 weeks ago • Jun 30, 2024
CNN, Fareed Zakaria GPS – American Jews reckon with Israel’s war in Gaza
Rabbi Sharon Brous joins Fareed to discuss how Jews in the US are grappling with their Jewish identity amid the war in Gaza and rising antisemitism.
SERMON
3 weeks ago • Jun 22, 2024
Our Brothers’ Keepers
Our family is broken. Please, God, help us heal.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Lunch & Learn
1 month ago • Jun 15, 2024
Lunch & Learn with IsraAID’s Yotem Polizer
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous and Yotem Polizer
SERMON
1 month ago • Jun 15, 2024
A Prayer for Peace
Every ounce of our energy must advance a vision of peace. There is no other way to rebuild a society in ruins. Our God, and God of our ancestors. Our God, and God of our descendants. Grant us peace.
By: Rabbi Morris Panitz
Sermon
1 month ago • Jun 8, 2024
Lest the Zealots Lead Us Again to Catastrophe
We are at an inflection point: will we again fall prey to the zealots?
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
CLASS
2 months ago • May 9, 2024
Learning Series with Rabbi Chaim Feidler-Seller
Join Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller for a timely and sensitive 3-part series. With 40 years of experience as the Executive Director of UCLA Hillel, Rabbi Seidler-Feller offers a nuanced and unique perspective on the current moment and how we got here.
Sermon
2 months ago • May 4, 2024
I Care About Our Safety. And I Care About Our Soul.
We must have zero tolerance for violent and racist rhetoric in our Jewish community.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Sermon
3 months ago • Apr 13, 2024
Open Doors, Open Hearts
How can we ensure that the Passover Seder is not performative, but transformative?
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Talks
4 months ago • Mar 9, 2024
IKAR’s Conversation with Standing Together
Join us on Saturday, March 9 after Shabbat Morning Services for a free community, vegetarian lunch and conversation with Standing Together, a grassroots movement mobilizing Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel in pursuit of peace, equality, and social and climate justice.
Sermon
7 months ago • Dec 9, 2023
We Have No Other Choice
We don’t all need to love each other. But we absolutely must understand one another.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Sermon
7 months ago • Dec 2, 2023
Visions of Peace
Never abandon the conviction that peace is our ultimate hope, and it can be found.
By: Rabbi Morris Panitz
Sermon
8 months ago • Nov 18, 2023
In Memory of Vivian Silver
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Podcast
8 months ago • Nov 17, 2023
The Sermons I Need to Hear Right Now
This is a conversation about the relationship between Jewishness and the Jewish State.
By: The Ezra Klein Show
Sermon
8 months ago • Oct 28, 2023
We Are Hebrews. We Must Act Like It.
Rooted in our identity is an ancient call to meet our family in sorrow, to act in solidarity, and even from the depths of our pain, to never, ever forget the humanity of the other.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Israel-Gaza
8 months ago • Oct 27, 2023
MSNBC — Our hearts are big enough to hold the humanity and heartache of Jews and Palestinians
Rabbi Sharon Brous joins Joy to ask that people, “hold the humanity and heartache and the trauma and the need for security and safety of the Jewish people while also holding the humanity and heartache and the dignity and the need for justice for the Palestinian people”.
Sermon
9 months ago • Oct 14, 2023
We’ve Lost So Much. Let’s Not Lose Our Damn Minds
After the atrocities in Israel on Simhat Torah, among the worst in Jewish history, we must remember the healing power of community, and the importance of compassion, solidarity and showing up.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Writing
9 months ago • Oct 13, 2023
A rabbi and imam on how they’re counseling their communities
NPR’s Ari Shapiro speaks with Imam Mohamed Herbert in Kansas and Rabbi Sharon Brous in Los Angeles about how they’re counseling their congregations during the conflict in Israel and Gaza. Hear the interview or read the full transcript here.
Israel-Gaza
9 months ago • Oct 12, 2023
How to morally, ethically navigate the war in Gaza
Hamas’ mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza didn’t happen in a vacuum. There’s a long and complicated history in this conflict.
Writing
9 months ago • Oct 11, 2023
Talking to teens about Israel
Dear Parents, Our hearts are shattered by Hamas’s brutal coordinated terror attacks, including the slaughter and kidnapping of hundreds of Israelis.  Click here to read Rabbi Brous’ Reflections. As parents, it can be difficult to know how to speak with our teens about what is happening especially as we ourselves are trying to make sense of the continuing tragedy. We recommend reading Dr. Sivan Zakai’s article, How to Talk to Kids about What’s Happening in Israel Right Now, for suggested language for talking to children of all ages, including teens. You might also check out this fact sheet. Here are some additional suggestions for how to engage in conversation. Talk to your teens  Ask your teens what they know. Ask them what else they want to know.  Some teens won’t want to know more; others will. Talk to them about how they’re feeling. Share your feelings too, but be mindful of how much you are sharing so as not to increase your child’s distress.  Remember that your teen is encountering a range of opinions and terms on social media and in social groups that they may need help making sense of. Invite open and honest conversation. Help your teen understand that we are capable of holding multiple truths at once. Prioritize teens’ mental and physical health   As much as possible, preserve normalcy and routine, while also giving your teens space to feel and express their feelings.  Teens are still learning how to cope with big feelings. Here are some tools that will help them recognize when they need support or a break from social media: Check in with your body. Does your body feel tense? Do you feel a tightness in your chest? Are you hunched over? Check in with your mental and emotional state. Am I feeling angry? Anxious? Sad? If so, it might be time to take a break. Help teens consume media intentionally  Help teens navigate the world of social media.  Especially at this moment, videos are being shared on social media that can be traumatizing and are impossible to “unsee.” The ADL has shared that Hamas will likely release videos containing disturbing content. Parents may want to take extra care with their children’s media consumption, especially on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, in the coming days. Validate your teen’s need to know about what is happening and help them set limits to prioritize their well-being. If you are able to limit your child’s exposure to social media, do so. If not, be sure to check in regularly about what they are seeing and reading. Show your kids where you go to get reliable information. Remind teens that it is okay not to watch. You might say something like, “Of course we care about what’s happening in Israel and we have a need to witnesses. But we don’t need to show our support by watching videos that have been created just to terrorize us.” Instead, encourage teens to reach out to their family and friends in Israel to show their love and support. Help teens identify how they can help  Ask your teens what they want to do to help and share what you are doing as a family. Rabbi Brous suggests these tzedakah organizations: The New Israel Fund, engaging in critical emergency efforts to meet the moment, providing basic services, including mental health and trauma counseling for those left most vulnerable from these attacks, and preventing flare ups of inter-communal violence in mixed cities by supporting the social infrastructure. United Hatzalah, which offers emergency medical treatment across the country. And Zion, one of many local community efforts to get resources directly into the hands of those in most dire need, including clothing, food and diapers for those who fled the kibbutzim at the border that were attacked. Support for teens at IKAR  On Saturday, October 14th we’ll gather with teens and Rabbi Jensen in room 308 during Shabbat lunch (12:30) for an opportunity to process together. We are grateful to be in community with you.   May the one who brings peace on high bring peace to our people and all people. With love, Rabbi Tsadok, Tamara and Rebecca
By: Rabbi Ronit Tsadok, Tamara Joseph and Rebecca Berger
Writing
9 months ago • Oct 9, 2023
Holding This Impossible Moment
Many of us are struggling to hold the weight of Hamas’s coordinated terror attacks on Israel over the weekend.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Writing
9 months ago • Oct 9, 2023
Talking to kids about Israel
Dear Families, Our hearts are shattered by Hamas’s brutal coordinated terror attacks, including the slaughter and kidnapping of hundreds of Israelis.  Click here to listen to Rabbi Brous’ reflections on this past Shabbat. As parents, it can be difficult to know how to speak with our children about what is happening especially as we ourselves are trying to make sense of the continuing tragedy. The following are resources and suggestions for family conversations. We plan to take time in Limudim tomorrow to talk about Israel. Please see below for what those conversations will look like in each class. We also want to assure you that our highly skilled security team is in direct conversation with the Community Security Initiative (CSI) of the Jewish Federation. We have full confidence in their ability to keep us safe. Talk to your kids.  Some of us might worry that bringing up difficult topics with our children can be scary or even traumatizing. Dr. Sivan Zakai, a thought leader in Israel education, writes: “Research has shown that watching traumatizing events on repeat can be very unhealthy for children, but talking to children about troubling current events doesn’t make kids more traumatized. It actually helps them cope with living in a world in which troubling current events occur. Help your children learn to navigate the shards of our broken world; the first step is a conversation.” Read her article, How to Talk to Kids about What’s Happening in Israel Right Now, for suggested language for kids of all ages. How to Start a Conversation.  Kids pick up on our emotions and it can feel disconcerting to them if they don’t understand why their parents are sad/anxious/afraid. In her book “Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be,” Dr. Becky Kennedy offers this advice for how to talk about hard truths: “I often say something like, ‘I want to talk about something that we’ll all have big feelings about.’ Say this slowly and with eye contact. Afterward, take a deep breath—this will ground your body and also give your child an opportunity to ‘borrow’ this regulation from you in a tough moment. Next, use real words to describe what is happening…After you’ve delivered a hard truth, pause. Before giving more information, check in with your child. You might ask, ‘How does it feel to talk about this?’ or say, ‘It’s okay to be sad about this. I feel sad too.’” What to Say to Young Kids.  Tell the truth, but keep it brief. You might say something like, “On Saturday, fighting started in Israel. There are a lot of people in Israel and in America who are working hard to end the fighting and keep everyone safe.” Answer kids’ questions honestly, but they don’t need to know a lot of details. As much as possible, keep them away from news, social media, and podcasts that might scare them. Assure them that they are safe. What to say to Elementary and Middle School Kids.  Our kids have likely picked up that something is going on (whether we tell them or not). Students who were in the IKAR service on Shabbat morning might have heard our rabbis speak about the situation. Ask your child what they know, and answer their specific questions with basic facts. Try to speak with nuance. For example, explain that Hamas – a terrorist group – does not represent all Palestinians. Assure kids that they are safe. Speak honestly about what is happening with your friends and family in Israel.  Try to keep kids away from the news and social media. Encourage kids to come to you or other trusted adults with questions or for information. Limudim tomorrow  We want to create a supportive space for your children to share their feelings during this time and will take a few minutes at the beginning of Limudim for each class to have a brief discussion. After establishing guidelines for courageous conversations, here is how our teachers will approach the conversation tomorrow: K-2nd: Teachers will let kids know that this weekend fighting started in Israel. Many people are thinking about Israel and there are a lot of adults in Israel and in America who are working hard to keep everyone safe. Teachers will assure kids that they are safe. Teachers will invite kids to share their feelings and offer blessings or hopes for Israel. 3rd-5th:  Teachers will share that on Saturday, Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization, attacked Israel. Many Israelis and Palestinians have died. People are still fighting. They will invite kids to ask questions and share their feelings. Teachers will assure kids that they are safe and invite kids to share hopes or blessings for Israel. 6th-7th:  Teachers will share that on Saturday, Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization, attacked Israel. Many Israelis and Palestinians have died. People are still fighting. They will invite kids to ask questions and share their feelings. Teachers will assure kids that they are safe. They will end with blessings for Israel. We know that middle school students have greater access to social media and the internet and many have likely seen graphic and horrifying photos and videos circulating. We will speak about the importance of turning to parents and teachers for information and to ask questions. We will also gather as a school from 4:45-5:00 on the rooftop to sing Hatikvah and offer blessings for Israel. Parents are welcome to join us. We look forward to seeing your children tomorrow and being in community together. May the one who brings peace on high bring peace to our people and all people. Amen. With love, Rabbi Tsadok and Rebecca
By: Rabbi Ronit Tsadok and Rebecca Berger
The Amen Effect
9 months ago • Oct 8, 2023
CNN — ‘The only future is a shared future,’ says American rabbi on the day after the Gaza war
Christiane Amanpour speaks with Rabbi Sharon Brous of the IKAR synagogue in Los Angeles, and author of the upcoming book "The Amen Effect," on Jewishness, antisemitism, and the complexities of discussing this war.
Israel-Gaza
9 months ago • Oct 7, 2023
In sorrow and solidarity
Our hearts are shattered by Hamas’s brutal coordinated terror attacks, including the slaughter and kidnapping of hundreds of Israelis on this holy day. To the people of Israel, know that your American Jewish family is with you in sorrow and solidarity. We pray for an end to this violence and horror and a return of the captives. May the one who brings peace on high bring peace to our people and all people. Amen.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Writing
11 months ago • Jul 24, 2023
IKAR on Israel’s Right Wing Government
We are outraged and dismayed by Israel’s right wing government’s action today to advance the judicial coup, another dangerous step toward transforming Israel into a fundamentalist, theocratic nation.
Sermon
1 year ago • Apr 15, 2023
Prophetic Grief and Public Protest
Some reflections on my recent trip to Israel and the meaning and potential of this protest movement.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Writing
1 year ago • Apr 5, 2023
This Pesah: You Love Something? Fight For It
Pharoah consulted with three chief advisors on his plan to defeat the Israelites: Balaam, Job and Yitro. Balaam matched Pharaoh’s cruelty with his own, conceiving of the plan to kill the Israelite baby boys. Job and Yitro, on the other hand, were disgusted by this plan, but both determined that they couldn’t convince Pharaoh to shift course. Job stayed silent, but Yitro, unwilling to be complicit in Pharaoh’s crimes, fled, in protest. The Rabbis suggest that all three were paid back for their consult years later: Balaam and Job were punished (one was killed, the other suffered mightily), and Yitro was rewarded with descendants who sat on the High Court, the Sanhedrin. (Sotah 11a) There are a few critical lessons for us to learn from this. Evil does not penetrate a system at the hands of one bad actor. Every tyrant has legions of advisors, funders, supporters, enablers who make it possible for him to conceive of and enact his designs. History deems them all responsible. Some will match the tyrant’s cruelty with our own, some will succumb to the pressure and stay silent (anticipatory obedience), and others will opt out in protest. Each of us must make a choice in the face of tyranny. Our actions have real implications—not only in our own lifetime, but also in the future. Our decisions to act or our failure to do so will reverberate for generations to come. The Exodus story is not just a recording of events that occurred long ago. It is an eternal reminder that God stands on the side of the vulnerable and a promise that redemption is possible, in every generation. It is also a timeless warning of the dangers of unbridled power, and a plea that we resist tyranny, each of us with whatever power we possess. There’s one remarkable detail in this story that I’m drawn to this year, especially as we consider the roles Balaam, Job and Yitro are said to have played. Twice in our narrative, Pharaoh declares that every baby boy must die, but the girls can live. (See Ex 1:16 and 1:22.) What’s going on here? It’s clear: Pharaoh saw only the men as a threat. He couldn’t fathom that women could amass the power to expose his cruelty and bring down his regime. But remember, even the most morally courageous of Pharaoh’s three advisors—Yitro—packs his bags and heads out of town, rather than stay and fight. That’s a striking contrast to the behavior of the women of Exodus chapters 1 and 2: Shifra and Puah, Miriam and Yochevet, Batya. They neither concede to the tyrant, nor do they stay silent. And they don’t skip town either. Instead, each of them rises up in protest against a violent and oppressive regime threatening them and their future. With courage, persistence, and ingenuity, they penetrate and ultimately overturn the power structure, confronting the machinery of death by choosing life, love and holy defiance: Shifra and Puah drive a spike through the wheels of injustice, resisting Pharaoh’s orders and allowing Israelite baby boys to flourish. Miriam and her mother Yochevet invest in the future, even when no future seems possible. Pharaoh’s own daughter, Batya, subverts her father’s decree from within his own house. What an outstanding irony! The very people Pharaoh dismisses become the cornerstone of the rebellion. It is they who plant the seeds to topple the empire and pave the way to true liberation. This may, in fact, be the only way that social change happens: when each of us, in our own way, and all of us, together—especially those dismissed, disregarded, marginalized, or ignored by the people in power—use what we have to confound, undermine and ultimately dismantle the systems that oppress, degrade and deny. That is how we defeat tyranny, then and now. I am just back from a week in Israel, on a small emergency delegation with the New Israel Fund. It was a spiritual whiplash from euphoria to devastation and back again—feeling the spirit of the nation rising up against injustice, and then seeing with clear eyes the religious fundamentalism, messianic extremism, racism, fundamentalism, and geopolitical entrenchment that stand as obstacles to the just society we dream of. One image I bring to the seder table this year: Sunday night, March 26, 2023: After a long day at the Knesset in Jerusalem, I checked into my hotel in Tel Aviv and pulled out my computer to start to work. A few minutes later, at around 11 PM, my brother (who lives in the outskirts of Tel Aviv) called to say that the Prime Minister had just fired the Defense Minister, and people were calling for a mass protest in the street. “You have to go,” he said. “This is history.” I left the hotel and started to walk, as throngs of people poured into the streets chanting: Get off your balcony… the country is collapsing! (It rhymes in Hebrew: צאו מהמרפסת– המדינה קורסת!.) I arrived to the heart of the protests on Kaplan Street where there were hundreds of thousands of people out at midnight, singing, dancing, drumming and declaring that they would not allow their country to be turned into a dictatorship. I saw young and old, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, religious and secular, swept up in a spirit of transformation. It felt less like the country was collapsing and more that the country was being reborn! A massive, spontaneous awakening, a beautiful, diverse, and unified voice of protest. All told, 800,000 people took to the streets across the country that night. Israel is a small nation built on a great dream: a dream born of our history of anguish and agony, of yearning and praying and promising—a dream enshrined in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State and not yet achieved—to build a Jewish nation based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel, a state ensuring complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants. The dream is great, and the challenges are also great. Chief among them: the dream of democracy, now under such serious threat, has never been a reality for millions of Palestinians living under a 55-year occupation. This remains the unresolved moral crisis of the nation. But/ and… what was clear to me on March 26, and in the days since, is that the people are making a choice: while many will be complicit in the fanatical, messianic dreams of the regime, while some will stay silent, and others will flee the scene altogether, many, many people—hundreds of thousands, will stay and fight. They will use their collective power to fight tyranny, whether the threat stems from external or internal forces. And together, they will lift up a vision of a true democracy: with justice, equality and liberation for all. And what’s so brilliant and beautiful and surprising about it all is that, like our ancestors in Egypt, the ones collectively planting the seeds of peaceful revolution are precisely those who were underestimated by the power structure. And they are only just getting started. I wish that was the final word here. But last night, the night before Passover, in the midst of Ramadan, Israeli security forces entered al Aqsa, that sacred tinderbox, to evacuate Muslim worshipers who had barricaded themselves in. The videos are horrific: hundreds were beaten and 400 arrested. Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s far right Minister of National Security, has called for masses of Jews to ascend the Temple Mount during the week of Passover, a flagrant violation of the status quo agreements at the site and a dangerous provocation. Some extremists are already preparing to come with goats and lambs to offer as sacrifices, something the Minister, himself, was arrested for attempting 17 years ago. This, just a few days after the tragic killing of Mohammed al-Asibi, a young Palestinian medical student, by Israeli security forces at the gate to the complex. We are terrifyingly close to a new violent conflagration. In this season of our collective liberation, it will take all of our voices, our power, our presence to fight for an end to violence and oppression, for our people and for all people. I pray that we muster the strength and the will— With blessings, R’ Sharon Brous Some resources for you: The leaders of the protests put together this incredible Haggadah—bring it to your seder for some timely inspiration. Contribute to the New Israel Fund—to support the people working every day to preserve democracy and civil society. While I was there, I was invited to speak at the protests in Kfar Saba, a town just outside of Tel Aviv, where 25,000 people have packed into a massive outside courtyard to protest every Saturday night for the past 13 weeks. You can watch my speech here.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Sermon
1 year ago • Mar 25, 2023
We Were Strangers, Too
Right now we find ourselves approaching Passover where we are reminded of our oppression and slavery in Egypt and our eventual path toward freedom.
By: Rabbi Hannah Jensen
Sermon
1 year ago • Mar 25, 2023
The Spirit of This Nation is Rising Kfar Saba
"The vitality of these pro-democracy protests in Israel is astonishing. The spirit of the people is rising on the streets. I was honored to speak at the protests in Kfar Saba after Shabbat— 25,000 strong! Israel must be a democracy, with justice and equality for all!"
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Writing
1 year ago • Feb 27, 2023
We Condemn the Violence
We are heartsick and disgusted by the violence being perpetrated in the West Bank. Two Israeli brothers, Hallel and Yagel Yaniv, were murdered yesterday by a Palestinian gunman in a brutal act of terror. We grieve with their family, and pray they find consolation after this devastating double loss. And we strongly and vehemently condemn the violence that followed, as Jewish settlers launched a retaliatory pogrom against the residents of the Palestinian town of Huwara. Settlers torched Palestinian homes and cars and terrorized families, murdering Sameh Al-Aqtash, a Palestinian man who had just returned from offering humanitarian aid to earthquake survivors in Turkey. Many others were wounded or left homeless.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Sermon
1 year ago • Feb 4, 2023
The Tears of Zion
Parashat B'shallah. Israel is barreling toward an unrecognizable future. Let us not sleep through the revolution.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Writing
2 years ago • Mar 30, 2022
We call for an end to violence and pray for peace
As so many major world events continue to keep the entire globe in tension, it is sadly too easy to overlook one crisis or another. And yet, amidst everything else that is happening, we in the Jewish community cannot help but note with horror that this past week we witnessed the deadliest series of terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens in many years. In a spree of five attacks, eleven Israelis have been killed, the last five just yesterday in a shooting in Bnei Brak.IKAR always mourns the loss of life in the Holy Land, but it is especially tragic when we see violence targeting non-combatants, people murdered as they are just going through their day trying to live their lives, work their jobs and take care of their families.We are heartened by the condemnation of these attacks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. We are also encouraged by the summit of foreign ministers which also took place this week in the Negev, with representatives from the US, Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and Morocco, in an attempt at “building a new regional architecture based on progress, technology, religious tolerance, security, and intelligence cooperation.” With the spirit of the Negev Summit in mind and Passover, Ramadan, and Easter on the horizon, we pray for the kind of universal peace that is idealized by all people of faith.Indeed, we Jews pray for peace in the land of Israel and throughout the world three times a day in our prayers. It is heartbreaking when we must add to those prayers an urgent plea for the cessation of extremist violence. But that is the prayer on our hearts this week. May the coming week bring strength and healing to those who have been close to the violence, and safety and sanity to all the peoples of the region.– Rabbi David Kasher, Rabbi Morris Panitz, and Rabbi Ronit Tsadok
By: IKAR Clergy
Writing
4 years ago • Jun 11, 2020
Rabbi Sharon Brous’s Remarks to Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin held a video conference with Jewish community leaders on what is currently going on in America and in Israel. Here are Rabbi Sharon Brous’s remarks.
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Writing
7 years ago • May 15, 2017
A Letter to my Daughters in College
Source: The Jewish Journal
By: Adam Wergeles
Writing
7 years ago • May 15, 2017
The Politics of Division and Diversion
Source: The Jewish Journal
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Writing
7 years ago • May 15, 2017
Israel In Trying Times: Unity Not Uniformity
Source: The Huffington Post
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous
Writing
7 years ago • May 15, 2017
Let’s Bet On Peace
Source: JTA
By: Rabbi Sharon Brous