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Temple Beth Shalom Begins Series on Israel


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By Tracy Simmons

Starting today (Dec. 8) Temple Beth Shalom will begin a 3-part series on Israel, and doors are open to the general Spokane community.

“It’s deliberately designed to open up the conversation about Israel and Israeli politics, specifically within the Jewish community, though this year it’s open up to public,” said Rabbi Tamar Malino.

Wide Open: Panel Conversations About Israel will be from 10 a.m. – noon Dec. 8, Jan. 26 and March 15 at the synagogue, 1322 E 30th Ave.

Malino said the series began last year when members of Temple Beth Shalom (Conservative) and Congregation Emanu-El (Reform) came together for a four-part series on the topic.

Opportunity For Education, Discussion

She said because Israel is often a hot-button issue, the synagogue wanted to provide an opportunity for educational and meaningful conversation on the topic. The panel, she explained, is called “Wide Open” to illustrate that the Jewish community is open to diverse viewpoints.

She said the sessions were well attended and peacefully brought people together with opposing views.

“It strengthened relationships,” she explained.

She added that throughout Spokane there’s been a broader interest in Israel and Palestine, which is why the synagogue felt it was important to invite others into the conversation.

“This falls squarely within our mission to educate about Israel. It’s new in its format, but not new in terms of what both congregations have been doing for a while,” she said.

The 2019-2020 Series

The discussions will be moderated by Malino and TBS Education Director Iris Berenstein. Panelists for each event include members of both congregations, who will speak briefly on the chosen topic before moving to a structured question and answer time. Malino said from there, attendees will move to small groups for further conversation.

Today’s topic will address Jewish identity in the U.S., compared to Jewish identity in Israel. The next panel, though, will be more controversial and will likely draw a bigger crowd, Malino said.

The Jan. 23 event will be about political movements in America and their relationship to Israel, including Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (known as BDS) and lobbying.

The March 15 topic is still being finalized.

Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.

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