Rockdale Temple’s 2014-15 Scholar-in-Residence delivered a sermon titled “The Eternal and Eternally Complex Relationship: The People of Israel and the Land of Israel Today” for the Erev Shabbat service at Rockdale on February 27. Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, Ph.D. addressed historical and current changes in the relationship between Jews and Eretz Israel and discuss why she believes this to be the most important issue facing Jews today.
Her message also covered the complexities of the modern Jewish state’s continuing struggle to forge mutually agreeable relationships with the non-Jewish people who also call Israel their homeland.
“It’s important for us to examine how historic Jewish leaders from Abraham to Moses to Herzl saw their connections to Eretz Israel and understand how they compare and contrast with our relationships to the modern land and state,” she said.
Rabbi Sabath lived in Israel for nearly 15 years working as a rabbi, scholar and raising three children with her husband Rabbi Ofer Sabath Beit-Halachmi who was a congregational Rabbi. A regular contributor to the Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel, she has co-authored two books and published numerous scholarly articles. She has served as Vice President of the Shalom Hartman Institute where she was a faculty member and directed the Hartman Lay, Rabbinic and Christian Leadership programs.
In ‘Radically Free and Radically Claimed,’ the chapter she contributed to the book Jewish Philosophy in Our Time, Rabbi Sabath expresses a deep commitment to the land of Israel and its status as an independent democratic state. She is a strong proponent of ethical governmental treatment of Israel’s minorities and residents of disputed territories.
Rabbi Sabath received her rabbinic ordination from HUC-JIR/New York in 1995 and earned a Ph.D. in Jewish Philosophy from Jewish Theological Seminary. She is the National Director of Recruitment and Admissions for Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), where she is also the current President’s Scholar. She serves as Director of the Office of Community Engagement for the College-Institute’s Cincinnati campus.
Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran said Rabbi Sabath was chosen for the role of Scholar in Residence because she is passionate about working in the Jewish community as well as “an engaging and amazing teacher with an ability to instruct on topics that are extremely relevant in our time.”
The Rockdale congregation began its Scholar in Residence program in 1977. In previous years, it comprised several lecture/discussion sessions and a sermon in one Friday-through-Sunday event. Rabbi Coran said that inviting a Cincinnati resident to be the 2014-15 Scholar has given Rockdale the opportunity to offer lecture/study sessions over a period of several months, allowing the potential for more people to attend.
Rabbi Sabath began a series titled ‘A Celebration of Jewish Ideas: God, Torah and Israel’ as part of Rockdale’s Rak Limud Adult Education program last October. She has focused her presentations on modern and historic ideas of the foundations of Judaism and modern Jewish identity. Rabbi Sabath conducted the final session titled ‘What Still Claims Us?: On Authority and Autonomy’, on Sunday March 22nd.