Adat Israel Slideshow

One of the highlights of our FTJ Guatemala trip was spending Erev Shabbat with Adat Israel, the newly recognized official Reform congregation in Guatemala City (they used to be known as Casa Hillel). When we arrived we found ourselves greeted by two lines of people, warmly welcoming us with “Shabbat Shalom” and “Welcome”! We joined them for a song filled Kabbalat Shabbat, followed by a delicious home cooked meal of chiles rellenos! It was one of the warmest most memorable Shabbats many of us have ever experienced.

I (Ilana) was formally introduced to this community through Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, a well-known and respected Reform Rabbi based in Toronto, Canada. She had met them about five years earlier, and has worked with them as their long distance “rabbi”. She describes this amazing warm community: “Who are they? Four families with children who somehow found each other. A large number of single men who have found these families, and one single mom. One gay person who sought out Judaism when it became clear that Reform Judaism accepts homosexuals as equals and valued in the sight of God. Only one can trace his ancestry through Jews in pre-Inquisition Spain, though some have tiny memories or beliefs to suggest that their families were Jews in the past. One is fully Mayan in ancestry. Most came from evangelical and Catholic backgrounds and were frustrated by what they perceived in their churches as hypocrisy, greed, sexual abuse, and a suppression of free thought and free inquiry. There are some born Jews among them who have joined the congregation because it is simply a wonderful place to pray and a loving and embracing community. Once in a while someone on vacation or on a tour will seek them out and find them, and after one Shabbat there, is also changed forever. This community adores Jewish ritual and prayer and practices it with full and unabashed joy. They have had many, many doors slammed in their faces in the past. And yet they somehow believed that one day, someone would see their sincerity and that Hashem would answer their prayers.

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The weekend following the end of our FTJ trip, Rabbi Elyse Goldstein returned to officiate at their formal conversion (with the generous support of Kulanu). She was joined by (slide 3) Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder and Rabbi Claudio Kogan (a Spanish speaking Rabbi and mohel). The weekend began with a beautiful Erev Shabbat service, followed by candle lighting and the other prayers (slides 1-2). Shabbat morning was especially wonderful as three members of the congregation leyned Torah for the first time (slides 4-6). After Havdalah, every person took a written exam (in Spanish) and passed with flying colors. The Beit Din with the three rabbis was convened, and each person went before it to be questioned on both their sincerity and their knowledge.

Rabbi Elyse writes that “The highlight of the weekend was certainly the pre-mikvah service on Sunday morning, where a community that had been up until midnight the night before with Beit Din, and whose men had gone through hatafat dam at seven a.m. that morning, stood as all Jews stood at Sinai and received the Torah. With a Sefer Torah dressed in Guatemalan fabric in front of the room, and the three Rabbis as witness, they sang Shema Yisrael (slide 7). They took pledges of loyalty and fidelity to Judaism, promising to build Jewish homes and raise Jewish children. They searched their hearts and their souls and placed their lot in with the Jewish people amidst all circumstances. They sang “Ozi v’zimrat Yah: God is my Strength” with full hearts and tears streaming down their eyes. All I can say is: the Jewish people are blessed with groups like these. My life as a Rabbi is much richer because of them.”

Following the service they drove about 40 minutes to a fully natural mountain thermal pool (a baptismal site!) and immersed in the “mikvah” (slides 8-9), one candidate at a time.

During the quiet time in between there were art projects (slides 10-11) and decorating the synagogue for the evening (slides 12-13), where the entire community went back to the shul where three couples were married under a chuppah with a proper and traditional ketubah in Hebrew and Spanish (slides 14-25).