Great Neck rabbis to bring peninsula together for dialogue

Five Great Neck rabbis next month will continue an annual tradition of bringing together members from different congregations for a discussion of the issues facing the Jewish community.

Rabbi Howard Stecker of Temple Israel, Rabbis Meir and Tara Feldman of Temple Beth-El, Rabbi Dale Polakoff of Great Neck Synagogue and Rabbi Yamin Levy of the Beth Hadassah Synagogue will host a forum titled, “Are We Still One People?: A Frank Look at the Political, Religious and Social Issues That Are Dividing the American Jewish Community,” on March 5 at Temple Israel.

Stecker said it is a “pretty unique” experience to have rabbis from various backgrounds coming together for a common cause.

“I think it’s important for people to see their leaders talking to each other and talking to each other respectfully,” he said. “Just the presence of rabbis coming from different backgrounds and denominations is valuable.”

The rabbinic dialogue was started “many years ago” by the Men’s Club of Temple Israel and the Brotherhood of Temple Beth-El, Marc Katz, co-president of Temple Israel Men’s Club,  said.

Initially, Katz said, the dialogue only featured former Temple Israel Rabbi Mordecai Waxman and former Temple Beth-El Rabbi Jerome Davidson.

But as time went on, the program grew to include rabbis from other congregations on the peninsula, he said.

Katz said despite differences of opinion, the rabbis enjoy getting their members together for this type of discussion.

“I know that these rabbis feel that there are more things that unite the Jewish community than divide them,” he said. “They do genuinely enjoy bringing their own congregations together to hear the give and take of all the rabbis of all the congregations.”

Stecker said that each year, the rabbis discuss what issues members of their respective congregations have been bringing up and try to base their discussion on the most important topics.

“We decided that we are going to be asking questions about unity, about the diversity that exists within our entire community ideologically and politically and raising the question of what makes us one people,” he said. “We decided to frame it in a way that is provocative.”

Stecker also said that in the past, the rabbis have elicited topic ideas from their congregants.

Although they did not do that this year, he said, those attending the discussion will have the opportunity to ask questions.

“There’s no substitute for letting people into the moment,” Stecker said. “What it means is people get to ask questions of rabbis they may not get to see.”

The event will begin at 10 a.m. in Temple Israel’s sanctuary at 108 Old Mill Road.

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Joe Nikic

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