Reform Congregations Add 'Jewish Elements’ to Independence Day Programs

Chanting the Israeli Declaration of Independence using melodies from the Torah will 'turn it into a festive and meaningful day.’

Gili Eitan

To add a more Jewish flavor to Independence Day celebrations in Israel, congregations affiliated with the Reform movement will include several new features in their organized programs this year.

One feature is the introduction of a Havdalah service to mark the transition from Memorial Day into Independence Day on Monday evening.

Havdalah, which means separation, is the religious ceremony that marks the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the new week. In a statement, the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (as the Reform movement is known in the country) explained that the intent was to “soften a bit the sharp transition from mourning to holiday.”

The Havdalah ceremony will be held at more than 40 Reform congregations around the country at 6 P.M. and will include a festive kiddush service, along with candle-lighting, prayers and song. The ceremony will be live-streamed from Yozma, the Reform congregation in Modi’in and one of the largest in Israel, to the movement’s sister congregations around the United States.

Another new element in Reform movement programs this year will be readings of the Israeli Declaration of Independence that incorporate the melodies for chanting from the Torah. A new website (www.megila.org) set up by the movement as part of this Independence Day initiative provides recordings of two different ways to read the Declaration of Independence using these traditional chants.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, said the new initiative was meant to add some spiritual elements to the holiday, long associated in Israel with barbecuing and fireworks. “Independence Day is the youngest holiday in the Hebrew calendar, and we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to turn it into a festive and meaningful day that combines the festivities with which we’re familiar with content and rituals that will strengthen our love for the land and our commitment to the values of the Declaration of Independence,” he said.