Blessings in Honor of 13 Years – Beit Tefilah Israeli’s Bar Mitzvah

On Saturday, July 8, 2017, we gathered to celebrate 13 years of activity. Here are some of our members’ moving greetings and blessings

Lior Sagi:

At first, it feels a bit like “coming out of the closet”.

Friends around ask: so… are you becoming religious?

And what is this “Beit Tefilah Israeli” that you liked on Facebook?

People are suspicious and you see that they are concerned, and then you realize that this step you are making – becoming part of the Beit Tefilah Israeli community – will require me to answer a lot of questions.

But here, at Beit Tefilah, the answers are not too important.

Questioning, searching, curiosity, exploring, and renewing – these things are our main focus.  

For many years, our Israeli identity was strong. We knew what it meant for us to identify as Israelis.

But since that Friday evening at the Tel Aviv Port, we could also feel deep inside our Jewish identity too.

It’s an identity that is not looking for “trouble”, doesn’t want to fight and is not narrow-minded, but rather it’s a Jewish identity that connects us to tradition, to egalitarianism, and to creativity.

There are still a lot of goals we must achieve, a lot of barriers to cross. We have a long way for sure. But along the way we will always remember, and know, that to be an Israeli young adult and a member of Beit Tefilah Israeli means that there is hope.

Mazal Tov!


Sefi Dahan:

Shabbat Shalom,

I first came across Beit Tefilah Israeli only six months ago.

Like many good things in life, it happened by chance when I was reading the book of Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Man’s Quest for God”, that was published in 1954 and translated into Hebrew 6 months ago.

In the book’s introduction, the translator – Dror Bondi, mentions Beit Tefilah Israeli. And I quote:

“We are a small group of Heschel followers here in Israel, and my work is very dependent on trust and partnership. This translation could have never happened without the help and push of my friend Esteban Gottfried from “Beit Tefilah Israeli”, who became a devoted Heschel follower upon his opportunity to study Heschel’s philosophies with Rabbi Marshall Meyer, one of Heschel’s students…

The magnificent philosophy of Heschel in general and in “Man’s Quest for God” is based upon several principles, including:

> The great importance of prayer for humankind.

> The great importance of Shabbat.

> And especially: Judaism that is based upon love and not guilt.

When I entered the doors of Beit Tefilah, I could immediately feel how Heschel’s words become real and concrete:

> A synagogue with love and care, that accepts everyone that steps in, in a personal and warm way, with no separations and barriers.

> Here I get to see and feel a deep, special and meaningful prayer – from the bottom of the heart and with so much compassion.

All of this was created here by the beautiful community members and the establishers, Rabbi Esteban and Rabbi Rani, and I am really grateful for that.

To conclude, if I may say, in my opinion, Beit Tefilah has a very important role in our contemporary Israeliness — to bring Israelis the other, unheard voice of Judaism — Judaism of love!

I wish us many more years of fruitful activity and a shared community. And of course, many more years of prayer.


Pini Shamir

At Beit Tefilah Israeli’s Beit Midrash three years ago, we studied Masechet Shabbat.

Rani asked us what Shabbat personally means to each of us. Everyone, including me, answered what Shabbat currently meant to them. When I thought of what to say in honor of Beit Tefilah’s Bar Mitzvah, I remembered what Shabbat was for me as a child. Almost every Shabbat, early in the morning, before doing other things like going to the beach, my father would sit in the living room next to the big radio with the green eye, listen to the cantoral parts on the “Israel Voice” station and sing every tune and psalm, remembering every word. This is the same father that followed the family ethos and left the religion and the rabbinate, and became a member of the “Poale Zion” left-wing socialist party. The father that never set foot in a synagogue until I wanted a Bar Mitzvah like everyone else. Not the Kaddish nor Kiddush, but rather the tunes deeply mattered on Saturday morning. I can’t remember any tears but I’m sure that there were.

I also am following my ancestors; On the one hand I know more about Judaism and Jewish tradition than most of my secular friends including Kiddush and soccer or Shabbat at the sea, but on the other hand, as I said about my father – not the Kaddish nor Kiddush.

Until I found Beit Tefilah Israeli. I still have many things that that I can’t define about my identity and Judaism, but I found a place that enables me to ask questions without feeling like a sinner or a criminal.

A place that allows me to sing deeply and deliberately and pray, with Kiddush and with the Kaddish and with the “Poale Zion” and all of it can live more or less in peace, inside me.

Staying at a hotel on Yom Kippur so I can pray all day with the congregation — who would have believed.

Kabbalat Shabbat with exaltation became a way life without effort. When I can’t make it to Kabbalat Shabbat for happy occasions, like when we traveled abroad for a wedding, it became clear to me — exactly what scarcity or distancing does — that Kabbalat Shabbat became an essential part of my life. Thank you to the leaders and to the community.


Rivka and Reuven Bakalash

It is not just a coincidence that we are asked to bless specifically at the Bar Mitzvah of Beit Tefilah Israeli.

The Bar Mitzvah has a special meaning in our family history. The Bar Mitzvah of 3 of our children brought us to become members of the community, at first the Magen Abraham community in Omer, and then in “Beit Tefilah Israeli” in Tel Aviv.

It is appropriate during a community’s first year, to bless that the small community will grow. When you reach the 25th year, the road is already paved and you have many members and partners.

Although Beit Tefilah Israeli has yet to reach 25 years, at the age of Bar Mitzvah, it already has worthy achievements that can be acknowledged and praised. What’s also important is that the original enthusiasm and active spirit is still evident in community during Kabbalat Shabbat, partnership trips with the Society of the Protection of Nature in Israel, and Beit Midrash – where over the years we explored with the fundamental issues of the Jewish world including Shabbat, Shmita, and combining hymns with music.

To conclude, I want to quote a beautiful Hebrew song: “Intention creates faith…” – and I add to that: faith brings intention, and intention gives you direction – “…to the light”.

I wish much success to Beit Tefilah Israeli as it continues to grow and build its community, affecting Tel Avivians, the Israeli society and Jewish people everywhere.Click here to go back to the Summary of Beit Tefilah Israeli’s Bar Mitzvah

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