Looking at Zion

A Jewish Perspective on Israel-Diaspora relationship: 235 members of Jewish communities around the globe answered a questionnaire, which asked them to articulate their thoughts and feelings towards Israel

Rabbi Ellen Greenspan

Rabbi Ellen Greenspan, Montreal

” I believe Reform Judaism should be fully and equally recognized in Israel. There just in not any other option.”

The Interviewee – Rabbi Ellen Greenspan (Born 1958), Rabbi-Educator, Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  Hometown: Scarsdale, NY; Lived in north-west NJ for 23 years before moving to Montreal almost 2 years ago.

In your opinion, what importance, if any, does the existence of a Jewish state have to you personally and to Jewish people in general?

“I was bitten by the ‘Israel bug’ during my first visit to Israel in 1976. Since then, I have been back many times. Israel’s existence is vital to the survival of the Jewish people. But it works the other way around, too. Those of us in the diaspora need Israel – as a moral exemplar, as a potential refuge. But Israel needs us Diaspora Jews just as much.”

Do you feel committed in some way to defend the future existence of Israel?


Do you affiliate yourself with a specific denomination in Judaism? What is your view regarding the dominance of the Orthodox denomination in Israel religious establishment?

“I am a product of the American Reform Movement and identify proudly as a Reform Jew. (Full disclosure: I am a Reform rabbi). I believe Reform Judaism should be fully and equally recognized in Israel. There just is not any other option.”

Do you feel morally responsible for Israel’s actions (such as its management of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

“Not personally. As an American Jew, I have the right and responsibility to support Israel – but I don’t always have to support or approve of the actions of the Israeli government.”

In your opinion, what is the main thing Israelis fail to understand about the reality of being Jewish outside of Israel?

“That living by the rhythms of Jewish life is much more difficult in the diaspora. I personally do live my life according to the Jewish calendar – but even for a ‘Jewish professional,’ it is not always easy.”

In your opinion, does Israel have an obligation to defend and help Jewish communities in need?


Have you ever been to Israel? if you have, can you summarize your impression from the Israeli reality?

“Many times, including twice for a year of study (not consecutive years) and twice for visits of more than 5 weeks. I love the land, the people, the culture, the food. I would travel to Israel at a moment’s notice, given the chance. Even when violence in Israel is in the news, I am fully aware that Israel is as safe as any other country – if not safer.”

Can you tell us a bit about the Jewish community in your hometown? Is it organized? Are there any community activities?

“My ‘hometown’ is a suburb of NYC, where there was a large Jewish community and where it was easy to take being Jewish for granted. I currently live in Montreal, which has a diverse and interesting, traditionally-leaning Jewish community – including many Sephardic Jews, one Reform synagogue, many Orthodox and Conservative synagogues, and a large non-observant ‘Orthodox’ community.”

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