February 2019 Message from BAW co-President, Carla Kirschenbaum | Congregation Beth Am

February 2019 Message from BAW co-President, Carla Kirschenbaum

Love, Israeli Style

The stores are awash in pink and red, festooned with hearts and flowers, and loaded with candy, so let us speak of love. One of my favorite sculptures is Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE, which instantly evokes the Valentine ambiance of February.


Lately, I have been binge-watching an unusual type of love story: Srugim, an Israeli drama from 2008 that chronicles a group of Modern Orthodox friends in Jerusalem who are looking for love (and, of course, marriage!) in their late twenties — think Friends meets the Hallmark channel meets Judaism. Although a seemingly strange formula for a successful TV show, Srugim (which means "knitted") presents incredibly satisfying, moving stories and characters, and in fact, I find myself a bit in love with each of them. Like the ‘O’ in Indiana’s sculpture, their paths to love are sometimes a little tipsy and a little turvy and sometimes even funny. Perhaps, in addition to graphically illustrating that navigating the pathways of love can be fraught with failures and foibles, the slanted ‘O’ is also meant to remind us that a well-used sense of humor does much to smooth the way. Another appealing aspect of the show is that beyond the romantic love its characters seek, the episodes masterfully showcase their pure love of Judaism and Israel, which beautifies their struggles and triumphs.

Indiana also created a Hebrew version of his sculpture, which stands at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Unlike the English version, AHAVA contains no tippy vowel. I like to think that this sculpture illustrates how the three prescriptions for love given in the  Torah — "love your neighbor as yourself", "love the stranger as yourself" and "love God with all your heart, soul and strength "— create the only formula we need to help us carve a path of love through the world is straight and true and kind.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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We strive to live as a holy community whose study and practice of Judaism inspires and challenges us to "do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).