Peace services in E. Bay

As continued violence plagues the Middle East, American Jews will gather in peace to tonight to celebrate the Sabbath.

But in a show of support and compassion, at least five Contra Costa congregations plan to dedicate tonight's services to Israel and the hope for peace and solidarity.

Congregations B'nai Shalom and B'nai Tikvah and Chabad of Contra Costa, all in Walnut Creek; Beth Chaim Congregation of Danville; and Temple Isaiah of Lafayette have all agreed to conduct special Shabbat programs to demonstrate their enduring link to the Jewish state.

"We feel, as we follow the news, a tremendous sense of sadness and frustration connected to the current state of Israel and its people," said Rabbi Gordon Freeman, who organized the effort.

Freeman, rabbi at Conservative Congregation B'nai Shalom, will lead his congregation in music and prayers reflecting on Israel's state of upheaval. He will also encourage involvement in the crisis by promoting attendance at meetings of AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, and suggesting that his congregants write to legislators.

"During this crisis, Israel feels very alone and isolated," said Freeman, secretary of the Conservative movement's Rabbinic Assembly. "We as fellow Jews have a link to Israel stronger than politics and history. We need to express that link so that the Israelis know that it's strong."

Freeman contacted Jerusalem's Rabbi Reuven Hammer, who is vice president of the Rabbinic Assembly, to inform him of Contra Costa's support.

Hammer, who leads the Conservative movement's Moreshet Avraham synagogue, expressed his country's appreciation for the East Bay effort.

"At such a time, we gain strength from knowing that we are not alone and that our fellow Jews are doing their utmost to support Israel," Hammer told the Bulletin. "May we all see shalom al Yisrael — peace for Israel — speedily."

Hammer and members of the Masorti (Conservative) movement throughout Israel will hold a special service Sunday at the Robinson's Arch section of the Western Wall to pray for peace.