Reform resurgence in Central and Eastern Europe key issue at URJ Biennial
The fall of the iron curtain over two decades ago has seen Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe undergo an amazing resurrection, enabling it to begin emerging from the long shadows of the Holocaust and Communism into a new dawn.This resurgence of Jewish intellectual, spiritual and cultural life is one of the most dramatic and inspiring chapters of contemporary Jewish history. Reform Judaism is playing a major role in this Jewish renaissance, as witnessed by its rapid and ongoing growth in Germany, Poland Hungary and other Jewish communities in the region.
The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) session of the upcoming Biennial will focus on the movement’s amazing blossoming in this area, promoting awareness of and solutions for the challenges facing Liberal Judaism in Central and Eastern Europe.
Sonja Guentner, newly elected President of the Union for Progressive Judaismin Germany will share the story of the rise of Progressive Judaism in the country, in which more Jews have resettled over the past two decades than in any other European country. Germany’s Jewish community currently numbers 200,000, approximately forty percent of the community before the rise of Nazism.
The Progressive movement has grown to over 20 congregations with active youth and young adult programming as well. The Abraham Geiger College has had a tremendous impact on the growth of liberal Judaism in the country, providing a growing body of trained rabbis and cantors to ensure the community will have the vibrant and robust leadership required to maintain and increase future growth.
Rabbi Haim Beliak, special World Union envoy to Poland, will share the story of the renewal of Jewish life in that country. Jewish life is carving out a place of its own in modern Poland, and Progressive Judaism is playing an indispensible role in this historical development. Unfortunately, not all Jewish groups have welcomed the presence of Progressive Judaism in Poland, and some are determined to place as many obstacles as they can in our congregations’ paths. This session will acquaint the participant with specifics about the present moment in Poland and the legal struggle underway to preserve the rights of liberal Judaism.
Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President, International Development for the World Union, works closely with the European Union for Progressive Judaism in developing Jewish communities throughout the continent. Rabbi Oseran will bring an important update on recent developments in Hungary, where Progressive Judaism is battling for governmental recognition in a country where political changes are quickly reshaping traditional relationships between state and religion. Rabbi Oseran will also help synthesize the different challenges facing Progressive Judaism in Europe and help make the connection betweenURJ congregations in North America and their sister communities in Europe.
Rarely will URJ congregational leaders have such an opportunity to meet the “players in the field” of our movement in Europe and to learn, first hand, how to become engaged in the critical effort to ensure Jewish life in the countries which so many of us once called home.
Oneg Sukkot at Kehilat Ha-Tikvah, Kiev
Rabbi Fuchs congratulating Zima on his confirmation, Kiev