Stronger than ever: Regional Conference consolidates Progressive Judaism in Latin America
The WUPJ-LA held their 4th Conference of Jewish Communities in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from August 9-12, 2012 with close to 300 participants from the region and from other countries. The conference was preceded by a Rabbinic Kallah and several tours of the different Jewish Progressive communities in the region.
Debate about the future and the dilemmas that are a part of everyday life of Progressive Judaism in contemporary society were the main focus of this conference. Close to 300 representatives of various entities from the host country as well as from Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Mexico, United Kingdom, United States and Israel came together to learn, study, and pray.
The Conference was organized by the World Union for Progressive Judaism Latin American region (WUPJ-LA), together with the Argentinean institutions CIRA – Libertad Temple; NCI Emanuel Community; Judaica Foundation; and Mishkan – Center of Jewish Spirituality and AIP (Israeli Association of the Pampas). The organizers of the conference are grateful for the support and presence of representatives from various organizations from the Jewish community in Argentina and Latin America such as AMIA, SAIA, OSA, Chazon Arteinu, Avoda, B’nei Brith, CAMI, CJL – Latin American Jewish Congress, CONIB/Brazil, FISESP/Brazil and UJCL – Union of Jewish Congregations of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Rabbinic Kallah participants
Some 40 speakers in a number of sessions covered topics such as the relationship of young people with Israel; the anti-Israel movements; the equilibrium between tradition and modernity; innovation in the religious services within the synagogue; and religious studies.
Opening event was attended by the Under Secretary of Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism of Buenos Aires, Claudio Avruj, representing the local government; the Ambassador to Israel in Argentina, Daniel Gazit; and the president of the DAIA (Delegation of Argentinean Israeli Associations, umbrella institution of the community), Aldo Donzis.
Rabbi Marcelo Polakoff, President of the Latin American Rabbinical Assembly, of the Conservative (Masorti) movement, emphasized the importance of integration and joint efforts among the liberal movements in the region. Dr. David Breakstone, Vice Chairman of the WZO (World Zionist Organization), also participated and addressed the conference.
In the first plenary session, Rabbi Michael Marmur, Vice President of Academic Affairs of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and Rabbi Sergio Bergman, of the Judaica Foundation, spoke about the evolution of the role of the rabbi in Jewish tradition.
Friday night services were celebrated in World Union style with a Latin American twist – including lively and spirited music, singing, and Israeli dancing. The services at the Libertad Synagogue also included a touching tribute to Jerry Tanenbaum, Chair of WUPJ Yad B’Yad Committee, who, together with his wife Pat z”l dedicated much time, effort and energy to promoting Progressive Judaism in the region. Jerry was presented with a beautiful plaque and special Gaucho poncho.
Libertad Synagogue, Buenos Aires
Rabbi Michael Marmur spoke at the closing on the topic “God in search of man”, where he discussed the ideas and teachings of the late Rabbi and Philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel z"l that connect between the appreciation for Jewish tradition and the complexity of the pressures and challenges faced by modern Jewish existence.
The conference ended on this high note leaving the participants, organizers and volunteers with a positive feeling that Progressive Judaism is consolidated in Latin America and with the desire to make it stronger and more vibrant.
Following are summaries of the pre-conference tours which were attended by World Union leaders (with thanks to material sent by Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs, Rabbi Joel Oseran, Abel R. Evelson and Judy Smith).
Click on the picture to see a short video of the pre-conference tour.