Issue #525

November 5 2015 / 23 Heshvan 5776


WUPJ at the 2015 North American URJ Biennial
Positively Progressive at the 37th World Zionist Organization Congress
Netzer Notes
Congregation Spotlight
Live From Israel 
News Bits
Parting Shot
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events

WUPJ at the 2015 North American URJ Biennial

From the President's Desk: Rabbi Daniel Freelander on Celebrating the Global Reform Community

Dear Friends,

We are all excited to gather at the Union for Reform Judaism's (URJ) 2015 Biennial in Orlando, Florida and look forward to meeting you there.  We wanted to take this opportunity to update you on all the WUPJ special events and activities that will be taking place during Biennial.
Leading WUPJ's Celebration at URJ's 2015 Biennial: President Rabbi Daniel Freelander.

The WUPJ BOOTH will be open from Wednesday, November 4 until Saturday, November 7. Please make sure to visit, and bring your friends with you. 

The WUPJ is sponsoring three workshops at Biennial. We are looking forward to interesting, informative and interactive discussions and hope that you will join us to show your support for our WUPJ lay leaders and staff.

On Thursday afternoon, the WUPJ Executive Board and North American Advisory Board will meet from 12:30-2:00 pm. These discussions are open to all WUPJ delegates.

The WUPJ International Humanitarian Award Dinner will be held on Thursday beginning promptly at 6:15 pm. Doors open at 6pm. We will be honoring Rabbi Lennard R. Thal, and celebrate the Installation of Rabbi Daniel Freelander. Over 450 delegates have already registered to attend. 

Man of Action: Rabbi Lennard R. Thal.

A limited number of tickets are still available. Visit the WUPJ booth for more info.

At the Friday morning Plenary, at 8:45-10:15 am, Rabbi Freelander will be presented with the Debbie Friedman Award for his lifelong commitment to Jewish music and the Reform Movement. The Plenary will open with a conversation between Stav Shaffir, Israeli Knesset member; Ari Shavit, Ha'aretz columnist and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, URJ President Emeritus.

Kabbalat Shabbat (5:45 pm) will be followed by Shabbat Dinner.

On Shabbat Morning from 8:30- 9:45 am, Rabbi Steve Burnstein, Director of WUPJ's Saltz International Education Center, will lead a Torah Study breakfast with Saltz Alumni. This session is open to all and will be a wonderful opportunity for Saltz and Beutel alumni to study together again.

There is so much to experience at this Convention.  We are thrilled to learn that US Vice President Joe Biden will address the group on Saturday evening.  
Looking forward to celebrating our vibrant global Reform Community,

Rabbi Daniel Freelander

President, World Union for Progressive Judaism

Watch all Biennial 2015 plenary sessions from your desktop, mobile device, or television! Webcasting schedule is now available here.

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WUPJ's Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellowship to be Embraced at 2015 URJ Biennial

The pilot cohort of Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellows will participate in their third and final seminar in North America in conjunction with the Union for Reform Judaism's (URJ) 2015 Biennial in Orlando, Florida and the World Union for Progressive Judaism's (WUPJ) Southern Jewish Civil Rights Experience in Georgia and Alabama. 

The Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellowship is a collaboration between the URJ, the WUPJ, the Global Leadership Project of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ).
Fine Fellows: Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellowship to Attend 2015 URJ Biennial.

This unique program nurtures and inspires young leaders, ages 20-26, from North America, Israel, and Europe as they continue to serve their camps and home communities as active change agents who are committed to global Progressive Judaism, Jewish peoplehood, and Israel. 

The current Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellows come from the United States, Israel, Hungary, Poland, Germany, and Belarus, and were nominated by URJ camp directors, the IMPJ and the WUPJ. 

During the URJ Biennial in Florida, the fellows will see the leadership of the Reform Movement coming together to focus on today's most pressing issues. Their time in Florida will be divided between programs planned specifically for the Klal Yisrael Fellowship and sessions in which they will participate with other Biennial participants. 

Some highlights Roswell Klal Yisrael 2015 URJ Biennial highlights:
Meeting with Miriam Chilton, Vice President of Youth at the URJ
Touring the URJ’s interactive exhibit on youth and social justice 
European fellows taking part in a Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) Assembly Panel, “Emergence and Reemergence: Progressive Judaism Around the Globe”
Attending the WUPJ Gala Dinner Celebrating World Reform Jewry.

Afterwards, the fellows will join the WUP at the Southern Jewish Civil Rights Experience. They will travel through Georgia and Alabama, alongside WUPJ leaders, for an in-depth case study of leadership and community activism in times of crisis, within the community and beyond. 

View the complete WUPJ 2015 URJ 2015 Biennial program.

If you know of a great candidate for the 2015-16 or 2016-17 Klal Yisrael fellowship group, please contact Rachael Brill, Roswell Project Manager.

Stay tuned for a complete summary of the WUPJ's participation in the URJ 2015 Biennial!

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Positively Progressive at the 37th World Zionist Organization Congress

Progressive Agenda Dominates 2015 WZO Congress

The Reform movement’s strong showing in the World Zionist Organization (WZO) elections brought Reform Jews into positions of influence at the 37th WZO Congress. 

The WZO reported having 509 elected delegates among about 750 overall, including 145 elected in the spring from the United States. The global International Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists (ARZENU) bloc held 78 seats. The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) won 56 seats, or 40 percent of the US total.

The World Zionist Congress is the single best opportunity for Jews from around the world to have their voices heard on critical issues facing Israel and the Jewish People.

The Reform Movement leaders included:

Rabbi Dan Freelander, President, WUPJ
Carole Sterling, Chair, WUPJ
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, URJ
Daryl Messinger, Chair-Elect, URJ
Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO, Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)
Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director, Religious Action Center (RAC) & Senior VP URJ

The Progressive bloc carried the day with many of its resolutions passing. In the world of Zionist politics, presence is power. Progressive Judaism's triumph in the elections this past winter and spring empowered duly elected representatives to advance important causes and defend a Progressive Zionist perspective. 

One particular highlight was Phillip Meltzer, ARZA Past President and Campaign Vice-Chair, receiving the Amit Kavod award, and serving as president for the Congress Presidium.

Progressive Agenda Prevails: ARZA President Rabbi Joshua Weinberg.

According to Rabbi Joshua Weinberg, ARZA President, "Now, we have to roll up our sleeves and spend the next five years building our organization in the US to promote an open, inclusive, authentic and meaningful Zionism for our Movement, and helping to strengthen a vibrant Reform Movement in Israel."

Reform Takes Center Stage at 37th World Zionist Congress.

Click here for the highlights!
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Resolved: Progressive Zionism Prevails at 37th World Zionist Congress

At the 37th World Zionist Congress, a slew of resolutions were passed that reflected the Progressive Zionist perspective. 

An historic statement supporting the LGBT community was passed. It called upon the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and the Education Minister of Israel to support and develop educational programming for the LGBT community and to “enforce complete equality of their admission to Zionist entities and within National Institutions.” 

Other highlights included resolutions:
Urging the Israeli government to recommit its efforts to building an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. 
Condemning hate crimes committed in the name of the Jewish People by Jewish terrorists. 
Reaffirming the Declaration of Independence’s vision of an Israel committed to the values of democracy and freedom for all its inhabitants.
Calling for the recognition of the rights of Jewish refugees historically expelled from Arab lands and northern Africa.
Affirming classic Zionist mandates of promoting Aliya, supporting the best practices of absorbing immigrants into Israel, and promoting education and outreach to the communities of the Diaspora, especially in the face of growing worldwide anti-Semitism.
Supporting increased transparency and clean government within the Zionist organizations.

Rock the Vote: WZO delegates exercise their democratic right to make a difference.

The Reform/Progressive delegations to the Congress did not succeed in passing every resolution they had hoped to. However, most delegates came out of the voting booths with a renewed sense of pride that the vision of a strong, proud, pluralistic, and inclusive State of Israel is alive and well.

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Mazal Tov to Vienna's Or Chadasch, on its First 25 Years! 

On November 1, 2015, the Or Chadasch Progressive Congregation in Vienna, Austria celebrated its 25th anniversary with a festive program attended by local congregants and visitors from abroad.

Vienna Waits For You: (left to right) Rabbi Walter Rothschild, rabbi of Or Chadasch; Dr. Dori Much, President, Or Chadasch; Anat Hoffman, Executive Director, IRAC; Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President, WUPJ, Miriam Kramer, Chairman, EUPJ and Leslie Bergman, President, EUPJ.

A packed-full sanctuary listened to presentations by Dr. Dori Much, Or Chadasch President; Miriam Kramer, European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) Chairman; Leslie Bergman, EUPJ President; Rabbi Joel Oseran, WUPJ Vice President of International Development and invited keynote speaker, Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC).

Also in attendance were Talya Lador Fresher, newly appointed Israeli Ambassador to Austria; Rabbi Dr. Walter Homolka, Rector of the WUPJ-affiliated Abraham Geiger College, Germany and dignitaries from the Vienna Jewish community.

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Netzer Notes

Purely Progressive Adventure: Update from Netzer's Leadership Training Program

Participants in Netzer Olami's (Reform youth movement) Northern Shnat continued their 8-month training program for young adults that will develop the skills and knowledge necessary for them to become madrichim (leaders) in the movement and the wider Jewish community.

Shnat Netzer is an exciting, challenging and stimulating way to spend a year in Israel and to be part of a communal way of life. Participants will broaden their horizons and discover what it means to be Jewish and live in Israel from a Progressive perspective.

A Bat-Mitzvah in the Arava Desert: (left) Shnattie Jes Jantijes.

Among the most recent highlights:
Shnattie Jes Jantijes celebrated her Bat-Mitzva at Kibbutz Lotan. Jes is the third program participant to have had a Bat-Mitzva in 2015, during the Shnat year in Israel.

Check out some Bat-Mitzvah highlights here.

Meanwhile, the Northern Shnat group bonded over the customary Klita (orientation) process, conducted in Jerusalem, at Beit-Shmuel/Mercaz Shimshon.
Smile! Northern Shnatim in Jerusalem, October 2015. 

The Northern Shnatim had the opportunity to meet with leaders of the Israeli Progressive Movement, including members of Kol Haneshama- the biggest Progressive congregation in Jerusalem. 

Rockin' Klita: Northern Shnatties take Jerusalem by storm!

Not to be outdone, three of Southern Shnatim joined the 37th WZO Congress. This was a great opportunity for them to spend time with the new Northern Shnat group, share their experiences and dispense with some worthwhile advice. 

Besides bonding with fellow Shnatim, Congress attendees had the privilege of meeting many Progressive Jewish leaders, including that composer of such classics as Modeh Ani and Shalom Rav, Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Save this date! Netzer's Veida Olamit, January 14-19, 2016.
Stay tuned for full program details…

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Congregation Spotlight

Voila! Lyon's Keren Or to Inaugurate New Synagogue and Community Center 

On November 29, 2015 you are cordially invited to attending the grand opening of Keren Or's new synagogue and community center.

One could say that the Liberal synagogue in Lyon had become a victim of its success. 

Within 30 years, the community has grown from a few local families to not having enough seats for members during festivals or when a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is celebrated. 
Home Sweet Home: Keren Or's new location will accommodate the community's growth.

On occasion, even a standard Shabbat service is standing room only!

Since the present location, on the ground floor of a residential building, no longer corresponds to the needs of the community, Keren Or signed for the purchase of new premises in Villeurbanne, near the Charpennes metro station in September 2014.

The sizeable premises are for a sizeable project: rooting Liberal Judaism in Lyon and the surrounding regions and then developing it. An ambitious undertaking to be sure, but a costly one as well.

Keren Or invites WUPJ members to visit a website dedicated to recording every aspect of the transition to a new home. At a time when Judaism in France is asserting its right to exist freely, Keren Or's expansion is more than encouraging, it's inspirational.

Learn more about Keren Or's big move now.

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Live From Israel 

The Progressive Jewish World in Jerusalem: Leaders Convene at JAFI's Board of Governors 

Progressive Jewish leaders from around the world gathered in Jerusalem from October 25 to October 27 for the Jewish Agency for Israel's (JAFI) 2015 Board of Governors, the organization's largest annual gathering and decision-making forum.


The discussions during the three-day gathering centered on efforts by The Jewish Agency and world Jewry to support the people of Israel in light of the security situation, as well as on the organization’s ongoing activities aimed at strengthening the State of Israel and the Jewish world. 

Philip Meltzer, Chair of the Israel Engagement Committee, Yaron Shavit, Gusti-Yehoshua-Braverman, Mark Anshan and Rabbi Lawrence Englander, Chair of ARZENU, represented the International Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists (ARZENU).
Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President of the WUPJ, represented the World Union.

Rabbi Englander noted, "We were heartened by the good news that Reform Judaism is becoming better known in Israel and that we now have 70 synagogues and communities throughout the country.  We are proud of the strong team of Israeli professionals and lay leaders, and I look forward to joining hands with them to increase our influence in the years ahead."

The BOG also discussed the increase in Aliya; efforts to strengthen young Jews’ connections to Israel; programs to promote coexistence in Israel and
strengthen Israel’s socioeconomic periphery and the fight against rising anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize Israel.

Never to Forget: The Legacy of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

The World Union remembers and mourns the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, 20 years ago. MARAM, the Reform Rabbinic Council in Israel, put out a public statement. An excerpt of it is below: 

"Our hearts bleed as we recall the fact that this heinous murder was supposedly committed in the name of the Torah. We condemn any attempt to hinder the democratic fabric in Israel in the name of our Jewish tradition. Only in a truly democratic society that respects and defends human rights, will our timeless Jewish values be fulfilled. Only the fortification and reinforcement of Israeli democracy will ensure the future of the Jewish people and all Israeli citizens, in their sovereign homeland…"

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), expressed concern: "The years which have gone by [since the assassination] have not bode well for the quality of public and political discourse in Israel, to put it mildly. The discourse has turned more violent, extreme and inciting, and the fringes consume not only the corners of the central camp and the majority of Israel, but rather the heart of the camp."

Read Rabbi Kariv's full statement here.

Jerusalem's HUC-JIR to Ordain Five New Rabbis

The Jerusalem campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's (HUC-JIR) Ordination and Academic Convocation will take place on Thursday, November 19, 2015 at the worldwide headquarters of the Progressive Movement, Beit Shmuel/Mercaz Shimshon Beit Shmuel.  

Five new rabbis for Israel's Reform Movement will be ordained:
Michal Ratner Ken-Tor
Lior Nevo
Efrat Rotem
Tamara Schagas
Tamara Shifrin (Trapido)


HUC-JIR is the center of innovation for Jewish life and learning – preparing rabbis, cantors, leaders in Jewish education, Jewish nonprofit professionals, pastoral counselors, and scholars to apply their knowledge, commitment, vision, and expertise to strengthen and transform the Jewish community and larger world.

HUC-JIR is the largest Jewish seminary in North America and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism.
Students and alumni are leading a Jewish renaissance in North America, Israel, and around the globe as leaders in synagogues, schools, Hillels, hospitals, camps, the military, and Jewish organizations worldwide.

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News Bits

On the Anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Pope Meets with Leading Reform Rabbi

On October 28, 2015, Pope Francis affirmed, "We are brothers" on the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions.

During his weekly general audience at St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father welcomed followers of various religions, including many who had traveled a great distance to meet with him on this historic day. 
Brothers: Rabbi Walter Homolka greets Pope Francis, October 28, 2015.

Among those personally welcomed by the Pope were Rabbi Professor Walter Homolka PhD, PhD DHL, Rector of the WUPJ-affiliated Abraham Geiger College and a World Union Executive Board member.

Pope Paul VI promulgated Nostra Aetate on October 28, 1965.

Nostra Aetate effectively overturned centuries of what the noted French Jewish historian Jules Isaac termed “the teaching of contempt,” namely, that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus and therefore God had rejected them and revoked their covenant.  

The Church’s unequivocal declaration that the Jews should not be held accountable for the death of Jesus and its repudiation of anti-Semitism were truly revolutionary.  

The affirmation that “God holds the Jews most dear” and the call for mutual understanding and dialogue inaugurated a new era of positive relationship and engagement that, mere decades before, was inconceivable.

UK's Movement for Reform Judaism Responds to Academic Boycotts of Israel

By Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism

"On October 27, 2015, 343 British academics pledged to boycott Israel. They say they will refuse invitations to Israeli universities and academic events organised by Israel. In the words of their statement to the Guardian, they will not “do business” with Israel’s university system, which they say is complicit in the occupation of the West Bank. The signatories say they are doing this because they are “deeply disturbed” by the occupation.

Days of Rage: Pro-Palestinian protester burns flag (Photo by Reuters).

Well, so am I. I’m a rabbi who spent many years living in Jerusalem; I chaired the Rabbis for Human Rights group and recognize the occupation for what it is. This internationally illegal situation is morally wrong and harmful to Israel’s democratic character.

An academic boycott will worsen this dangerous situation, both in Israel and in the occupied territories, modelling non-communication as the way forward. It isolates Israel and, like nothing else, legitimizes the pseudo-ghetto, “us versus them” mentality that characterizes Israeli political discourse. The boycott reinforces the idea of “Fortress Zionism”.

Stamping out academic dialogue may feel cathartic, but it prevents the dialogue desperately needed to solve the present situation in Israel, and to satisfy the need for Palestinian self-determination…"

Read Rabbi Janner-Klausner's complete Op-Ed piece here.

UK's Liberal Judaism Prepares for Biennial Weekend 2016

It's official. Liberal Judaism’s (LJ) Biennial Weekend will be taking place from July 1-3, 2016.  The venue will be the St John’s Hotel in Solihull, United Kingdom. 

The title of the 2016 Biennial will be ‘Thinking Outside the Book’, continuing where the 2014 conference left off by pushing LJ members to think about the future of the Liberal movement in ways that can build on its heritage and history. 

With plans underway for a new Siddur, the Biennial will give participants the chance to help shape the movement's future. Specifically, this highly anticipated gathering is an opportunity to think of new ways to use music, literature and arts within Liberal communities. 

The aim of the Biennial weekend is to combine study with practical explorations of what it means to enliven and enrich the Jewish lives Liberal community members.

Of course, the social aspect of Biennial is always an essential part of the weekend, with plenty of opportunities to see old friends and make new ones, learn, discuss, share, sing and pray in a warm and friendly environment.

Rabbi Charley Baginsky is chair of the Biennial Organizing Committee.

Secure your place at Biennial by clicking here.

Please note: the 'Early Bird' special for adults, students and children end on February 29, 2016.

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Parting Shot

"Say No to the Intifada of the Media": Leading French Liberal Rabbi Responds to International Press Coverage of Israel    

On October 16, 2015, Rabbi Boissière gave a memorable sermon on the Sabbath of Parashat Noah in the Beaugrenelle synagogue of the Mouvement Juif Libéral de France (MJLF).

Below, are a few excerpts:

"I invoke Spinoza who said to not laugh, to not cry, but to understand. Note that we are far from doing so. Instead of offering factual analysis or even a bit of background information, the media seems interested only is whether or not a third intifada has begun. They are obsessed with empty slogans, hashtags, and the sensationalism of recurrent dramatic acts and so have relegated any attempt at explanations to the back burner." 
Searing Sermon: Rabbi Yann Boissière. 

"Let’s take a look at semantics first: how many news flashes have we heard reporting the most naturally in the world that a “Palestinian” has knifed an “orthodox Jew”?  Are we sensitive to the asymmetry, to the bias that such a formulation conveys? On the one hand, a Palestinian, i.e. the noble representative of nationalist cause – the legitimacy of which is not questioned – and on the other not an “Israeli”, i.e. in fair symmetry, a citizen of the State of Israel, but instead a “Jew”, his ethnicity and religion foremost, all the more so in that he is orthodox."

"Yes, my dear old Noah, I am sorry to have pushed you aside but then your flood is not our flood. Yet, it has much to teach us about how maliciousness and ill-naming things may wipe out a civilization, whether it be by a great flood or a slow fire."

Read Rabbi Yann Boissière's complete sermon here

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Upcoming Events

November 4–8, 2015 – Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) 73rd Biennial Conference, Orlando, Florida

November 5, 2015 - International Humanitarian Award Dinner Honouring Rabbi Lenny Thal & Installation of Rabbi Daniel Freelander, 
URJ Biennial Conference, Orlando, Florida

November 8–12, 2015 - Southern Jewish Civil Rights Experience, Atlanta, Georgia - For Registration Please Click Here

April 14-17, 2016 - European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), Biennial Conference, London, UK

May 27-28, 2016 - Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) Conference, Israel

July 15-17, 2016 - SAUPJ 2016 Biennial Conference, South Africa

August 4-7, 2016 - Latin America Region Biennial Conference (WUPJ-LA), Sao Paulo, Brazil

November 17-20, 2016 - Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) Biennial Conference , Perth, Australia

May 15-21, 2017 – CONNECTIONS 2015, World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) 38th Biennial Conference, Jerusalem, Israel

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