Issue # 527
December 17 2015 / 5 Tevet 5776
On December 2, Chancellor Angela Merkel was awarded the Abraham Geiger Prize for her efforts in support of fundamental democratic values and the freedom of religion. The jury praised the Chancellor’s "unshakeable solidarity" in spite of increasing anti-Semitism in Germany and Europe. Refugees in Germany must unlearn the anti-Semitism fed to them in their home countries, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in accepting the award. "I consider this award a great honor – for myself and on behalf of Germany," she added.
Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel receiving the Abraham Geiger Prize from
Dr. Josef Joffe, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Abraham Geiger
College, with College President Rabbi Dr. Walter Jacob and Rector Rabbi
Dr. Walter Homolka presenting the certificate (from left to right)
(Photo Credit: Tobias Barniske)
Praised for Services to the Jewish People
At the ceremony in Berlin’s Jewish Museum, Merkel told her hosts: “If you express concerns about anti-Semitism, I will always be listening.” Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, thanked Merkel for her “open ear to the concerns of the Jewish population, who fear possible anti-Semitism within the refugee population.” Schuster stressed that Jews in Germany have a special empathy for refugees.
Religious Pluralism and Post-National European Democracy
The keynote speaker at the event was José Casanova, a Spanish American sociologist of religion at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. The top scholar spoke of the importance of religious pluralism in Europe. He used the context of the meaning of “the Jewish question” in modern European history and how it is inextricably intertwined with the dynamics of European state formation and nation building to reflect upon the Westphalian settlement of 1648 .While bringing an end to the religious wars in Europe, it proved a problematic solution to the challenge of religious pluralism. He argued that the settlement implemented throughout continental Europe solved the problem of religious conflict by eliminating religious pluralism through the enforcement of religious homogenization. Modern European nationalism is grounded in the same logic of uniform homogenization, as if the imagined community of the nation were a secular translation of the imagined community of the national Christian church.
Keynote Speaker: José Casanova
(Photo Credit: Tobias Barniske)
Casanova concluded that the solution for the current system’s failures depends on some form of post-national and post-secular democratic state that offers equal rights and liberties to all citizens—secular as well as religious—and on some model of diverse and pluralist societies that offer free and equitable exercise to all their religious communities, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other.
The German Basic Law Lays the Foundation for Peaceful Co-Existence
"Today’s event once again shows us what a great gift it is, that there is once again multifaceted and rich Jewish life in Germany," responded the Chancellor. The peaceful co-existence of religions is "a unique vote of confidence in the liberal and democratic fundaments of our country, as laid out in the German Basic Law or constitution," said Angela Merkel.
The Basic Law, she continued, is also the base on which we must master the challenges currently posed by the refugee crisis. Article 1 of the Basic Law states, "Human dignity shall be inviolable." This stands at the heart of decisions made by the German government and means specifically "that everyone coming to us is entitled to be treated with dignity," said Angela Merkel.
Integrating Refugees Will Require Time and Patience
The Chancellor thanked the Jewish community for its support in taking in and integrating refugees. "I know that you in particular are well aware of the scale of the challenge, because you have taken in and integrated so many immigrants from the former Soviet Union over the last 25 years."
Angela Merkel speaking at the ceremony at Berlin’s Jewish Museum
(Photo Credit: Tobias Barniske)
At the same time Angela Merkel appealed to her audience not to be afraid of changes. "Yes, our country will change. People need change, if we want to develop and not merely stand still." Integration will not happen overnight. "For integration, those already living here must be open, and those coming to us must be willing to respect the way we live, and to respect our law and our culture," she stated.
We Want to Help Shape the Future of Germany
Cantorial students and graduates from the Abraham Geiger College performed for the Chancellor, who is donating the 10,000 Euros the Abraham Geiger Prize is worth to the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk (ELES) to finance its inter-religious project, “Dialog Perspectives”. Three students supported by ELES a scholarship program for talented Jewish students, also addressed Merkel briefly, thanking her for supporting Israel and Jewish life in Germany. “We want to help shape the future of Germany,” said Olga Osadtschy, who immigrated to Germany from Kiev and studies in Basel, Switzerland.
Basiswissen Judentum, a comprehensive introduction into Judaism,
is dedicated to the German Chancellor and was presented to her by
three scholarship holders of the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Foundation,
Arthur Bondarev, Olga Osadtschy and Carmen Reichert (from left to right).
(Photo Credit: Tobias Barniske)
The event was followed by a reception. More than 300 guests, including leaders of Jewish communities from throughout Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic as well as representatives of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and European Union for Progressive Judaism from London, Pittsburgh and Jerusalem concluded the memorable evening with animated conversations. This award ceremony was another milestone for the Abraham Geiger College and Progressive Judaism in Germany. To see the report by Die Zeit, Please click on the link
(The Abraham Geiger Award feature is minute 2:10).
Written By: Jean-François Bensahel, Rabbi Philippe Haddad, Rabbi Rivon Krygier, Raphy Marciano, and Franklin Rausky
On November 23, 2015 at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris, the "Declaration for the Upcoming Jubilee of Brotherhood" was signed by the French Jewish world participants: Jean François Bensahel, President of ULIF –Copernic; Rabbi Philippe Haddad, Rabbi of the Copernic synagogue in Paris; Rabbi Rivon Krygier, Rabbi of the Masssorti Community Adath Shalom; Raphy Marciano, Head of the Paris Community Center; and Franklin Rausky, Head of Studies at the Elie Wiesel Institute. The declaration was presented by Rabbi Haim Korsia, the Orthodox Chief Rabbi of France to Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the Archbishop of Paris.
Declaration for the Upcoming Jubilee of Brotherhood
A new Jewish view of Jewish-Christian Relations
“So I will make pure the speech of the peoples, that they all may call upon the name of the LORD, and serve Him with one heart." (Zephaniah 3.9).
We Jews of France, signatories of this declaration, express the joy of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration Nostra Aetate composed at the Second Vatican Council, which opened an era of reconciliation between Jews and Christians. For us, this anniversary marks not only the culmination of a Jubilee of reconciliation. It should also be the beginning of another. We understand this as a sacred calling, as a pivotal moment, as a challenge and a commitment.
What have we Jews learned from you Christians during these last 50 years?
That the Catholic Church, but also Protestant churches and prominent members of the Orthodox and Anglican Churches, decided to go back to the Jewish sources and values enshrined in the heart of the identity of Jesus and the apostles.
In a move whose sincerity has been proven, the Church has made a decisive turning point of theological significance. Now, for her, the Jewish people are not held responsible for the death of Jesus; Christian faith does not cancel or supersede the covenant established between God and the people of Israel; anti-Judaism, which has often been the seedbed of antisemitism, and was once able to feed into doctrinal teaching, is a sin; the Jewish people are no longer considered an outcast people; and the State of Israel is now recognized by the Vatican.
This reversal is not only for us Jews a happy realization. It also shows an unusual ability for self-criticism in the name of the most fundamental religious and ethical values. It sanctifies God's name, forever commands respect, and constitutes a precedent of exemplary character for all religions and spiritual beliefs on the planet.
What can we, the Jews, hope to build with you Christians in the next 50 years?
What is our duty, now that the highest representatives of Christian institutions have expressed the wish to be replanted, to be grafted onto the trunk of Israel? To welcome Christianity as the religion of our brothers and sisters in synergy with Judaism.
We, the undersigned, recognize, with the support of historical research, that rabbinic Judaism and Christianity of the [patristic] councils were built in the past upon opposition, in contempt and hatred. The Jews have often paid a high price through persecution. These twenty centuries of denial have made us forget the essential reality: our ways, although irreducibly distinctive, are complementary and convergent. Do we not, in fact, both hold the supreme hope that the history of mankind has the same horizon, that of the universal brotherhood of humanity gathered around the One and Only God? We must work together, more than ever, hand in hand.
We Jews are working on this through the study of the Torah, the practice of mitzvot, that is to say, the divine commandments, by teaching the wisdom that follows from it, and aims at the transformation of hearts and minds. You, Christians are working on this through the reception of the Word that gives you that higher existence, the elevation of the heart and mind. Theological differences should not make us forget that many Christian teachings are in perfect agreement with those of rabbinic tradition.
Jean-François Bensahel, President of ULIF Copernic
leading the Reform community in Paris
The Jubilee that begins bids us to work together to build this universal brotherhood and to achieve a common ethic, valid for the whole world. We must learn to get rid of the prejudices that over time became embedded in our respective consciences about what the other believes, thinks, and does in order to better listen to what each religion says of itself and its plan for the respect and prosperity of all humanity. We must now strive to better understand each other, to appreciate, esteem, and love the other for what he or she is and accomplishes.
The brotherhood between Jews and Christians is a first step and an invitation to make dialogue among all religions and spiritualties the cornerstone of a reconciled and pacified humanity. May this live in the heart of our prayers.
On Sunday, November 22, more than 40,000 people all around the world took part in this year's Mitzvah Day. Mitzvah Day is the Jewish-led day of social action that asks people to give their time, not their money.
Bringing together those of different faiths, and none, the tenth annual Mitzvah Day saw a record 550 projects taking place in 20 countries, strengthening local communities and helping a variety of charities and good causes.
The Great Volunteers of Mitzvah Day
In Europe, Mitzvah Day projects took place in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Greece, Austria, Sweden, Turkey, Italy, Hungry and the Ukraine – many for the first time ever.
Further afield, there were Mitzvah Days in Israel, Australia, America, South Africa and Ghana.
Involving senior clergy, campaigners and politicians, projects taking place on and around Mitzvah Day included:
In the UK, all over the country, rabbis, imams, priests, politicians and volunteers from all walks of life teamed up in collective, hands-on social action projects – from collecting clothes and wrapping presents for refugees to tidying up local parks and care homes. Some Highlights included:
- Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi of the Movement for Reform Judaism, working on the Kentish Town City Farm along with London Assembly Member Andrew Dismore, leading Muslim campaigner Onjali Rauf and Guardian journalist Jessica Elgot.
- Rabbi Alexandra Wright, Senior Rabbi of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John’s Wood, collecting and wrapping presents for refugee children with members of the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Brahma Kumaris faiths for the charity Salusbury World.
- Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue hosting a past-and-present refugee day, with Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and Syrians fleeing the current civil war speaking, and the synagogue acting as a hub for donations from local churches and mosques. This was named as Mitzvah Day’s Interfaith Partnership of the Year.
In Germany, communities throughout Germany teamed up for 120 projects, with the main focus on helping refugees. In Berlin, 60 Jewish and Muslim volunteers spent the day in a shelter for refugees – cooking, entertaining, teaching and playing games. There were also activity programs for seniors, people with disabilities, victims of terrorist attacks, the environment and animal welfare.
In Israel, the First Commonwealth Mitzvah Day took place as British, South African and Australian teenagers gave blood in a joint project between Mitzvah Day and Magen David Adom (Israel's only medical emergency response service), supported by British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey.
Mitzvah Day at Megan David Adom
In France, volunteers visited care homes, made friendship bracelets for Israeli children, collected for food banks and repaired books. There was also a project to collect toys for underprivileged children for Chanukah.
In Spain, projects took place in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia – with volunteers doing everything from donating blood to preparing food packs to writing motivational letters to children in hospital.
Donating Blood in the UK & Spain for Mitzvah Day
Mitzvah Day founder, chair, super co-ordinator and MRJ member (Alyth) Laura Marks OBE said: “The opportunities to engage all over the globe – both with charities which need us and also with people who we, as Jews, don’t normally engage with – are endless. We believe that Mitzvah Day plays a significant role at this challenging time.
By: Celia Naval, Member of the Board
Sunday, November 29 saw the culmination of the first chapter of the life of Keren Or, Lyon, France. That day saw the inauguration of our new synagogue and community centre in the presence of local officials, representatives of other faiths and members of the community, including the active participation of the Talmud Torah kids, united in a choir with their rendering of Salut, Salaam, Shalom, composed for them by our guitarist treasurer, Isaia Vidal.
President Brigitte Frois addressing the assembly under
the attentive eye of Rabbi René Pfertzel
Brigitte Frois, President of Keren Or, delivered a speech outlining all she hoped the community would offer and develop, and Rabbi René Pfertzel further placed our movement with its potential to proceed further along the path started more than 30 years ago. Rabbi François Garaï, who accompanied developments from the very beginning, traced the path and encouraged us to continue on many paths.
An attentive audience with the Keren Or main leaders
and a large gathering of our rabbis.
Miriam Kramer, Chairman of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) and Stéphane Beder in his role of President of the French-speaking Federation and also as one of the EUPJ vice-presidents, spoke warmly with the apt and timely conclusion of 'Nes gadol haya po' after the successive growth, development, splitting and reunification of those who come together round the values, practices, learning and celebrations of Liberal Judaism in Lyon. For more information on the Keren Or Community, please visit their Website. Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's (HUC-JIR) Jerusalem Ordination and Academic Convocation took place on Thursday, November 19, 2015 at the Blaustein Hall of Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon. HUC-JIR's Jerusalem campus is the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism in the State of Israel. It prepares Israeli rabbis, educators, and pastoral counselors who are building religious pluralism in the Jewish State, hosts all of HUC-JIR's North American rabbinical, cantorial, and education students for their first year of study before returning stateside to the Cincinnati, Los Angeles, or New York campuses, and welcomes the larger Israeli community to educational and cultural programs.
The 2015 Israel Rabbinical program ordinees were Michal Ratner Ken-Tor, Lior Nevo, Efrat Rotem, Tamara Schagas, and Tamara Shifrin.
The 2015 Israel Rabbinical Program ordinees with Rabbi
Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D.; Rabbi Ofek Meir, Director of the Israel
Rabbinical Program; Rabbi Marc Rosenstein, former Director of
the Israel Rabbinical Program; and Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean, Jerusalem.
"This year's Academic Convocation was a perfect blending of Arts and Letters," said Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean, "by recognizing James Snyder's transformative impact at the Israel Museum and David Grossman's standing as a beloved novelist, writer, and thinker. Our distinguished alumni have enriched our Reform presence in Israeli society, joined by five women determined to lead us in new and exciting directions for years to come. Together, we celebrate hope and light in these troubled times."
David Grossman (left) and James S. Snyder (right)
Last month, the Abraham Geiger College and the School of Jewish Theology at the University of Potsdam marked the 80th anniversary of Rabbi Regina Jonas’ ordination in 1935 with an international conference, “The Role of Women’s Leadership in Faith Communities.” More than 40 presenters from Europe, Israel and the United States explored the impact of women in the rabbinate and discussed issues of leadership and authority, women’s religious scholarship and gender (in) equality today.
Rabbi Regina Jonas
Among the speakers were pioneering women of all Jewish denominations, including Rav Lila Kagedan, of Yeshivat Maharat, as well as Christian feminist scholars and the first female professor of Islamic Theology in Germany. “While the mix of scholars and rabbis coming from different faith traditions had its challenges, it was a bold and important statement of what is called for in these difficult times,” stated Gail Reimer, founding director of the Jewish Women’s Archive in Boston. With participants from the United States, Israel, England, France, Poland, Sweden, and other countries, the event provided fertile ground to explore the many ways in which women have enriched the landscape of religious life across every spectrum. They gathered a wonderful group of presenters, and so much rich and provocative conversation took place outside of formal sessions as well as within them. Progressive Judaism was very well represented by Rabbis Jackie Koch Ellenson, Elyse Frishman, Laura Geller and Sandy Sasso as well as by their pioneering colleagues from Europe and Israel, including Rabbis Dr. Deborah Kahn-Harris and Margaret Jacobi, Delphine Horvielleur and Kinneret Shiryon. Women of Reform Judaism’s First Vice President Susan C. Bass, of Houston, shared her impressions from the recent URJ biennial in Orlando. The Israeli ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, was one of the many lay leaders joining this memorable conference.
Rabbi Elyse Frishman with conference organizer
Hartmut Bomhoff (Photo: Tobias Barniske)
The three conference days, November 17‒19, were framed by many highlights. The ceremonial address, “The Presence and Absence of Women in the Intellectual History of the Jewish Community” was delivered by Professor Rachel Elior, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and tackled an array of issues which were discussed during the conference which was opened by Professor Pamela S. Nadell of American University, Washington D.C.
CCAR President Rabbi Denise L. Eger & Rabbi Dr. Walter Jacob,
President of Abraham Geiger College (Photo: Tobias Barniske)
The concluding Regina Jonas Lecture was delivered by the President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Denise L. Eger, who spoke about “Women as Agents of Future Change” and challenged us to make Judaism bigger, more accepting and more inviting. Many new connections were made. As Rabbi Eger put it: “I look forward to seeing you in the near future and to further opportunities to collaborate. I hope there will be some follow up…” The proceedings of the conference, which was funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, will be published in 2016. Get an update and analysis of current events in Israel from Professor Paul Liptz, Senior Educator of the Anita Saltz International Education Center. Don't miss out on Paul's expert insight and perspective on the current situation.
The "Soul" is the title of a new showing at Beit Shmuel/Mercaz Shimshon, the international headquarters of the Progressive movement. Beginning on December 3rd, 2015 and running through January 11th, 2016.
Three Running Horses
The exhibition Sylva Zalmanson, “Soul”, can be interpreted as two symbolic experiences in her life. The exhibition comprises two series, showing images of farm animals - sheep and goats on the one hand and on the other horses, which were strongly represented in art for a variety of features that can be attributed to them. The works were painted in oil and acrylic, and are characterized by a hearty texture and material, with a mix of sawdust and unity which gives the appearance of relief.
The lovely group of 18 Participants in Netzer Olami's (Reform Zionist Youth Movement) Gap Year Program- "Shnat Netzer" arrived from the UK, US and Germany on the program in mid-October. They spent the first week in Jerusalem, followed by a month on Kibbutz Lotan- one of the two Reform Kibbutzim in Israel.
Lotan has had a huge impact on all of them, both as individuals and also as a kvutza. They had the opportunity to meet some amazing and inspiring people, and find new interests that they had never thought about before, giving them a really great start to Shnat.
Farewell to Lotan: our last sunset on the kibbutz
The transition from Lotan to urban life has been made easier through a beautiful sikkum (closing) seminar, led by Alice Goldsmith, Chloe Glantz, Beth Raphael and Sophie Peterman, which allowed time to reflect on their experiences on Kibbutz. The seminar culminated with songs around a bonfire on Saturday evening.
At the end of the month on Kibbutz Lotan, the group had an exciting, jam packed crazy week at the end of November. They started from Kibbutz Lotan in the desert and traveled to the beautiful green North of the country, to the city of Karmiel, starting the "Tikkun Period" of their year- two and a half months of volunteering program, in partnership with the UJIA, The Jewish Agency and P2K. The group experienced a warm welcome from the city of Karmiel.
Netzer Group starting the "Tikkun Period"
There they met Galit Hoffman, their direct leader in Karmiel. Galit is very experienced in the informal education field and has been working with Netzer for the past 6 years. She prepared a packed schedule for our Netzer group, which included 3 days of volunteering, an educational day, and a weekly day trip.
On November 25, the Shnat Netzer participants got to know the city, getting to know people and places, going to schools, sitting with students, and even meeting Karmiel's Mayor Adi Eldar.
Meeting the Mayor of Karmiel, Mayor Adi Eldar
Each of the Shnattim were given a host family, and they spent their first Shabbat together. On Friday night they all joined the Progressive community in Karmiel- Kehilat Yedid Nefesh. The group is excited about their volunteering placements, ranging from teaching English, Arts, Music and Sports in Israeli schools; volunteering in an agriculture farm; volunteering in day cares; volunteering in a soup kitchen and even coaching the soccer and basketball teams!
(Left to Right) Geordin Hill-Lewis with
SACRED chair Rabbi Julia Margolis
The evening was an informative one, which left the audience with a far deeper understanding of the South African political landscape.
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