Issue # 529

January 14 2016 // 4 Shevat 5776


Follow in the Footsteps of History, from Berlin to London

Redefining Global Judaism 

Support IRAC's Civil Rights Work

South Africa Union for Progressive Judaism Proudly Establish the Shabbat Project

Klal Yisrael: The Challenges and Opportunities of Uniting a People 

Hanukkah Family Seminar in FSU

Live from Israel
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events


Follow in the Footsteps of History, from Berlin to London

Join us in Celebrating 90 years of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Established in London in 1926, WUPJ held its first international convention just two years later in Berlin. Together we explore the World Union's past, present and future. 

Photo by: Dale Lazar
The tour will take place on April 7-14, 2016 and will be led by Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. During the tour we’ll be meeting with Progressive community leaders in Berlin and London as well as learning from world class scholars from Abraham Geiger College in Berlin, and from David Jacobs, Chairman of the Jewish Historical Society of England, in London. 

After the tour, join with hundreds of delegates from Europe at the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) Regional Biennial celebrating WUPJ's 90th birthday where it began - in London.

Don’t miss out on this unforgettable experience. For information and registration, please click here.

Back to Featuring

Redefining Global Judaism 

By Andrew Keene, former NFTY president

There is an entire Jewish world beyond the United States. In some ways it is comfortingly similar and in others strikingly different. It is our obligation as American Reform Jews to be part of a larger conversation and a larger movement, one that spans over 50 countries (and growing) and touches the lives of nearly two million people. We do not know what the future holds for each of us and there is tremendous strength in knowing that wherever we are, wherever we travel, and wherever we might one day live, there is a Jewish community rooted in the same core values that prompted us to live intentionally reform Jewish lives.

Two years ago this week, I left home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for London, England. After a series of conversations that started at the URJ Kutz Camp, this trip which at first seemed like a far-reaching goal, was about to become a reality. That year, I was serving as the North American President of NFTY and it was a priority of my NFTY Board to begin to rejuvenate our relationship with Netzer Olami, the worldwide progressive youth movement. I felt that it was nearly impossible to be a part of this movement without experiencing how it takes forms in other places. Five months after first conceptualizing visiting another Netzer snif (Hebrew for branch), my friend (and former NFTY regional board member) Jonah, and I embarked for our week with RSY-Netzer, one of two Netzer branches in the UK.

URJ Kutz Camp

I was expecting to both share pieces of American progressive Jewish life and NFTY and also to learn from RSY-Netzer to take back skills and lessons to my peers in the states. What I did not expect was to be completely transformed by the experience. Five short days at a pristine campsite in Lichfield, United Kingdom opened my eyes even wider to what being a progressive Jew really means. I was captivated by which traditions, melodies, and skills transcended continents and youth movements, but more so by the pieces of my Jewish life that I assumed everyone experienced that really stopped at the water’s edge.

Two years later, this experience in London is without doubt a defining piece of my Jewish journey and identity. I carry with me fond memories of late nights spent perfecting programs, endless cheers, and the unique opportunity to work and learn side-by-side with my British counterparts, all equally committed and determined to create vibrant progressive Jewish community in the UK.

Since my time with RSY, I have been blessed by the opportunity to connect with the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). In May 2015, I started my term on the Executive Board at the WUPJ Biennial in Rio de Janeiro. For the second time, my concept of what “global Judaism” meant was entirely redefined. This time, it wasn’t just Americans and Brits, it was progressive Jews from every corner of the earth- each with distinctly different challenges and opportunities. The same commitment to creating vibrant progressive Jewish communities I found in London, here too was unwavering, and for many, tested in ways American Jews cannot fathom.

This coming April, just over two years since the conclusion of the RSY-Netzer event I attended, I am excited to return to London, this time with a cohort of NFTY Alumni. For one week, we will experience London and global Judaism in a completely new way. The first few days will comprise of seeing the sites of London including pieces of Jewish importance and meet with leaders of the London Jewish community to discuss “Klal Yisrael” “The Jewish Peoplehood.” The second component will be attending the biennial conference of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) which promises to be an exciting conference drawing participants from all over the world. The conference will celebrate the 90th anniversary of WUPJ and create a Shabbat experience par-none. 

Back to Featuring

Support IRAC's Civil Rights Work

Join us in supporting Israel Religious Action Center’s (IRAC) Civil Rights in challenging Israeli authorities to investigate, prosecute and deter civil and human rights violations wherever they occur, they serve as a crucial compass in places where there is the greatest potential for moral failure. For many years Israel prided itself on the existence of these organizations, but times have changed.

Recently, Israel's cabinet approved a bill that would silence the voices of many of these important organizations. The bill, if passed by the Knesset, would require nonprofit groups that receive funds from foreign countries to declare themselves as AGENTS of that foreign country. Our human rights activists would have to wear a special badge that would say, next to their name, “Agent of Switzerland.”

The law is designed to demonize nonprofit organizations who are critical of Israel’s policies towards Arabs and Palestinians, and label Israeli citizens who work for these organizations as foreign meddlers.  

IRAC is not directly affected by the law, but IRAC strongly identifies with their fellow human rights activists. Israeli human rights workers have dedicated their lives to promoting and preserving the values enshrined in our Declaration of Independence.

Click here to send an email to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him not to submit the bill to the Knesset for a final vote.

For more information, please click here for the article from the Times of Israel Newsletter.

Back to Featuring

South African Union for Progressive Judaism Proudly Establishes the Shabbat Project

Written By: Linda Thorn

The Shabbat Project was an idea initiated by the Orthodox Jewish community of South Africa intended to broaden the impact of Shabbat on the Jewish community in South Africa. Motivated by its success, Rabbi Greg Alexander, head of the South African Union of Progressive Rabbis (SAUPR) suggested that all the Progressive communities in Cape Town introduce a similar idea, albeit with a strongly Progressive interpretation. It was decided to have a special weekend at Temple Israel Cape Town, devoted to the Shabbat Project, to enable Progressive Jews to more fully participate in and enjoy Shabbat. Visiting Rabbis were invited from Israel (Rabbi Leon Morris) and the USA (Rabbi Alyson Solomon) to join in and to contribute - it was a privilege to have 5 Rabbis participating!
Shabbat Dinner at the Wynberg community 

The Thursday night before Shabbat, 90 men and women and children came together for a “challah bake” with the ingredients available, and the recipe in front of us we all produced wonderful challot which we took home to be baked and to be enjoyed on Shabbat.

Rabbi Leon gave us a spectacular shiur around the luncheon table on Friday afternoon before Shabbat. On the Friday night every member of Temple Israel was encouraged to invite lots of people to join their Shabbat table at home after services. The aim was 1000 Progressive Jews around the Shabbat dinner table in Cape Town. The response from all was overwhelming, instead of the usual regular invitees, the idea was invite not only those who usually attend our Shabbat dinners but to extend the invitations to others. It was a wonderful injection to community friendships. It was generally agreed that this should be done on a regular basis.

The Shabbat program was filled with activities, for all ages. A choice of services, discussion groups, activity groups, panel discussions, “ask the rabbi “sessions with wonderful food and a seudah shlishit. The day ended with a very special spiritual Proudly Progressive Havdala service.

Shabbat Home Dinner at Green Point

The Shabbat Project was generally felt to be such a success that we plan to have it on a regular basis country wide. All synagogues in all regions of South Africa will be encouraged by the SAUPJ to work on the same calendar weekend, countrywide, with individual Proudly Progressive Shabbat Project programs at each synagogue in Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

Back to Featuring

Klal Yisrael: The Challenges and Opportunities of Uniting a People

By: Rachael Brill and Nadav Savaia

We live in an era of contradictions. Although we have the ability, today, more than ever, to create an interconnected “global village” and foster a sense of unity with Jewish communities around the world, in reality, we’re often far from united.

This was the conclusion we reached last month in Jerusalem, surrounded by a group of young adult Reform leaders, participants in the Union for Reform Judaism’s year-long Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellowship, which brings together young people from Reform and Progressive communities in North America, Israel, and Europe for leadership development through webinars and in-person seminars. We realized, too, both the immense opportunities and tremendous challenges we face in fostering a sense of Jewish peoplehood through connection to Israel.
K’lal Yisrael (the concept of Jewish peoplehood) is a major value in Judaism, but has various interpretations: to some, it is a sense of responsibility for other Jews, regardless of physical location; for others, it signifies a shared narrative throughout history. Often, K’lal Yisrael is perceived as a deep connection to the land and people of Israel. The centrality of Israel as a core tenet of K’lal Yisrael may be understood by some, but during the Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellows' first seminar in Israel, we explored and challenged this assumption.

We dissected what it means to be part of a global Jewish community in the 21st century and how we can learn from and rely on one another. We struggled to reconcile our Progressive Jewish values with some of the more traditional values of the multi-cultural, modern Jewish state. In our session with Rabbi Noa Sattath, director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), we learned about Israel’s complex political and social issues, including the dominance of Orthodoxy in the public sphere, lack of recognition of Reform communities, gender segregation, rules surrounding marriage and conversion, racism toward minorities, and more. We also contemplated controversial issues that similarly affect Diaspora communities.

In light of all of these issues, we questioned how we, as liberal Jews from around the world, could possibly feel as one with those who would challenge our right to be stakeholders in the land of Israel. As Erich Fromm noted in his landmark book The Art of Loving, “Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.” Because of our deep love and affection for Israel and Jews worldwide, we are invested in creating and strengthening our global Jewish connections and, together, supporting and further developing our Progressive Movement in Israel.

The Klal Yisrael Group on the Street Art Tour in Tel Aviv

Despite the many challenges we witnessed and debated in Israel, the seminar enabled us to bring young Jews together, to inspire them, and to feed their desire to learn and interact with other Progressive Jews. Becci Jacobs, a North American Klal Yisrael Fellow and the assistant director at the URJ’s Jacobs Camp/NFTY Southern Regional Advisor summarized her experience this way:
Prior to the seminar in Israel, I lived in my North American bubble. I did not really know about Reform or Progressive Judaism in other countries. I left the seminar with a renewed commitment to Reform Judaism, feeling especially inspired by the work my peers are doing worldwide to ensure Reform communities exist and thrive. After this seminar, I also care more about Israel than I ever did before. The content throughout the week sparked a curiosity in me that did not previously exist as I discovered the aspects of Israel – including social justice – to which I most connect.

Indeed, we were strengthened in our conviction that love for Israel is about working together to determine how our often dissimilar communities can effectively advance the cause of a more inclusive and tolerant Israeli society for all.

Back to Featuring

Hanukkah Family Seminar in FSU

On November 27-29, 2015, the Hanukkah Family Seminar took place at a venue outside of Moscow. Over 80 people took part. The seminar theme was "Light of Hanukkah" and the program was as always very intense and interesting.
Hanukkah Family Seminar in FSU

Workshops for children were conducted and children like David Nisengolts told his parents about the traditions and history of the holiday. There were sessions for parents on the best practices for raising children. 
Workshop with Cantor Dmitry Karpenko

Cantor Dmitry Karpenko proved to be one of the favorites with his music classes for both parents and children. 

The highlight of the seminar was a meeting with former refusnik Natan Sharansky, who defied the Soviet regime and endured hardships so he could make Aliyah.

To view more photos of the event, please click on the link.

Back to Featuring

Live from Israel

Children Having Fun: Creating Art on SHABBAT at Beit Shmuel, Jerusalem

On SHABBAT, December 26, 2015, children arrived at Beit Shmuel-Merkaz Shimshon to create art. The theme was “The Season of Fall” where the children had a talk explaining the autumn leaves and the characteristics of the Fall season.
Children Creating Art at Beit Shmuel-Merkaz Shimshon

The main activities were: drawing on pebbles coloring and pasting pictures were done with napkins; drawing trees with water colors and exhalation (connection of wind) to apply the color black, and using beans and bonding techniques to create paintings related to Fall.

Back to Featuring

For Art's Sake: New Beit Shmuel Exhibit Explores "Israel through a Tour Guide’s Eye"

The "Israel through a Tour Guide’s Eye" is the title of a new showing at Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon, the international headquarters of the Progressive movement. Beginning on January 14th and running through February 29th, 2016. 

For the past two years Yishay Shavit – a professional tour guide, created an Instagram Photo Journal of the daily scenes he encounters while guiding all over Israel. This exhibition encapsulates some of the rich variety of images he gathered. The focus is on public spaces and open vistas. The photos illustrate some salient features of Israeli Society: A diverse society, traditional yet at the same time embracing progress; loving culture and celebrating life. The pictures show a society living through hard times and wars and people who are proud of their country and never cease to love it. 

"Israel through a Tour Guide’s Eye"
in Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem

Through the exhibition a wonderful human mosaic is revealed: Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze, religious and secular, locals, tourists and pilgrims. Many of the people in the photos maintain a strong affinity to tradition, as reflected in photos of sacred places and religious rituals, ethnic restaurants and market places. Shavit also indicates newer traditions like the Shavu'ot agricultural festival at a kibbutz.
“The Elegant Bride Mounting a Bike” photo

Other pictures reflect more secular moments of the modern Israel. Bustling cities, cultural events and, sea shores, parks and restaurants, as well as photos depicting local agriculture and its problems (like the photo of abandoned greenhouses). Shavit also turns his camera towards the elderly and their place in society as can be seen in the old seamstresses in "Yad Lakashish" and the aging sprinter. Many photos in this exhibition will make viewers smile, think and wonder as they see an elegant bride mounting a bike, workers clearing the cracks of the Western Wall of notes, a driver smoking a hookah in his bus trunk while waiting for the tourists to return or an ancient phone booth that survived the age of mobile phones on the Bik'ah road. 

Back to Featuring


In Memoriam: Dr. Stephen Wolnek z"l, United States

The leadership and staff of the World Union extend their sincerest condolences to the family of Dr. Wolnek, husband to Elysia Wolnek.  

Dr. Wolnek z"l, passed away peacefully on January 5, 2016. 

Dr. Wolnek was a true inspiration to many as a leader in the Zionist Movement and the Masorti Movement through his accomplishments as the President of the Mercaz Olami and serving on the board of National Zionist Institutions; the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (JNF).

The World Union mourns along with Dr. Wolnek‘s beloved wife Elysia and their sons Seth and Ivan. 

May Dr. Wolnek‘s memory be for a blessing and may his entire family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.

Back to Featuring

In Memoriam: Norman Dion Schwartz z"l, United States

The leadership and staff of the World Union extend their sincerest condolences to the family of Norman Dion Schwartz, father to Rabbi Karyn Kedar.  

Norman Schwartz z"l, passed away peacefully on January 10, 2016. 

Mr. Schwartz was an inspirational leader to many with his commitment, devotion, and participation in the Reform Movement. He was a member of the URJ North American Board Honorary Trustee. In addition to serving the URJ former region, council, and board in many capacities, including as an active member of the Mid-Atlantic Council and on their Nominating Committee, on the East District Council, on a Biennial Program Executive Sub-Committee, on the URJ Board Alumni Committee, and as an Honorary Trustee of the North American Board, Norman’s involvement reached yet farther. Norman served as a Past President of Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), was one of the founders of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) and of Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) as well as a member of the Board of Governors in the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). Norman also served as a member of the Commission on Social Action.  

The World Union mourns along with Norman Dion Schwartz’s beloved wife Lynore, their daughter Rabbi Karyn Kedar and the late Neil Dion Schwartz.

Donations in Norman’s memory may be sent to Congregation BJBE or to ARZA.

May Norman Dion Schwartz‘s memory be for a blessing and may his entire family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.

Back to Featuring

In Memoriam: Anny Homolka, z"l, Germany

The leadership and staff of the World Union extend their sincerest condolences to the family of Anny Homolka, mother of Rabbi Professor Walter Homolka, WUPJ Executive Board member.

Anny Homolka z"l, passed away peacefully on December 27, 2015. She was laid to rest on December 30, besides her husband Walter Homolka in Landau (Bavaria), her hometown for more than 50 years. 

Anny was known as a dedicated musician, conductor and teacher. She is remembered as an energetic, loving and optimistic woman who could motivate people to reach for the stars. She was a pillar of communal life and honored with the German Order of Merit. 

The World Union mourns along with Anny Homolka‘s children Anita and Rabbi Dr. Walter. 

May Anny Homolka‘s memory be for a blessing and may her entire family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.

Back to Featuring

Dear Reader

Stay current with newsletters from our regions. Click here for more details.

What do you think about our newsletter? 
Please click here to send your comments or suggestions.

Back to Featuring

Upcoming Events

February 4-14, 2016, Beutel Leadership Seminar, Anita Saltz International Education Center, Jerusalem, Israel

April 7-14, 2016, WUPJ Travel Tour, Berlin and London

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

May 19-25, 2016, The Roswell Seminar for Social Justice, Anita Saltz International Education Center, Jerusalem, Israel

May 19-26, 2016, WUPJ Travel Tour, Israel

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

June 23-25, 2016 - Latin America Region Biennial Conference (WUPJ-LA), Sao Paulo, Brazil

July 6-17, 2016, WUPJ Travel Tour, South Africa

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

July 19-24, 2016, Bergman Seminar for Jewish Educators, Anita Saltz International Education Center, Jerusalem, Israel

November 9-18, 2016, WUPJ Travel Tour, China & Singapore

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

Back to Featuring

Recent Issues