Issue #531

February 11 2016 // 2 Adar 5776


Appointment of Rabbinic Coordinator to Alliance for Progressive Judaism in the UK

Tu B’Shvat Around the World

Sign Up for the Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators 

Jewish Community of Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg Installs Rabbi 

Get an Insider’s Perspective: Join the World Union Travel Program to Israel 

Live from Israel
Netzer News
Dear Reader

Upcoming Event


Appointment of Rabbinic Coordinator to Alliance for Progressive Judaism in the UK

The Alliance for Progressive Judaism, a partnership of Reform and Liberal Judaism in the UK, has appointed Rabbi Charley Baginsky as its part-time coordinator whose remit is to develop projects that the two movements will work on jointly to advance Progressive Judaism, its principles and ethos in the UK.

The Reform and Liberal Movements work together in a number of areas including, but not limited to, education, chaplaincy and the Leo Baeck College as well as both the European and World Unions of Progressive Judaism.

Rabbi Charley Baginsky

To deepen the activity of the Alliance, Rabbi Baginsky will be fostering a number of new projects, one of which will be the establishment of an Israel Desk, the focus of which will be education; engagement with members; the coordination of Reform and Liberal messages and work with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and our many partners in Israel.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism added, “This appointment crystallises a very strong relationship, and enables us to work together on areas of mutual interest and strength for the benefit of each of the movements and for Jews in Britain as a whole".

Rabbi Danny Rich, Senior Rabbi and Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism, said: “The appointment of Charley Baginsky is a real move forward in the work of the Alliance and shows our commitment to this project. I am sure that with her efforts we will begin to see added benefits from what is already a productive relationship”.

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Tu B’Shvat Around the World

This year, the holiday of Tu B’Shvat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, fell on January 24-25. Celebrating the Jewish New Year of the Trees, the holiday seder is both a festive meal and an opportunity to ‘renew’ with prayer and song, and dried fruit, plantings of trees, and much more. Below is a roundup of some community celebrations. 

In Sydney, Australia:

The Meah Hebrew and Religion School at North Shore Temple Emanuel in Sydney, Australia kicked off their first day of term on 31 January, when more than 60 enthusiastic students, accompanied by parents and grandparents, enjoyed a special introductory session on Netzer programming with new Community Shaliach Dudu Gotlieb and Netzer Mazkir Joel McCarroll.  

Children from North Shore Temple Emanuel in
Sydney, Australia Celebrating Tu B’Shvat

In honour of Tu B'Shvat, the school also hosted Yigal Nisell, Education Shaliach of the Jewish National Fund, who presented each child with a JNF Blue Box; and they, in turn, enthusiastically pledged to return the tzedaka boxes full the next week. In preparation for Pesach, the Kindergarten and Year 1 students also planted parsley and enjoyed decorating the planters to take home with them.

In Budapest, Hungary:

Ariel Pollak
, rabbinic student intern from Abraham Geiger College in Berlin, and Sim Shalom Congregation in Budapest celebrated with a unique Kabbalistic Tu B'Shvat seder, as is their annual tradition, where, “one eats twenty or more varieties of fruits and nuts, then drinks four glasses of wine during the service, while listening to various spoken and sung selections from Jewish literature.”

Tu B’Shvat Celebration in Budapest

In Moscow, Russia: 

Forty people attended a seder Le-Dor va-Dor led by Rabbi Leonid Bimbat and Cantor Dmitry Karpenko. The seder was an interactive experience for people offering traditional rituals together with songs sung by all who gathered around the table. Each cup of wine represented a season and was followed by an Israeli, Russian, Ukrainian or American song related to the respective season. 

Le-Dor va-Dor Seder in Moscow, Russia

For more pictures, visit their Facebook page.

In St. Petersburg, Russia:

Fifty people gathered at Shaarei Shalom for a Tu B'Shvat seder, conducted by Rabbi Helena Rubinstein.

As their tradition, on the tables were symbols of three worlds, each represented by fruits: the world of work (actions) - fruit with a peel; the world of creativity - with a bone (a pit); and the world of creation - fruits that do not have any skin or bones.

This week marked another special day for the Jews and for St. Petersburg; January 27 is not only International Holocaust Remembrance Day it is also the day the blockade of the city, formerly known as Leningrad, was lifted. 

Shaarei Shalom Congregation at a Tu B'Shvat Seder

Participants drank four glasses of wine, the first of which was white to signify: the flowering almond tree in Israel, the white winters they experience, and the color of mourning. For the next three glasses: One was raised to the seed of kindness in each person, eager to make the world kinder; the second signified the pursuit of excellence; and the last glass, which was red wine, symbolized beauty and embodied the Shaarei Shalom community. 
Kindergarten Kids Celebrating Tu B’Shvat at Shaarei Shalom

This was not the only Tu B’Shvat event in the community. Children in the kindergarten prepared a play with songs in Hebrew; and Sunday school students, led by Alla Mitelman, prepared trees made from wool for the holiday and learned how to make a delicious dessert of fruit. 

For more photos, please click here 

In Chelyabinsk, Russia: 

Congregation Hava Nagila held a Tu B’Shvat seminar for Jewish families. About fifty people attended. The seminar was led by second-year Leo Baeck College rabbinic student Igor Zinkov and included lectures and classes. 
Congregation Hava Nagila at a Tu B’Shvat
Seminar for Jewish Families

In Minsk, Belarus:

Tu B'Shvat at Beit Simcha this year was even more of a celebration as it was also the birthday of the Simcha community in Minsk.

Rabbi Grigory Abramovich told the story about Zeev Wolf Yavits: Rabbi, teacher and historian who suggested making Tu B’Shvat a tree-planting day in Israel. He was born in Poland and was a disciple of Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe from Rouge in Belarus. Yavits came Israel in 1887 and worked as a school principal and served as the Rabbi in Zichron Yaakov, Israel.  

Tu B'Shvat at Beit Simcha in Minsk

Among the guests was the head of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Belarus who spoke of her tradition of tree-planting in Israel.
After conducting the seder, participants created trees from different materials. Now even in cold Belarus there are colorful Tu B’Shvat trees at Beit Simcha. 

Visit their Facebook page (in Russian) for more pictures of community events.

In Ukraine: 

Staff in Ukraine were challenged by local circumstances to be creative in order to celebrate Tu B’Shvat: a widespread flu epidemic prompted authorities to prohibit public gatherings. In order to assist members and encourage smaller celebrations, smaller lectures were held on the mysteries and interpretations of Tu B'Shvat; and staff provided educational and religious materials to congregants about the holiday, as well as a guide on how to conduct a traditional seder at home.

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Sign Up for the Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators 

The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) invites you to join our upcoming Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators taking place in Israel July 14-24, 2016 designed to enhance your school and community educators. 

Bergman Seminar participants 2015

Implementing the Bergman Seminar is the Saltz International Education Center's faculty which includes some of the most accomplished Jewish scholars and educators in the world.

One Bergman Seminar alum sums up the experience nicely: "Although I had been to Israel several times this was the experience that allowed me to put all the puzzling pieces together. There was tremendous attention to depth, detail and knowledge - Israel's history and society is so complex - previously I felt like an outsider peeking over a Jerusalem stone wall into a mystical world - now I feel a part of this country and can relate to its challenges and accomplishments as if it is part of my own identity."

Sign up for the Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators today.

To connect educators in your community to this unique opportunity or receive more information, contact Rabbi Steve Burnstein.

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Jewish Community of Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg Installs Rabbi 

The formal installation of Rabbi Alexander Grodensky as the Rabbi to the Liberal Jewish Community of Luxembourg in Esch-sur-Alzette took place on January 21, 2016. The ceremony welcomed attendants from the community as well as: written greetings from the Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel; Lydia Mutsch, Luxembourg’s Minister of Health and of Equal Opportunities and former Mayor of Esch-sur-Alzette; current Mayor of Esch, Vera Spautz, representing local politicians; and Miriam Kramer, European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) chairman. 

Chief Rabbi of Luxembourg Alain Nacache participated in the ceremony as well  and in his address expressed encouragement and appreciation for the respectful cooperation between the Jewish communities in Luxembourg City and Esch. Luxembourg as a country is a rare example of peaceful coexistence of a liberal and an orthodox community.

Additionally, Emil G. Hirsch 3rd, the great-grandson of Rabbi Dr. Samuel Hirsch, the first Chief Rabbi of Luxembourg (1843-66) and one of the founding fathers of the Reform Judaism in the United States attended the installation ceremony. Emil Hirsch 3rd (who is now 90 years young) and his son Bernie Hirsch came a long way from Florida to join in the ceremony. And on January 28, Rabbi Grodensky attended the dedication ceremony of Samuel Hirsch Square (Samuel-Hirsch-Platz) in Thalfang, nearby Trier, Germany. Samuel Hirsch was born in Thalfang in 1815.

Rabbi Alexander Grodensky

Rabbi Grodensky was born in Dushanbe, Tajikistan and grew up in the Russian north. In 2015 he graduated from Abraham Geiger College in Berlin, Potsdam with a rabbinic ordination and from the University of Potsdam with a Master of Arts in Jewish Studies. In Berlin he was actively involved in bringing Hillel International to Germany.

He is currently the Rabbi and a board member of Hillel in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In addition to his rabbinic training and Jewish Studies Rabbi Alexander holds graduate degrees in Public Administration and in Management. He is married to Isak Schneider.

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Get an Insider’s Perspective: Join the World Union Travel Program to Israel 

Experience Reform Israel with a World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Tour as we meet Israel's Progressive communities, Rabbis and leaders to learn about their programs and achievements, including Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). 
Video Invitation from Anat Hofffman

Encounter ancient and modern history and discover cutting-edge Israeli innovation, from social to technological, alongside fellow Reform community members and friends old and new. Led by Professor Paul Liptz and Rabbi Steve Burnstein, Director of the Saltz International Education Center the tour, from May 19-27, touches upon a range of local and national issues and coincides with the Biennial for the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), May 27-29. 

Visit Israel with the WUPJ

To view Anat Hoffman video invitation, and learn more about what you’ll do and who you’ll meet, click here.

For more details and to book your reservation today, please click here.

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Live from Israel

Welcoming our new Marketing and Communications Director

Please join us in welcoming Ziva Haller Rubenstein to the World Union staff and family as our new Marketing and Communications Director, based in our headquarters in Jerusalem, Israel. An experienced marketing professional for nonprofit and for profit organizations in the US and Israel, Ziva is also an active – and proud - member of the YOZMA Reform community here in Modiin, Israel where she lives with her husband and three children. 
Ziva Haller Rubenstein

We invite you to reach out to Ziva by email or through our Facebook page, to share news items, updates and issues from your community that you would like others to know about. 

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Netzer News

Next Generation Connects at Klau Leadership Seminar in Minsk

Young and active Netzer participants from all over the FSU kicked off 2016 at the Klau Leadership Seminar in Minsk. Forty-three young leaders came together to learn about the history of the Reform Movement and issues facing its growth today, to welcome Shabbat together in prayer and song, and to discover and continue their collective and individual Jewish journeys. 

Netzer participants at Klau Leadership Seminar in Minsk

The seminar comprised two tracks: Leadership training through workshops, lectures and other small-group activities; historical perspectives of the Reform Movement its history and leadership, along with the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and Netzer structure and ideology. The goal was to inform participants while enabling their personal connection to Reform Judaism and the Reform Movement. Lectures and discussions on issues of gender equality, tolerance and Tikkun Olam were the most popular sessions.  

During the Kabbalat Shabbat ceremony, participants read the following letter from Sue and Jimmy Klau, sponsors of the Klau Seminar:

Dear Young Leaders,

Congratulations on being the future of the Reform Movement in Belarus. As you join hands with your compatriots in Ukraine and Russia, we join our own hands with you across the miles. We are with you in love, we admire your commitment and we rejoice in your accomplishments as you continue your Jewish journey. May God give you strength, wisdom and peace.


Sue and Jimmy Klau

 Klau Leadership Seminar Participants’
YouTube Video on its Impact

Participants were moved by the sense of family and support they specifically felt from the donors, and generally, throughout the program with their colleagues. They also created their own YouTube video to thank the donors and talk about the seminar’s impact on their future goals for their communities. 

To watch the video, in English, please click here.

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Dear Reader

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Upcoming Events

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

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