February 25 2016 // 16 Adar 5776
Jerusalem, February 22-23 – The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) convened the first ever International Beit Din Symposium for Reform and Progressive Rabbis from around the world. Twenty Rabbis from 12 countries met at the Jerusalem headquarters of the World Union for an intense rabbinic dialogue on crucial issues facing world Jewry.
Reform Rabbis, representatives of their Batei Din from all over
the globe, join Rabbi Daniel Freelander, third from left, for
opening remarks at the first ever international Beit Din Symposium
hosted by the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Jerusalem
The 20 participants each chair their country’s Reform or Progressive Beit Din which oversees conversion and marriage issues in their respective communities. Led by top scholars in Jewish texts and legal issues, the program included text study on changing attitudes towards conversion to Judaism. Other topics included officiation at same sex marriages, conversion requirements for Aliyah, and the appropriate use of technology during the conversion process.
Rabbi Joel Oseran addresses the first ever International Beit Din
Symposium hosted by the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Jerusalem
“The Beit Din Symposium brings Rabbis from very diverse backgrounds together to share resources, curricula and experiences, and to form a religious network for engagement with global Jewry,” explained Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President for International Development for the WUPJ.
After studying with rabbinic delegates from Australia, France, Russia, Germany, Brazil, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Belgium, the United States and Israel, Rabbi Daniel Freelander, WUPJ President, noted that “openness to conversion is one of Reform Judaism’s unique contributions to 21st century world Jewry. When someone expresses interest in Judaism, we need to welcome them to explore Jewish spirituality and practice. The Beit Din Symposium revealed creative insights on how we can be welcoming within our defined Jewish boundaries, creating new openings for entry into the Jewish people”
Group shot of all Beit Din Symposium participants enjoying the
view of Jerusalem’s Old City Walls from WUPJ headquarters
The Beit Din Symposium joined members of Executive Board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) for a fruitful conversation about the challenges of rabbinic autonomy, and the need to support each other's efforts to strengthen and grow the Jewish people. Over 250 CCAR Rabbis will open their 2016 annual conference in Israel at the WUPJ headquarters.
According to Rabbi Steve Burnstein, Director of the Saltz Center, the 2016 Beutel Leadership Seminar underwent a significant renewal based on feedback from prior participants. “Just as we encourage the Beutelniks to revisit the mission and vision of their congregations through a serious process of strategic planning, we examined our own goals, giving great consideration to the changing needs of our WUPJ communities around the world.”
This year’s program included sessions examining the lifecycle of a congregation; understanding the process of strategic planning; and addressing specific issues facing our communities as identified by the participants themselves. As one participant noted, “The seminar was a unique blend of leadership development, connection with community leaders in progressive Judaism from around the world, and insight into the issues facing Israel today.”
Beutel Seminar participants with IMPJ and WZO Representatives
While Professor Paul Liptz and Rabbi Burnstein led most of the seminar, participants also had the opportunity to learn with other educators. Sally Klein-Katz led an interactive session looking at leadership, ethical and ethnic dilemmas from biblical times to contemporary Israel to our own communities. Key leaders from the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) such as Rabbi Nir Barkin, Director of the IMPJ Diaspora Department; Reuven Marko, Chairperson of the IMPJ; Rabbi Noa Sattath, Director of Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC); Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, head of the WZO Diaspora Department; and Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President of the WUPJ, also joined seminar participants for focused discussions. Some of the program highlights included a Kabbalat Shabbat program at Beit Eden, a residential facility for developmentally-challenged youth run by volunteer members of Kehilat Yozma, the Modiin Reform community of IMPJ, for the past 13 years; and meetings with Rabbi Miri Gold and Rabbi Levi-Weiman-Kelman.
Beutel Participants at Kibbutz Yahel
At Kibbutz Lotan, as well as at the IMPJ Mechina pre-army gap year program, participants experienced projects that embody what Dr. Martin Luther King called “praying with your feet.” Both projects combine study and action into unique programs attracting young people – Israelis and internationals – looking for the opportunity to put Jewish values into action. Several Beutelniks are looking to apply these techniques in their own home communities.
Another inspirational moment was an encounter with a group of Arab and Jewish young people volunteering together for a year in Arab and Jewish communities throughout the Negev. The program runs in 11 schools in the Negev, both Arab and Jewish, and reaches approximately 4,800 children and teens modeling positive cross-cultural relations and building bridges of understanding.
Beutel Seminar participants with Austin Beutel
This year was truly special in that Austin Beutel joined the group for the second half of the program. Austin was pleased to see the program attracting such talented leaders from across the globe. He commented on the changing the nature of the program and participants to meet the different needs of Reform communities and the WUPJ. As an active participant, Austin also contributed tremendously to the program in meaningful ways that had an impact on participants.
The Beutel Seminar is designed to empower participants with leadership skills and strengthen their interactions with their communities. We extend our special appreciation to Austin and Nani Beutel for their dedication to and investment in Jewish leadership.
By: Cherie Half
Miriam Kramer, Chairman of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) left cold, wet London to bask in the California sunshine while sharing her worldview with San Francisco Reform Jews. She has a unique perspective of the current political climate and its effects on Progressive Jewish institutions in Europe. Miriam spoke of three types of Progressive, Liberal, and Reform communities: mature (England, Germany, and France), adolescent (Belgium, Austria, Czech Republic), and nascent (Spain and Portugal). Each has its own unique situation: from being established from the ground up where there had not been any Judaism before, to reigniting an historical connection with Progressive Judaism, to combatting political entities that are anti-Semitic, or to working against Orthodox movement hierarchies. The EUPJ, under the umbrella of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), is working on the ground to give guidance and support to the leaders of 16 different nations on the European continent.
Miriam Kramer, Chairman of the European
Union for Progressive Judaism
First stop on Miriam’s speaking tour was a dinner hosted by Rabbi Melanie Aron at Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos. Friday morning Miriam met with Sue Fishkoff, editor of the “J.”, the Bay Area weekly Jewish Newspaper and was interviewed for this piece. For Friday night Shabbat services at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, Rabbis Ryan Bauer and Jason Rodich and Cantors Marsha Attie and Arik Luck centered the service on the origin of prayers from other countries and Miriam gave the drasha. Shabbat morning Torah study was led by Rabbi Janet Marder and 200 of her regular minyan at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills. Shabbat afternoon at Beth Am, Miriam again spoke about the EUPJ and its mission, this time to a standing-room-only crowd. Saturday night local committee members hosted Miriam at Greens her favorite vegetarian restaurant. Next day convened the Bay Area Regional World Union meeting at Beth Israel Judea with a D’var Torah by Rabbi Danny Gottlieb, one of Miriam’s “boys” when she was Chair of Leo Baeck College in London years ago.
The first questions asked at each session were all about concerns regarding the “rise” of anti-Semitism and the migration of French citizens to Israel. Miriam stated that there was anti-Semitism in Europe and regrettably that Hungary stands out as a country where the government does not quell right wing anti-Semitism (even though the Prime Minister has publicly stated that Hungary will not tolerate anti-Semitism). She further explained that the exodus of French Jews from France is being driven more by economic issues than fear, specifically as there is a new tax that Jews are trying to avoid by moving to Israel. In fact, Miriam asserted, London is the fourth largest city of French citizens in the world after Paris, Marseille, and Lyon.
Miriam converses in four languages other than English, and has visited Progressive Jewish communities all over the world. Her frank assessment of European Jewry was a breath of fresh air. Her experiences and history with the Progressive movement give her pronouncements significant weight. It was an enlightening experience for many West Coast Americans to delve into the complexities of life in Europe and hear stories that emphasized the strength of the World Union with two million members worldwide.
If you want to hear and meet the leaders of the European Union for Progressive Judaism, join them for the Biennial Conference in London, April 14 thru 17, and celebrate 90 years of the formation of the World Union. If you’d like to hear about World Jewry in your congregation, contact the World Union at their New York offices, and find out which international visitors or Rabbis will be in your area to speak or join an event. In his recent Op-Ed piece, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, discusses how recent decisions about prayer at the Kotel reflect the Jewish people’s journey toward unity. “Instead of pushing for a Pyrrhic victory that would have split our paths, they chose the only possible way to preserve the Wall as one symbol for one people.”
Men of the Women of the Wall pray behind the partition at the back of the
women’s section, in 2013. (Photo: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Bergman Seminar participants 2015
As one Bergman Seminar alum summarized, "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. Join us on July 6-15, 2016 as we encounter the best of the animal kingdom on Safari in Pilanesberg National Park while also connecting with South Africa's Progressive communities. Tour the Garden Route, enjoy outstanding food and wine throughout on this unique adventure, and attend the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) Biennial Conference in Cape Town (included with the tour cost). Safari in Pilanesberg National Park Rabbi Lennard Thal, the designated tour leader, is also the Senior VP Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and has spent time on every continent (other than Antarctica) partly as a result of his longstanding involvement with the WUPJ, including two trips to South Africa. He also has led many group trips to Asia, South America, Europe and Israel and looks forward to sharing the excitement of a return visit to South Africa. Rabbi Thal is the recipient of the World Union's 2015 International Humanitarian Award. For more details and to book your reservation today, please click here. Calling all TaMaRniks and Netzer Bogrim! Please join us at the next TaMaR Olami Global Conference in Jerusalem March 30th - April 3rd. We’ll be focusing on building young, Reform Jewish leadership and talking about the challenges young adults are facing today. Network with other inspiring young leaders, strengthen your leadership skills for your communities, and learn how you can take an active role in mobilizing your constituents and growing your communities. Registration is limited to one to four representatives from each TaMaR branch or country. Cost to join is flight + approximately $100 - $250 USD based on financial ability.
Network with other inspiring young leaders, strengthen your leadership skills for your communities, and learn how you can take an active role in mobilizing your constituents and growing your communities.
Please email Orit for more information. Leadership and staff of the WUPJ offer their hearty congratulations and Mazal Tov to Felix and Arlette Mosbacher on the birth of their grandson. Felix has been a long term member of European Union for Progressive Judaism’s (EUPJ) Executive Board since 2010 and will have sat for two terms as Vice President.
Mazal Tov to the entire family, may he bring happiness, joy and blessing to all.
Leadership and staff of the WUPJ and Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon extend their sincerest condolences to Ayal and Alon Borman, Cezanne catering managers at Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon, on the passing of their father, Professor Dr. Joseph Borman. Born in 1929 in South Africa, Joseph Borman was a renowned professor, doctor and researcher in cardio-thoracic medicine. He was a Professor Emeritus of Hebrew University and led the Department for Cardiothoracic surgery at Hadassah Hospital for 22 years. He pioneered open heart surgery and performed the first heart transplant in Israel. This recent JPost article recounts some of Dr. Borman’s incredible advances and historical turning points that he wrote about in his recently published autobiography.
May Professor Dr. Borman‘s memory be for a blessing and may his entire family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.
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