Issue #535

April 7 2016 // 28 Adar II 5776


Opening the Institute for Modern Jewish Studies in Moscow

Les Voix de la Paix, Voices of Peace, Launches in Paris

From Discussion to Action: SACRED Works Against Gender Discrimination and Toward Religious Inclusion in South Africa

Honoring 30 years of Dedication to the World Union and Global Reform Judaism: Rabbi Joel Oseran Prepares for his Retirement

Live from Israel 
Congregational Leadership Opportunities
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events


Opening the Institute for Modern Jewish Studies in Moscow

On March 30th 2016, a remarkable event took place at the Moscow Center for Progressive Judaism the debut of the new Institute for Modern Judaism in the presence of forty guests who came from major Jewish organizations across the city.

The initiative to establish the Institute began two years ago under the auspices and supervision of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and its main partner in this venture, Abraham Geiger Kolleg; other partners include Potsdam University and Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH). At the launch event Anne Brenker, Chancellor of Geiger Kolleg, and Rabbi Edward van Voolen, Vocational Director, represented the Kolleg.

Dr. Alex Kagan, Director of FSU Operations at the World Union,
speaking at the launch of
the new Institute for Modern Jewish Studies in Moscow

Among the speakers were Prof. Irina Scherban, Chair of the Russian Progressive Communities, who spoke about the importance of the program for the entire Russian-speaking Jewish community and gave it her blessing; Dr. Alex Kagan, Director of FSU Operations for the World Union, who presented the program, relaying a universal message not limiting the program to the Reform Movement, but rather welcoming the Jewish community at large. He requested that other Jewish organizations increase cooperation as much as possible in recruiting potential candidates; Dr. Anne Brenker and Rabbi Edward van Voolen spoke about Abraham Geiger Kolleg, describing the program and its academic processes. 

Dr. Anne Brenker, Chancellor of Abraham Geiger Kolleg, 
speaking at the launch of the World Union’s
new Institute for Modern Jewish Studies in Moscow

At the end of the presentation, Arseny Nikitenko, a student, described the deliberation process prior to entering the Institute that led to him making this professional choice, and how both being accepted to the program and the studies themselves have changed his life in a positive way. 

Launching the new Institute for Modern Jewish Studies in Moscow 

The evening concluded with a question and answer session for guests, and a reception. 
The following day a constructive meeting was held between Institute leadership, Abraham Geiger Kolleg representatives and students. Students spoke about their progress during the year, emphasizing the individual projects they are running. 

The Institute offers a four-year BA degree program at RSUH, Institute for Philology and History in Moscow, called "Art and Humanities with a specialization in Jewish Theology".  Students recognized as having potential to continue toward rabbinic studies will pursue an additional two years of study at Potsdam University and Geiger Kolleg. 

Students with high academic achievement, who are not suitable to become rabbis, will be permitted to pursue their MA and/or PhD at RSUH or Potsdam University as a natural continuation of the program. 

The World Union covers all living expenses for students, while students pay one-third of their tuition. This is a significant amount for them, and it is required in order to demonstrate their motivation and dedication to the program, as well as promote our continued policy of encouraging self-sufficiency.

The Institute’s programs began in September 2015 with seven highly motivated students. So far, their results are impressive. Two students have already been selected for continuing rabbinic studies at Geiger. 

Without a doubt, this program is gaining momentum and attracting significant attention from potential candidates and the Jewish community at large. Seeing how much progress we’ve made, it is hard to believe that only two years have passed since the idea was first discussed between the World Union and Rabbi Dr. Walter Homolka (one of the Institute’s primary supporters). 

To learn more about this World Union initiative, click here.

Back To Featuring

Les Voix de la Paix, Voices of Peace, Launches in Paris

On Tuesday March 22, seven-hundred guests gathered at the magnificent Paris City Hall to celebrate their different spiritual convictions and to seal their commitment to living peaceably together under the banner of “laïcité à la française”, which guarantees freedom of belief in France’s secular society. The event launched a new project “Les Voix de la Paix”, or “Voices of Peace”, aimed at promoting interfaith dialogue across France. The project was led by Rabbi Yann Boissière, together with his Progressive community Mouvement Liberal Juif de France (MJLF), and partnered with other local organizations with financial support from public authorities and Jewish organizations, including the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). 

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo welcomes participants to
Les Voix de La Paix (“Voices of Peace”) gala celebration

“Voices of Peace” demonstrates that spiritual leaders can be constructive contributors to public dialogue on issues of social peace and better “living together” in secular France.  

Rabbi Yann Boissière with other spiritual leaders at
Les Voix de La Paix (“Voices of Peace”)
gala celebration at Paris City Hall

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo welcomed participants, who joined her on the steps of City Hall for a minute’s silence in honor of the victims of the murderous attacks in Brussels earlier that day. The evening celebration incorporated arts and culture with social issues and politics, as leading figures of various religious and non-religious movements, intellectuals, politicians, teachers, researchers, journalists and civil society associations all came together for roundtable debates and a gala celebration. Among the speakers were Imam Tareq Oubrou of Bordeaux; Father Antoine Guggenheim of Paris; Pasteur Jean-Paul Morley; Rabbi Michel Serfaty, President of the Jewish Muslim Friendship Association; Ms. Marie-Stella Boussemart as President Emeritus, Buddhist Union; and Mr. Jean-Michel Ducompte of the Freemasons

Contemporary artist Gerard Garouste created an award for the advancement of fraternal relations across religions and cultures, and participants enjoyed an exceptional concert of original music written by Yom for clarinet, haunting cello and uplifting cross-cultural voices, concluding with a choral rendition of Hine-Ma-Tov (Psalm 33) and the French national anthem. A Women’s Manifesto for Peace was read by the nine spiritual leaders, of different faiths, who drafted the document. The manifesto was printed on parchment paper for preservation with other historical documents archived by the city. The evening ended with a delicious cocktail, strictly kosher and halal, prepared by students of Camille Claudel High School.

Back To Featuring

From Discussion to Action: SACRED Works Against Gender Discrimination and Toward Religious Inclusion in South Africa

The South African Center for Religious Equality and Diversity, SACRED, the social action arm of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ), hosted a talk by Najma Khota, renowned broadcast journalist, radio and TV presenter, counselling therapist and trauma counsellor. She spoke of her experiences as a journalist and activist. 

Rabbi Julia Margolis with
Najma Khota at SACRED, South Africa

Ms. Khota started her journey 20 years ago as a radio presenter, which was her childhood dream. Against all odds, she founded a community radio station and later co-founded two others, all of which were unique to the country at the time. She was faced with a new challenge when she was told that according to Islamic teachings women were not allowed to be heard “on air". Ms. Khota conducted her own research into this “male-dominated assumption” and gained support from the community, ultimately proving that there was no basis for what some claimed was an Islamic rule.

She became a voice for women through her platform on radio and television, a local household name, and a ‘go-to person’ in her community for those seeking advice. Ks. Khota pursued her career as a therapist while working as a radio talk show host and television presenter. As a counselling therapist and trauma counsellor, she is also the founder and director of "Forever Blooming," since in 2005, a trauma centre that offers counselling services to individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Currently in contemporary South Africa, the promotion of equal rights for women has created conflicts with those who argue that such rights violate religious beliefs and cultural traditions. Tensions between religion and culture create daily dilemmas for women. As she concluded her presentation Ms. Khota answered questions from participants such as: Is it possible for women to hold together their identities? Can women be true to their ethnic racial identity, or faith and tradition?

Participants listening to journalist Najma
Khota speak at SACRED, South Africa

SACRED initiated another landmark event recently: having lodged papers in the Cape High Court in the matter of SACRED (and others) vs. the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) regarding discrimination. 

At a local Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Memorial Day, ceremony, the Orthodox Chief Rabbi walked off the podium in protest against a young schoolgirl singing a memorial song. Unfortunately, communal bodies that are meant to represent all Jews in South Africa, such as the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) have, in recent years, adopted a ban on women singing at such events. 

Rabbi Julia Margolis tells the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) that: SACRED holds the strong view that at communal events that are not religious in nature, a ban on women singing constitutes unfair discrimination and is both unethical and against the Constitution of South Africa and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. SAJBD has clearly stated that "in the interest of ensuring maximum communal unity,” women singing will continue to be banned.”

SACRED feels that the performance of women at such events is not only a right, but also a moral obligation and indeed duty, as concerned South African Jews, to do so. And SACRED stands by its basic, simple and just demand – that all voices will be heard. The World Union will continue to update you on the situation as it progresses. 

Back To Featuring

Honoring 30 years of Dedication to the World Union and Global Reform Judaism: Rabbi Joel Oseran Prepares for his Retirement

After thirty years of building, teaching, learning, problem solving, strategizing, and good ‘ole fashioned working, Rabbi Joel D. Oseran is preparing to retire from his position as Vice President of International Development for the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). 

After 30 years of service,
Rabbi Joel Oseran prepares for his retirement

A graduate of the University of California (UCLA) – Los Angeles, he received his BA degree, cum laude, in History in 1971 and a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Southern California (USC) in 1974. He was ordained rabbi in 1976 from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), New York Campus and received his Doctor of Divinity degree from HUC-JIR, Jerusalem, in 2001.

After ordination, Rabbi Oseran served as Director of Student Affairs at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. He returned to the United States in 1981 where he served as Rabbi-Educator at University Synagogue in Los Angeles, California. During his work in Los Angeles, Rabbi Oseran was instrumental in creating the UAHC (today URJ) project for intermarried couples entitled “Times and Seasons.”

In 1986 Rabbi Oseran made aliyah to Israel and joined the World Union’s Jerusalem headquarters as Director of Education. Working with the first Progressive Movement School in Jerusalem, Rabbi Oseran helped found the Tali Bayit V’gan Primary School, located today in Kiryat Yovel and numbers over 450 children.

Lecture in Rome at Beth Hillel congregation

In his position as Vice President of the World Union’s International Development, Rabbi Oseran has been instrumental in establishing and strengthening Progressive communities in all the regions of the World Union. He was among the pioneers who developed our Progressive movement in the Former Soviet Union, conducting leadership training seminars for the first generation of WUPJ congregational leaders in the FSU. In 1993 he initiated the Machon Para-Professional Training project in Moscow which has now become the new Institute for Modern Jewish Studies. 

His efforts in Italy helped to establish the new Progressive Congregation in Rome, Beth Hillel, the last major capital city of Europe to welcome a Progressive congregation. 

While on Sabbatical leave from 1997-1998, Rabbi Oseran served as Rabbi for the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong (UJC HK). Over the past decade, he assisted and developed Progressive Jewish communities in Beijing, Bangkok and, most recently, the newly-established Progressive congregation in Shanghai, Kehilat Shanghai

Shai Pinto, COO and Vice President of the World Union remarked, “Joel has been the outreached hand and welcoming heart of our movement for almost three decades. You can see his fingerprint in every region of our global family and every area of our activities. His commitment to every Reform Jew anywhere in the world continues to be a guiding principle of our work, and his love for Am Yisrael remains a beacon of our conscience.”

Rabbi Joel Oseran in Bangkok in 2008 with Narisara and Michael March

Most recently, Rabbi Oseran initiated and launched the first-ever International Beit Din Symposium at the World Union headquarters in Jerusalem, in which over 20 Rabbis came together to discuss critical issues facing Batei Din around the world. 

WUPJ President Rabbi Daniel Freelander noted, “Rabbi Oseran carries the institutional memory of the WUPJ’s last thirty years in his very being. He is the embodiment of menchlichkeit, and has helped shape the future of Progressive Jewry on multiple continents. Joel’s influence is felt in every new Progressive community around the globe. Modim anachnu lo. We are all indebted to him.”

Chair Carole Sterling added, “Rabbi Oseran has helped create sacred communities and has connected Jews one to the other throughout the world in his quiet, unassuming way. We are grateful for the blessing of his leadership and wish him, Rachelle and their entire family continued good health and success.”

Back To Featuring

Live from Israel 

Next Year in Jerusalem? Make Last year’s Passover Seder Promise This Year’s Reality with Discount Holiday Rates at Beit Shmuel-Merkaz Shimshon Hotel and Guesthouse

Spend your Passover Seder at the Beit Shmuel-Merkaz Shimshon Hotel and Guesthouse – your Jewish home in Jerusalem – with new, reduced rates.
Beit Shmuel

Recount our annual tale of liberation from slavery next to the Old City; sing and celebrate alongside other Reform Jewish community members from around the world; share traditions and discover new ones. Explore historic sites across Israel and visit cultural destinations nearby in Jerusalem. 

Beautiful Evening View from Beit Shmuel

It’s Passover at “home” in the heart of Jerusalem. 

Double occupancy room in the hotel: $169 per night, reduced from $189, including breakfast

Additional guests per room: just $50 per night

Double occupancy room in the guesthouse: $149 per night, reduced from $169, including breakfast

Additional guests per room: just $40 per night

Breakfast at Beit Shmuel

Seder evening meals for only $90 per person

All additional meals during Passover’s Chol Hamoed week are only $30 per meal per person

Join us today and come home to Jerusalem this Passover! 

To reserve today or get more information, email Reservations

To view rooms and facilities, click here

Back To Featuring

Friday Night Lights in Jerusalem: You’re Invited to a New Kabbalat Shabbat Experience 

Join us for an engaging Shabbat celebration in Jerusalem! A new joint initiative of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) is welcoming individuals, families and groups visiting Israel for an uplifting Shabbat experience – all within walking distance of your Jerusalem hotel.


Feed your soul with prayer and song and your body with delicious food, with our three-course package: 
  1. Kabbalat Shabbat services led by top Reform rabbis and scholars on our picturesque Beit Shmuel -HUC campus, facing the Old City walls
  2. A festive, catered, Kosher dinner 
  3. The sweet sounds of a musical program that includes all your favorite Shabbat songs 

When: June 24th, July 1st, July 8th, or July 15th 

Cost: $70 per person, all inclusive

Individuals or groups (even through tour operators) can register online here

Back To Featuring

Congregational Leadership Opportunities

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 which will take place in Israel July 14-24, 2016. 
This course is designed to transform your school and community educators with leadership training. 

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.
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."

Read exciting moments from participants from the 2015 Bergman Seminar

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.

Back To Featuring

Last chance to tour South Africa: Join our African Adventure and Safari Tour with Rabbi Lennard Thal

Join us on July 6-15, 2016 as we encounter the best of the animal kingdom on Safari in Pilanesberg National Park, while simultaneously connecting with South Africa's Progressive communities. Get an insider’s look into the fascinating city of Johannesburg and its noted Anti-Apartheid Museum, enjoy outstanding food and wine throughout this unique adventure, and attend the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) Biennial Conference in Cape Town for a chance to meet the leaders shaping Progressive Judaism in the country (included with the tour cost). 


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 has also 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.

Back To Featuring

Bat Mitzvah of Daughter of Rabbi Sergio and Gabriela Bergman

Leadership and staff of the WUPJ offer their hearty congratulations and Mazal Tov to Sergio and Gabriela Bergman on the bat mitzvah of their daughter. Sergio Bergman is currently the Rabbi of the synagogue of the Congregación Israelita Argentina (CIRA). He is CEO of Fundacion Judaica (Judaica Foundation) and president of Argentina Ciudadana Foundation, as well as executive director of Action Network and Community Initiatives for Social Enterprise. In 2013, he received the Micah Award from the World Union for his commitment to social justice. As of 2015, he is Argentina's Environment Minister, in Mauricio Macri's cabinet.

Back To Featuring

Birth of Grandson to Rabbi Uri and Garri Regev

The leadership and staff of the World Union offer their hearty congratulations and Mazal Tov Rabbi Uri and Garri Regev on the birth of their grandson. Uri served as Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the social justice arm of the Reform movement in Israel, and President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). He is currently President and CEO of Hiddush – For Freedom of Religion and Equality, a trans-denominational nonprofit organization aimed at promoting religious freedom and equality in Israel, a partnership between Israeli Jews and World Jewry, founded in 2009.

Mazal Tov to the entire family, may he bring happiness, joy and blessing to all.

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

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 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

September 15-18, 2016 - FSU Biennial Conference, Minsk, Belarus

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