Issue # 537
May 5 2016 // 27 Nisan 5776
Today, May 5th, is observed as Israel’s day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany, and for those who fought back. Called Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah in Hebrew, Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, or colloquially Yom Hashoa, the country comes to a standstill as sirens wail for one minute. It is a moment of individual and collective introspection, questioning our responsibility and our pledge to ‘never forget’.
Communities and congregations in Israel and around the world come together in discussion groups and ceremonies; some include testimonies from Holocaust survivors and discussions about historical events, others feature Jewish text study around the issues of social action, persecution, faith in the face of suffering, memory and conviction.
For resources on the significance of Yom HaShoah and ways you can observe, click here.
Passover is a unique punctuation mark in the Jewish calendar. It celebrates the importance of communities coming together to retell our exodus from Egypt. For many, Passover is a time to open the door a little wider, yes for Elijah, but also to members of the community who might not have a seder to attend. For those on the receiving end of this hospitality, the experience of entering someone else’s home for Passover can be a remarkable exercise in community building, Jewish identity-formation, and ultimately, the beginning of new global connections. This was the case for many Americans who found themselves hundreds or thousands of miles away from home during this Passover season. The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) asked several young Reform Jews to tell us about and reflect upon their experiences of a seder away from their homes.
Q: Where did you spend Pesach? Who attended your seder? Where was it and who hosted? How did you get connected with this community?
Community seder in Prague with Rabbinic student David Maxa
A: I spent the majority of Pesach in Prague. I attended the Progressive Jewish community seder there. It was hosted at the local Jewish town hall that they use for their social events. International travelers and members of this community attended this seder. I found out about it through David Maxa. A few summers ago, I worked at URJ Kutz Camp (a Reform Teen Leadership Institute in New York) with David, who is currently a rabbinic student in Germany, and this is his home community. Before my travels, I reached out to him and he happily invited me to join. (Rachel Dubowe, Los Angeles, California) A: I spent Pesach in London at a seder hosted by a friend from Shnat Netzer and his family. They were gracious enough to open their home to me (and quite a few others) while I was traveling through Europe on my Pesach break from Hebrew University. In total, they welcomed 33 guests into their home from every branch of their family tree, as well as some special guests like myself and some fellow Americans from New York. (Jake Levine, Ann Arbor, Michigan)
A: I spent Pesach at the URJ Kutz Camp, a seder dubbed, "The seder for Wandering Jews and Friends". I'll be working as the social action major teacher at Kutz this summer, and wanted to spend the holiday getting reintegrated into the camp community. Even after a few summers away from camp, there was something calling me back -- and this seder validated my calling. (Avra Bossov, Washington, DC)
Q: What made this seder different from all other sedarim? What surprised you? What inspired you? Did you learn anything new about Pesach traditions?
A: This seder was different for me as it was mostly in Hebrew and Czech. The order of the seder was familiar so I could follow along but still was not able to fully participate. I was actually surprised by how similar, besides the language, this seder was to ones that I have participated in before. It was very comforting to have familiar rituals in a foreign country. The community was extremely welcoming and happy to have us there. I was surprised at the amount of international guests there, which just added another layer of excitement and diversity to attending my first seder outside of the United States. (Rachel Dubowe)
Hagada and seder plate in Progressive Prague,
A: First of all, the Hagadah used was homemade by the hosts and included a range of non-traditional passages including relevant quotes from rabbis, famous writers, and even a piece from Martin Luther King. Also included in the Hagadah were assignments of readings for each of us - I was given the only chunk entirely in Hebrew, hooray for me - and even a diagram of how everyone ended up at the table, by blood or otherwise. It was refreshing to see such a different take on the seder from what I'm used to at home, and comforting still to recognize what I was seeing. Most memorable was the inclusion of a key on the seder plate, symbolizing the indefinite detainment of those seeking refugee status in the UK - truly a modern application of Pesach's most basic themes of the struggle for freedom in the face of great strife. (Jake Levine)
Q: Why was it important to attend a seder despite being far from home? What about the community ethos of Pesach inspired you to join a new community, even if temporarily?
A: Taking pause each year to retell the story of freedom reminds me of all the other opportunities throughout the year that I have to help bring freedom to others, in my community and beyond. Attending a seder, especially at a place so special to me, reminded me that family can be who you're related to and the family that we create in our own relationships. (Avra Bossov)
A: I think it was important for me to attend a seder, despite being far from home, because it helped me stay connected to Jews around the world, as well as keeping a tradition I have held and remember doing forever. I am glad that I know I can probably be just about anywhere in the world and have a Progressive Jewish community to lean on when I need to feel at home and part of a community. (Marissa Steinhofer)
Stay tuned as we feature more insights from young adults who connected with Progressive communities in our next newsletter!
As always, Passover and its seder nights are among the highlights of the year in Progressive FSU communities, and this year was no exception. Marking the 13th year of the Pesach Project
, a partnership project of the World Union for Progressive Judaism
(WUPJ) and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
(HUC-JIR), rabbinical, cantorial, and education students visited Jewish communities to help revitalize Jewish identity and activity within the communities. Overall more than 5,000 individuals came together to experience Progressive sedarim across the FSU, generating an incredible impression of our growing impact in the region. Click here to read the incredible report of events across the region.
Passover Seder at Hava Nagila congregation in Chelyabinsk To view the full report on the FSU Congregations, event click here.
The World Union for Progressive Judaism-Latin America (WUPJ-LA) reports that the translation of the Plaut Torah Commentary into Portuguese is on schedule with the plan established by WUPJ-LA, together with the translator and the rabbi. The five books of the Torah have been submitted to Rabbi Leonardo Alanati for his rabbinical revisions. Dr. Luis Dolhnikoff, project translator and noted writer, literary critic and political commentator, has now started to work on gleanings, commentaries, Haftarot and translation notes. This part should be ready by June 2016, when we will start the editing and designing the final print version of Torá – Um Comentário Moderno or The Torah A Modern Commentary in Portuguese.
Cover design of the Torá – Um Comentário Moderno or
The Torah A Modern Commentary in Portuguese
The creation of a Portuguese Plaut Torah commentary will be the fourth in our series of translations for the WUPJ-LA’s growing Progressive presence, specifically the Portuguese Jewish community in Brazil. Parts of the translated Torah are already in use and the entire project should be completed by the CONNECTIONS 2017 conference in May in Israel. “This is an exciting time for the Latin American community in general and the Brazilian community in particular. This project will help insure that community's growth is rooted, as so many North American congregations are, in a greater ability to access sacred texts,” said Rabbi Richard F. Address.
Funding to complete the translation has been set at $100,000 as an overall goal; as of January 2016, the project has secured one-third of its funding. The cost for each portion of Torah is $1,800 and donors can support translations of specific parashot, the dedications of which will be noted in the book’s tribute pages.
“There are some things that are responsibilities that each of us as Progressive Jews must undertake. One of the most important is the correct translation of the Torah into a modern interpretation as done by Gunther Plaut a number of years ago. This is not a matter of choice, this is a must do, and we are depending on you to provide the help necessary,” remarked Jerry Tanenbaum, President Yad B’Yad Task Force, WUPJ.
To support the translation of the Plaut Torah into Portuguese, and bring Torah verses in Portuguese to a growing community of Progressive Jews across Brazil, click here and select “Plaut Torah Commentary Translation” from the dropdown menu for “designated donations.” Every year, upon graduating from high school and before entering two to three years of military service, 55 young Israeli men and women join a yearlong gap year program in Jaffa, termed “Mechina” in Hebrew. At the Mechina Pre-Army Program for Young Jewish Leadership, under the auspices of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), participants engage in a year-long program comprising: Jewish text study through a modern lens, including the weekly Torah portion, Talmud, Israeli history and culture, philosophy, and a number of seminars throughout the year on issues of Jewish identity and Israeli society; and a volunteering program, to which they devote much of their time, supporting various populations in Jaffa, including Jews and Arabs, migrant workers and refugees, children, senior citizens and more, through a variety of initiatives and partnerships with local NGOs.
Participants from the Mechina Pre-Army Program for Young
Jewish Leadership packing food parcels for families in need
for Passover as part of a nation-wide campaign by Keren B'kavod,
the humanitarian arm of the IMPJ Reform Judaism in Israel.
The Mechina is a very competitive program, and only those who show the potential of being influential leaders in their community and in the army are chosen out of the hundreds of applicants each year. Recognizing the impact of integrating non-Israelis in its program, the IMPJ Mechina calls upon congregations and community leaders to recommend young individuals from around the world who have command of spoken Hebrew, demonstrate leadership potential and a commitment to the values of Progressive Judaism, and a strong interest in spending a transformative gap year in Israel.
Mechina students volunteering with the elderly in Jaffa,
spending the day in conversations, songs,
dances and other Chanukah activities
This is not the first year that the Mechina has welcomed non-Israelis to its year program. As one North American participant recently reflected, “This was the most transformative year of my life. I experienced Israel and bonded with Israelis in a way that I could never have imagined before. I learned a great deal about Israeli society and people, while exploring Israel’s role in the greater Jewish world. I also gained invaluable leadership skills by working – and volunteering – with so many organizations, community workers and people across the spectrum of society. Things I’ll take with me wherever I go and I hope to use in whatever I do next.”
Click here to receive more information or to send your recommendations for applicants. Born in 1936, Nissan Bar Dayan grew up working on a kibbutz and exploring the arts. During his youth he trained under graphic artist, Yehezkel Streichmen, at the Avni Institute of Art and Design and later completed his graduate studies at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Bar Dayan explores the depth and scope of plentiful landscape scenes across Israel – from desert to shore, mountain to valley, and city to village.
“Land and Sky” An Exhibition by Israeli Artist Nissan Bar Dayan
at Beit Shmuel
“Land and Sky” explores the miraculous beauty of Israel in mostly farming and agricultural landscapes. Bar Dayan uses pastel and graphite to replicate photographs the artist first took of these scenes, and later adds the expansive and ethereal clouds from memory. On view April 14th through– May 23rd 2016 at Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon in Jerusalem. Calling all former participants of Netzer! As our youth movement turns 37 next year, we're taking a few moments to reconnect with all of you, and ask that you reflect on your time with Netzer and/or Shnat. Tell us what impact, if any, Netzer and/or Shnat had on where you are today, and how we can all come together as a larger community of Netzernikim to share experiences, ideas and more.
If you were once a Netzernik, we’d like to hear from you!
Please click through to complete the survey and reconnect with us!
Many of you today are Jewish educators, rabbis, cantors, professionals in various fields, volunteers for worthy causes, and much, much more. We can all learn from and help each other – not to mention support the Netzernikim currently active in our home towns. So we would very much appreciate your taking some time to fill in this online survey. It will help us form new avenues for collaboration among graduates across the globe, or even groups close to your home. Also, please help us reach as many Bogrim as possible and share this link with others, or send us names and emails so that we can be in touch directly.
Designed to transform your school and community educators with leadership training, the Bergman Seminar is run by the Saltz International Education Center, which hosts some of the most accomplished Jewish scholars and educators in the world.
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."
Read about exciting moments from participants of the 2015 Bergman Seminar Sign up for the Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators today or connect educators in your community to this unique opportunity via Rabbi Steve Burnstein.
This year's biennial, on May 27th - 28th 2016 – will focus on "East and West - Multiculturalism in a Jewish and Democratic State." The international track will include sessions such as "East and West" with Rabbi Nir Barkin and Deputy Mayor (Student Rabbi) Tamir Nir, and "IMPJ and Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) Latest Developments" with Rabbi Gilad Kariv and Anat Hoffman, among others. To register to join the Israel Reform Movement's biennial celebration, click here. Join the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) on a curated travel tour to experience Progressive Jewish culture, history and peoples out in the Far East. Led by Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President Emeritus for International Development of the World Union, hear first-hand how Progressive communities grew across Asia, starting with the moving story of Shanghai's Port of Refuge, which helped shelter up to 20,000 Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.
View of Shanghai district at night
Meet and mingle with the Shanghai's vibrant Kehilat Shanghai and Singapore's growing United Hebrew Congregation for services and events. Visit booming technological centers while experiencing the cultural and culinary wonders of these bustling cities.
Finish your WUPJ Travel Tour Experience in Perth, Australia
at the UPJ Biennial this November
The tour culminates with the attendance at the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) Biennial (November 17th – 20th) in Perth, Australia. Don't miss this classic adventure of a lifetime – from out east to down under - connecting with Progressive Jews worldwide. Click here for tour details and how you can register today.
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