May 19, 2016 // 11 Iyyar 5776
Q (WUPJ): You recently circled half the globe on a whirlwind “Young Progressive Jewish World Mover and Shaker” tour that started in Israel. Tell us a bit about that, who you met, what it meant, why you went, and what you did.
A (AMK): Wow, that’s a generous title. TaMaR is the young adult movement of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), which connects young Progressive leaders in their 20s and 30s from over a dozen countries and nearly every continent. This year’s annual TaMaR international seminar drew wide representation from across Europe, South America, Australia, Israel, and the USA (represented by me). What struck me about this group is that at a time in their lives when many people are exclusively career-focused, these leaders articulate and act on the importance of being a young progressive Jewish leader in their local community. The group had graduate students, future rabbis, legal professionals, and government analysts, to name a few. It was a truly impressive group of people who take pride in both their career aspirations and Jewish identity, and are eager to identify where and how the two can meaningfully intersect.
TaMaR participants outside Jerusalem’s municipality,
where they met with Senior Advisors to Mayor Nir Barkat regarding
youth and young adult engagement and social entrepreneurship, April 2016
In addition to the session content, the most important takeaway for each of us was knowing that the challenges facing our local communities are global. While local or regional characteristics and challenges might seem entirely unique, this seminar proved that we have lots to learn and collaborate on with our global counterparts. In that light, I had the opportunity to share a tool called “Business Model Canvas” which is an entrepreneurship tool used for new business ventures. We used it to help us examine how this proven technique can help to launch and evaluate new initiatives in our local Jewish communities.
Q: During the TaMaR seminar you also took time to meet with Shnat Netzer participants in Israel; what were some important takeaways from your discussion with them vis-à-vis NFTY.
A: First, I should say that this group of “Shnatties” is brilliant. They are spending their year in Israel between high school and university, steeping themselves in Reform Jewish values and ideology with the intent of deepening their own connection and identity as well as preparing to go back and be leaders in their regions (sniffim) of Netzer, the Global Progressive Jewish Youth Movement. It’s important that we look beyond our organizational structures at times, and when it comes to building global connections, this is key. It’s critical to point out that in many regards our institutional structures do not align perfectly - in all facets of the Jewish community. When we define global connection as the alignment of our structures, we miss out on the rich potential for deep connection amongst globally-minded leaders doing incredible work locally.
Q: On the whole, what were some ‘next step’ items you took away from that first week in Israel?
A; We have lots to learn from each other, best practices to share, challenges to collectively overcome, and successes to celebrate. My time with TaMaR and Shnat Netzer clarified the role of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in that pursuit. I’m eagerly looking for the platforms, opportunities, and individuals who can be partners in convening diverse groups like this on a more regular basis - both in person and virtually. More tangibly, in looking towards CONNECTIONS 2017, the WUPJ Biennial Conference being held in Jerusalem next May, I’m eager to convene a larger group of young Progressive Jewish leaders from around the globe and give them an opportunity to learn from each other and think big about our collective future.
Q: Next stop: London for a NFTY Alumnae meet-up. Tell us about this event and why was it so important? A: Spending the week with this group was a real treat. Both the meet-up and the trip were important for several reasons. First, they show that a deeply powerful youth movement, like the Reform Jewish Youth Movement (NFTY), can be a continual convener and community builder for people of all ages, in all parts of the globe. It showed that regardless of how many years or miles separated alumni from their time in NFTY, dozens were excited to connect with our group while in London.
Additionally, it proved to be a wonderful example of peer-led experiences for micro-communities who share common past experiences, in this case NFTY alumnae. This specific experience was incredibly meaningful as it involved participating in a global conference with leaders from 30 countries and in short, gave unique and important context to the American Reform Jewish experience for this group. I’m excited to see how their leadership is inspired and shaped by this experience as well.
Q: As the week ended you joined the World Union for Progressive Judaism, where you are an Executive Board Member, for pre-conference meetings. Tell us about the ‘big announcement’ and what it means for you and the World Union in the coming year.
A: We concluded our seders with “Next Year in Jerusalem,” and the opportunity for Reform/Progressive Jews of any age or location to actualize that ideal is next May in Jerusalem for CONNECTIONS 2017, the WUPJ Biennial Conference. I believe CONNECTIONS 2017 will be different for a few reasons: we will bring Progressive Jews from every corner of the Diaspora to Israel to highlight, celebrate, and challenge Progressive values and ideals in the homeland of the Jewish people. We will conclude the 90th anniversary celebration of the WUPJ, which began in London last week, where the organization was first founded in 1926. And, in partnership with my conference co-chair Sonja Guentner (Germany) and Yair Lootstein (Israel), as well as dozens of volunteers, collaborators, and hosts, we will work hard to make this conference an innovative and unique experience. We look forward to sharing more details in the coming months and in the meantime, save the date May 17-21, 2017!
Networking at the EUPJ opening gala in April
Q: What were some of the highlights for you from the recent biennial of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ)? As a recently-appointed Executive Board member who’s not a newbie to these conventions, do they continue to impact you? And if so, how?
A: I started my term on the Executive Board last May at our CONNECTIONS 2015 conference in Rio de Janeiro. During the opening ceremony, one of the local Progressive communities in Rio, Associação Religiosa Israelita do Rio de Janeiro (ARI), passed a Torah scroll to the young congregation, Kehillat Shanghai, in China. The passing of this Torah scroll, to me, was the physical embodiment of what it means to be active participants in a global movement. With that Torah follows a new sense of inspiration, deep learning, and symbol of growth. This sensational moment occurred once again in London as West London Synagogue passed a Torah to the newly-admitted congregation in Madrid, being chaired by an inspirational and dedicated young person who has been working in partnership with locals and the World Union to build this congregation from the ground up. These moments show that Progressive Judaism is alive, vibrant, growing, and globally connected.
Q: What are your priorities or goals to achieve next year at CONNECTIONS 2017 in Israel? What will we have to look forward to?
A: Our priorities are several: First, to attract a very diverse group of delegates – diverse in age, involvement in community, and, of course, geography. We are looking forward to offering several pre-conference seminars for specific delegations. In terms of the conference itself, we’ve put everything on the table to build an exciting experience that lives up to its name: Connections. We have lots to “connect” about and, in addition to providing meaningful and intentional opportunities to connect with old friends, we want every delegate to feel part of an ongoing dialogue that addresses some of the challenges and opportunities facing our movement. We will be capitalizing on our presence in Israel and making our voices heard loud and clear as a force of progress in Israeli law, culture and society. Come to Jerusalem ready to be inspired and recharged, and to leave with an enhanced network of motivated partners in our shared work.
Q: Zooming out now, how would you advise young adults interested in being more involved like you – juggling career and leadership roles? Do you think it’s feasible for many young adults? Should more young adults get involved?
A: It’s a great question – one which I’m still attempting to answer. As a business student, a professional, and a lay leader, each day is a fine balance of furthering a career and, at the same time, volunteering the same skills for the World Union. Both are important to me, and I know that many of my peers are in a similar situation – trying to balance passions, careers, community involvement, and Jewish identity-building. I do think that most of us have the capacity to be leaders in the Jewish community in one way or another. I think it’s entirely feasible to be a local leader, to be a convener of Progressive Jews locally to celebrate Shabbat and holidays, engage with Jewish text, and debrief on current news issues. That, to me, is meaningful Jewish leadership: it doesn’t carry a board title or meeting obligation, and is equally, if not more, important. To individuals out there, I’d suggest, if you’re craving more, if you’re looking to do something on a larger scale, know that there’s a global Progressive movement all around you open to your involvement and support. I see part of my role as connecting my peers with the right people and resources to catalyze and enable peer-led projects and initiatives in our communities and regions.
The World Union is proud to count Andrew M. Keene as an Executive Board Member of its international leadership and newly-announced co-chair of its upcoming biennial conference CONNECTIONS 2017 to be held in Israel May 17-21, 2017. Andrew is an active alumnae of NFTY, where he also served as President 2013-14, and a Trustee of URJ in North America. He grew up in Milwaukee and is currently an Entrepreneurship student at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Stay tuned for more interviews with our CONNECTIONS 2017 co-chairs,
Sonja Geuntner and Yair Lootstein,to learn more about
our exciting plans for next year’s biennial.
By Darryl Egnal
Temple Israel Hillbrow, the “mother” synagogue of the South African Progressive Movement, is celebrating its 80th anniversary with a special Shabbat service on Saturday 9 July 2016, followed by a bracha to toast this milestone event.
Temple Israel today
Brief background – Temple Israel Hillbrow then and now, a Heritage Site
The seeds of Progressive Judaism were first sown in South Africa in 1930. In June 1931, the South African Jewish Religious Union for Liberal Judaism (now the SAUPJ) was established and, two years later, Rabbi Dr. Moses Cyrus Weiler (z”l) was brought to Johannesburg by the committee. He became the first Progressive Rabbi in South Africa.
Temple Israel holds an important place in the history of the Jewish community as the first Progressive Jewish Synagogue in South Africa. It was built in 1936 and today, 80 years later, Temple Israel still stands proudly as a place of Jewish culture and religion in Hillbrow, Johannesburg.
It is very significant that Temple Israel is the only remaining synagogue in a downtown area in South Africa that is still fully-functional and keeps its doors open to the many impoverished and lonely Jews still living in the area. A fitting tribute is the fact that Temple Israel was declared a Heritage Site by the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation on 22 November 2014, ensuring its long-term future in the area.
Rabbi MC Weiler’s dedication to Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) is evident, not only in his establishment of the MC Weiler School in Alexandra Township together with the first Sisterhood of the movement, but also in the foundation he laid for the ongoing support of the school until today.
Rabbi Dr. MC Weiler with Hilda Phahle, founding principal,
at the official dedication of the MC Weiler School in May 1995.
This was Rabbi Weiler’s last trip to South Africa.
In fact, in Nelson Mandela’s book Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote about the Progressive Movement’s commitment to the school even when churches and other groups were pulling out of schools in the area.
Tikkun Olam is still a major focus of the Temple Israel committee, the sisterhoods and the entire Progressive Movement in South Africa, and the MC Weiler School is only one of the many projects that they support throughout the country.
The Temple Israel Anniversary Committee is putting together a commemorative magazine for the event, and will also be laying the foundation for the first-ever permanent exhibition that will house a history of Progressive Judaism in South Africa.
Temple Israel 80 – Commemorative Magazine
The commemorative magazine will include a comprehensive history of Temple Israel, the Progressive movement, the national and local kehillot (Tikkun Olam committees), Netzer (originally known as Maginim), and more.
Former members of the South African Progressive community now living abroad will be given the opportunity to send their stories, photos and memories of Temple Israel and the other communities for publication in the magazine. They will also be able to send messages congratulating Temple Israel and the movement on the 80th anniversary.
Temple Israel 80 – Permanent Exhibition
Currently, the synagogue complex houses a library of Judaica dating back to the late 1800s, as well as archives of the history of Progressive Judaism in South Africa. Temple Israel is raising funds to create a permanent exhibition in the foyer of the shul, simultaneously bringing Temple Israel back to its former glory.
An early drawing of the proposed Temple Israel.
The drawing was produced in 1934 by the architect Herman Kallenbach
If you would like to support Temple Israel as it celebrates 80 years and contribute to the magazine, the shul or the exhibition in any way, through memories of Temple Israel, messages of congratulations, or memorabilia for the permanent exhibition, please email Darryl Engel at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for further information. On April 11th 2016, Minister of Education, Naftali Bennet, met with Executive Directors of 15 Jewish Zionist global youth movements, marking a new interest by the Ministry in educational activities, including informal educational programs, taking place outside of Israel. Nezter Olami, the worldwide Reform Jewish Zionist youth movement, that includes TaMaR, its young adult framework, are members of this newly-convened Council for Worldwide Jewish Zionist Youth Movements which brings together leading Jewish Zionist youth movements from across the political and religious spectrums. The Council aims to generate wider support from additional ministries, including Absorption, Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Relations for youth activities in Israel and abroad and strengthen its position in Diaspora-Israel relations targeting youth engagement.
At the Council for Worldwide Jewish Zionist Youth Movements:
Netzer Olami Executive Director Maoz Haviv, third from right;
Minister of Education, Naftali Bennet, center holding plaque;
and Shnat Netzer Director Lior Argaman to his left.
When asked to comment on the significance of this event, Lior Argaman, Director of Shnat Netzer, explained, “This is important for Netzer for several reasons. First, this is the only forum where all streams – political and religious – working with youth can sit together and focus on one shared agenda, which is to get more acknowledgment and support for Jewish and Zionist youth movements operating in the Diaspora. The fact that we can all sit together – HaShomer and Beitar, Progressive and Orthodox, right and left – and have a fruitful dialogue, is very meaningful for Netzer. Second, the fact that on major issues facing all youth movements, Netzer’s vote and input shares the same weight as Orthodox streams’ votes and input, means we can all agree on a shared goal for today’s youth. It means we can share in the same vision and that we share the responsibility equally of putting youth movements on the forefront of Jewish and Israel education.”
It is with great sadness that the World Union joins in mourning the passing of Rabbi Reuven (“Bob”) Samuels.
Born in Texas, Bob and his wife Annette made aliyah in 1962 with three babies in tow. Bob was the first Reform Rabbi sent to Israel by the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and he established the firm foundations of our movement there. He helped found three congregations, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), and then created and developed the Leo Baeck Educational Center in Haifa, adding one more synagogue there, as well as forming the first youth group of the IMPJ. The Leo Baeck Educational Center in Haifa has grown to be one of Israel’s leading high schools and is internationally known for its innovation, outreach to underprivileged youth, and intercultural exchanges with the Arab, Palestinian and Druze communities in Haifa – all a testament to Bob’s incredible work.
In 2013, at its international CONNECTIONS 2013 biennial, the World Union honored Bob with its prestigious Micah award, in recognition of his tireless and selfless efforts toward a more just, open and inclusive society, and honoring his pioneering growth of Progressive Judaism in Israel. Upon receiving the award, Bob noted, “The work is not done.”
From left: Judy Smith, former Executive Board Member and current
Marketing Committee Chair of the WUPJ; Michael Grabiner, former
Chair of the WUPJ, with Rabbi Bob Samuels receiving the Micah Award.
Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch, honorary Life President of the WUPJ, further remarked, “[Bob] projected a vision which only he could have framed, of a magnificent educational and cultural institution to serve as the foundation for a liberal, progressive expression of Judaism. And then he devoted his energies to implementing the vision, inspiring thousands to contribute toward advancing his goals. His persistent leadership was contagious. Today there are many thousands of Jews whose lives have been enriched by his message and whose characters have been enhanced by his example.”
Celebrating his 80th birthday: Rabbi Bob Samuels, his wife Annette
and their grandchildren at the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa
Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President of the WUPJ, added, “It is impossible to overestimate Rabbi Samuel’s impact on Progressive Judaism in Israel – and around the world. His passions for Medinat Yisrael and Progressive Jewish values are evidenced in the thousands of young people whose lives have been transformed by his vision. His life’s work will continue to bless us for generations to come.”
In his own letter to the family, Rabbi Dow Marmur, former Interim Executive Director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, shared the following, “As a measure of his greatness [Bob] allowed those who followed him to stand on his shoulders and expand the scope of the school, the community centre and the second Reform congregation in Haifa that’s now part of the institution. His legacy will never be forgotten.”
Today Bob leaves behind a larger family including grandchildren, along with a legacy of impact on Israel and Progressive Jews worldwide.
To read the personal condolences from WUPJ and regional leadership:
From Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch, click here. From Rabbi Dow Marmur, click here. From Reeva Forman, click here.
May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem
Yehi Zichro Baruch
Feed your soul with prayer and song and your body with delicious food, with our three-course package:
- Kabbalat Shabbat services led by top Reform rabbis and scholars on our picturesque Beit Shmuel-HUC campus, facing the Old City walls
- A festive, catered, Kosher dinner
- 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. 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; 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, 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.
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 a 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 to apply.
Mechina students volunteering with the elderly in Jaffa,
offering a day of conversations, songs, dances and other
This is not the first time that the Mechina has welcomed non-Israelis to its yearly 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. 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 hometowns. 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 puzzle 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. The World Union for Progressive Judaism-Latin America (WUPJ-LA) reports that the translation of the Plaut Torah Commentary into Portuguese is on schedule according to 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 the 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.” The World Union expresses its sincerest condolences to Reeva Forman, National Executive of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) on the passing of her brother, Stan Forman z”l. Stan married his wife Grace at Temple Israel in 1960 and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary there as well. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s twelve years ago and, according to Rabbi Julia Margolis, “never let [his health] get in the way of his life and love for his family... A husband, father, brother and friend, Stan’s generosity was only superseded by his love and kindness.” Stan leaves behind his wife Grace, sister Reeva and son Robert.
May his memory be for blessing and may his family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.
The World Union for Progressive Judaism mourns the passing of Oskar Brecher z”l, an inspirational leader and visionary, both in his work as an architect and real estate developer, and in his leadership roles in the Reform Jewish world. Oskar was dedicated to strengthening Progressive Judaism around the world, especially through his involvement with the World Union and as President and Board Chair of Temple Israel in New York. In 2005 he single-handedly secured a Torah scroll donation from Chicago to the IJC Congregation in Brussels – which has since grown to welcome hundreds of full-time members. Oskar died suddenly at age 69 leaving behind his wife Adrienne and son Matthew.
May his memory be for blessing and may his family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.
With great sadness, the World Union expresses its condolences to Maureen Robinson on the passing of her mother, Mary Hanson z”l. We wish Maureen and David Robinson, former President of the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) and current Board Member and Vice Chair of the Finance Committee for the WUPJ, and their entire family much strength and support in this difficult time.
May her memory be for blessing and may her family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.
The World Union was shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Brenda Roisin z”l, sister of Professor Paul Liptz, who serves as Director of Education at the Anita Saltz International Education Center (Saltz). We extend our deepest condolences to Paul and his family.
May her memory be for blessing and may her family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.
What do you think about our newsletter?