2 June 2016 // 25 Iyyar 5776
From left to right: Yair Lootstein, IMPJ Board Member, Rabbi Daniel H.
Freelander, WUPJ President, Carole Sterling, WUPJ Chair, and
Reuven Marko, IMPJ Chair
The event was an initiative of MK Nachman Shai of the Zionist Union and the Ruderman Family Foundation, and marked the first time Israeli officials met to praise the efforts of American Jewish individuals and organizations toward supporting the creation and growth of the State of Israel. "American Jews are a stable and wide bridge which supports Israeli-American relations at all times and in any situation," Shai said. "The community is the most important strategic asset in the relations between the two countries.”
Among attendees were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Richard V. Sandler, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). In his address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted, “Every Jew should feel and know that Israel is his and her home”.
Reflecting on the significance of the event, Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander stated: “Comprising 1.8 million Progressive Jews worldwide, the World Union is proud to play a significant role in the ever-changing and ever-growing tapestry of Israel-Diaspora relations. Our partnership with the IMPJ weaves Klal Israel into the very fabric of Israeli society and politics”.
Included in the celebration was an exhibition in the Knesset's Chagall Hall titled, "Stripes, Stars and Magen David" initiated and sponsored by the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies at the University of Haifa. The exhibition featured 100 photos showcasing American Jewry's contribution to Israel.
On May 27th – 28th, close to 1,500 Progressive Jews came together for the Veida biennial of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) in Kibbutz Shefayim to study, pray, celebrate and continue growing Progressive Judaism in Israel. From Rosh Pina in the North to Lotan in the South to Europe, the US and Canada, rabbis, cantors, and professionals, joined lay leaders, veteran and new members, youth and families participated in services, activities and workshops across the convention campus.
Aerial view of Kabbat Shabbat at the Veida biennial
of the IMPJ from May 27, 2016
Now, in its 52nd year, the IMPJ has created a significant platform to serve its congregations, organizational affiliates and members, as well as Israeli society at large. With its 2020 strategic plan on track – to grow Progressive Judaism across Israel by the year 2020 – the biennial explored connections between “East and West” that form the basis of Klal Yisrael.
Speaking at the opening plenary, Carole Sterling, Chair of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), remarked “Hinei Ma Tov Uma Naim, Shevat Achim Gam Yachad – behold how good it is when people sit together.“ Carole emphasized the strength of the partnership between the WUPJ and the IMPJ, as well as with other Jewish global organizations such as Association of Reform Zionists in America (ARZA) and the World Zionist Organization (WZO), and the reach of our collaboration, not just in Israel but across the Progressive Jewish world, with a democratic and Jewish State at its core.
On Shabbat morning, Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President Emeritus of the WUPJ, received an award for distinguished service by the IMPJ in recognition of his contributions to growing and strengthening Progressive Judaism in emerging congregations over the past thirty years.
With joyous singing and dancing, attendants of the Veida biennial of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) welcomed the donation of two Torah scrolls to emerging Reform congregations in Israel. It was truly a joyous moment, following the formal induction of new congregations to the IMPJ – Tefilat HeAdam in Caesaria, Achva BaKerem in Jerusalem, and Ramot Shalom in Beer Sheva. The sheer number of individuals on stage, comprising rabbis, educators, volunteers and community leaders, all dedicated to growing Progressive Judaism in Israel, was incredibly moving.
Then, while Hazan Freddy Pe’er sang, Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and Carole Sterling, Chair of the WUPJ, approached the stage with Rabbi Michal Ratner Ken-Tor, among others, to bestow the gift of a Torah scroll from Temple Anshe Emeth of Pine Bluff, Arkansas to Kehillat Megiddo. The Torah dedication ceremony marked 90 years to the World Union’s founding in London in 1926 and 25 years of Beit Daniel Center for Progressive Judaism in Tel Aviv as they donated a Torah scroll to a new congregation in Holon.
On Shabbat morning, as part of his Dvar Torah, Rabbi Freelander recapped the history of Temple Anshe Emeth in Pine Buff, Arkansas and moved the crowd with the significance of their recent donation to the emerging congregation of Kehillat Megiddo.
Founded in 1866, Temple Anshe Emeth served Jews who had been living in the area since the 1840s and had, until then, met in private homes for high holiday services. The congregation grew to great heights towards the mid-twentieth century, joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and welcomed 19 rabbis of the course of its first 100 years, each putting into effect various changes that affected its membership levels to varying degrees. The last full time rabbi left the congregation in the 1980s as the congregation membership dwindled. In 2003 Temple Anshe Emeth sold its synagogue and now meet in a small chapel at a nearby Presbyterian Church once a month. To date only a handful of members remain. The congregation decided to donate its two Sifrei Torah one to Holon and the other to Guatemala – it will be delivered later this year.
Within this context, the donation by Temple Anshe Emeth of their Torah scrolls demonstrates the changes and challenges facing older Progressive congregations. It also points to the need for World Union communities to consider strengthening new congregations with donations and gifts of religious items. The World Union is proud to have passed these two Torah scrolls to Progressive congregations in need.
Click here to find out how your congregation can support new and emerging congregations through our Shomrei Torah program.
The United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong was among 28 projects from seven countries to receive grants from the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) in the field of Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families. The grants, honoring 2015 Genesis Prize Laureate Michael Douglas, were announced by the JFN on May 22nd at the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York, in the presence of Michael Douglas and the Genesis Prize Foundation. The projects will result in $3.3 million in new funds being dedicated to this philanthropic area. Douglas lauded the innovation and potential impact of the funded projects, saying that they will make Jewish life more welcoming and accessible to intermarried families like his own.
Passover at The UJC, Hong Kong
The United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong (The UJC), with generous donations from Deborah & Michel Lowy, Josephine & Eric Mogelof, Jean Eric Salata, Isabelle Demenge & Yuval Tal, Padideh & Alex Trojanow, and a family who wished to remain anonymous, and matching funds from the Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families grant, is committed to welcoming all individuals and families pursuing a Progressive vision of Judaism. With these funds, The UJC will continue to bring the best of Progressive Jewish life to its congregants and will invest in youth programming, adult education courses, and the attraction and engagement of committed members. Established in 1988, The UJC community was built on the ideas of inclusiveness and diversity in Jewish life. This initiative will help ensure that The UJC continues to stand for Progressive Jewish values and the engagement of all those seeking Jewish identity and Jewish life in the heart of Asia.
The Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families matching grant began in 2015 when Michael Douglas, an Academy Award winning actor, peace activist, and supporter of Jewish causes and the State of Israel, won the Genesis Prize. In lieu of accepting the prize money, he redirected the funds to promote inclusion and diversity in Jewish life.
Winter Clothing Drive, part of Mitzva Day at The UJC, Hong Kong, December 2013
The goal of Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families was to mobilize the philanthropic community to increase the number of funders and grant dollars supporting organizations and projects that foster a culture of acceptance within the Jewish community. The particular focus of the grant program was to enhance opportunities for Jewish involvement available to intermarried Jews, their life partners and their children.
"It’s a great honor for The UJC to receive this grant and be included amongst many leading Jewish organizations around the world. It’s a testament to our founders and to the work of our congregation over its 26 year history,” said Clayton Carol, President of The United Jewish Congregation.
Over 80 applications from 14 countries were submitted as part of the initiative. The 28 winning recipients span seven countries: the United States, Israel, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Hong Kong/China.
"The UJC of Hong Kong is honored to have been selected as a matching grant recipient having proudly stood for inclusiveness and diversity in Jewish life since 1988. We look forward to continuing to welcome all those seeking a Progressive vision of Judaism in Hong Kong,” said UJC congregant and board member Josephine Mogelof, who led the grant application process for The UJC.
Rabbi Stanton Zamek added, “The UJC was founded on the idea of hachnassat orchim and welcoming all. We have always believed that the doors of Jewish life should be open wide. This grant will help us fulfill our sacred commitment. We are very grateful to everyone who helped make The UJC worthy of this recognition.”
Judy and her husband, Marty z”l, were active and beloved board members of the World Union. Judy also served as the WUPJ representative to the United Nations where she met with key world leaders and religious figures on behalf of the global Progressive community.
“Judy was an amazing and inspiring leader who knew how to build bridges between peoples, faiths, and generations. Together with Marty, z”l, she was a stalwart in supporting the rebirth of Progressive Judaism in the FSU, after vigorously campaigning for the freedom of Soviet Jewry, and a she was a pioneer for social change in her own right,” reflected Shai Pinto, COO of the WUPJ.
WRJ Past President Rosanne Selfon said the following about Judy: "Judy was insightful and intuitive about the world. Whether she was meeting with political or religious leaders, the Pope or the Israeli Prime Minister, she always spoke her mind with integrity and truth to power. Nothing escaped her scan – she saw what the world needed so that we could try to live together in harmony. And she worked hard to achieve that harmony in all that she did."
May Judy’s memory be for a blessing
On April 16th 2016, the UNESCO Executive Board adopted a resolution that is so unilateral as to deny any link between the Jews and Jerusalem, in particular the Wailing Wall, as well as between Christians and Jerusalem. By failing to recognise the historic link between Judaism and Jerusalem and its spiritual importance for the Jewish People, this Resolution constitutes a deliberate negation of a heritage that affects the Jews in particular and even humanity as a whole since the Holy City constitutes a common heritage. The Resolution adopted ignores in particular the fact that the State of Israel renovated the “Western Wall Plaza” for the sole purpose of facilitating access to the Wailing Wall for Jews from all parts of the world to allow them to pray in dignity and security. More troubling still is that the Resolution weakens any chance of sincere and peaceful dialogue in the Middle East: no durable or negotiated peace can be built on the basis of contempt for history.
UNESCO, expected to stand for moral and intellectual integrity with respect to humanity’s common heritage, has failed in its duty of balance. Adding to this failure is the incomprehensible position of our country, France, which unlike most of the Western powers sanctioned the text by affixing its signature. France would do itself an honour by clarifying our country’s position, by asking UNESCO to recognise the historic truth, to abandon ambiguity and to remove any misunderstanding. In the name of its values of spirituality and openness to others, respecting all cultures and all religions, the Assembly of Liberal Judaism (AJL) requests the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the President of the French Republic to express a clear public position on this subject as soon as possible. It should be a position that, showing respect for the historical truth, recognises a shared heritage but also the special connection of the Jewish People with Jerusalem and with the Wailing Wall, part of the Temple Mount. – A statement issued by the Assembly of Liberal Judaism (Assemblée du Judaisme Liberal), translated by Robert Ley
Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon in Jerusalem lit up at night
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.
Artwork by Sandra Gruber
"Ephemera" is a group exhibition of 14 artists from Jerusalem and the surrounding area now on view at the Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon Richard Hirsch Theater Lobby through July 5th. "Ephemera,” meaning short-lived in ancient Greek, showcases artworks that explore the notion and application of temporality. Artists on view include: Naomi Gafni, Sandra Gruber, Michael Morgenstern and Sergaj Terjev.
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
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.
The Galilee Youth Circus as featured on Israeli television, view the entire clip here.
For this upcoming Bergman seminar, on July 14-24 2016, we have invited the Arab-Jewish Galilee Youth Circus to join us at the Summer Peace Camp for a special performance and workshop. These two amazing initiatives build connections by bringing young Jewish and Arab Israelis together. The Summer Peace Camp has been running for 25 years and has created a network of alumnae who are now involved in a variety of efforts that build coexistence, dialogue, and shared values. The Galilee Youth Circus strives to empower participants through circus exercises. For example, in a circus stunt, when one person jumps into the air and expects the second one must catch him, the basis of the act’s success is complete trust of each other, not to mention working to protect and support each other through the stunt.
The Bergman Seminar offers a creative approach to exploring issues and tools of Jewish education, workshops on storytelling include visits to museums, ecological and environmental approaches, the role of visual content examining public art and graffiti, and much more.
Whether you are a student or seasoned Jewish educator, don’t miss your chance to join this invaluable seminar. For details and to register for the July seminar, contact Rabbi Steve Burnstein.
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 Chanukah activities
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.
Please join the World Union in congratulating Jim and Liz Breslauer on being honored by the California Conference for Equality and Justice with a Building Bridges award. Through the family's Breslauer-Soref Foundation, Jim and Liz have funded a number of national and international endeavors, including the start of a new Cantorial School in Berlin and have supported a Progressive Synagogue in Prague, “Beit Simcha”.
We are proud and grateful to count Jim and Liz among our leadership and supporters, and wish them a yasher koach on their dedication to strengthening Klal Yisrael.
Congratulations to this first cohort of 25 women rabbis who have entered the record books. Please join us in wishing these pioneering role models a hearty mazal tov!
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