Issue #540

16 June 2016 // 10 Sivan 5776


Responding to the Horrific Attack in Orlando Florida 

“Can These Sacred Texts be Changed?” An Interfaith Panel Discussion in Paris with Rabbi Yann Boissière of the Mouvement Juif Liberal de France (MJLF)

Around the World on Shavuot: Snapshots of Celebrations from Klal Yisrael 

The World Union in the FSU: Updating our Partners

Live from Our Regions
Netzer News
Leadership Opportunities
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events


Responding to the Horrific Attack in Orlando Florida 

The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) extends its deepest sympathies and prayers to the victims of the Orlando shooting and to their families, whose lives were cut short and shattered by hatred and intolerance. Progressive congregations, rabbis and individuals from around the world responded with a range of condemnations and prayers from around the world, including this statement from the Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ) in the UK, this interview with Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner for BBC 4 in the UK, and the following statement from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) in the US below:

Washington, D.C., June 12, 2016 – In response to the tragic violence in Orlando, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) issued the following statement:

The horrific violence in Orlando shakes us to our very core. The staggering loss of life, yet again facilitated by a military-style weapon that has no place on the street, causes us deep pain. We pray for those who were murdered, for healing of body and soul for the injured, and for comfort to the families of all who were present in Pulse nightclub. 

We are grateful to law enforcement, the first responders, and all those volunteers who are helping during this crisis.

The fact that such devastation targeted a club popular with the gay community and occurred during Gay Pride month reminds us that despite the strides made toward equality, there is much to be done to address ongoing homophobia that was for too long acceptable in this nation. The attack is also further proof, as if any were needed, of the imperative to end the culture of gun violence that grips the nation.

On this holiday of Shavuot, we engage in all-night study and reflection of the words and lessons of Torah. No lesson is more fundamental than that which teaches that the spark of the Divine is present in every individual - gay and straight, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. In the face of tragedy, let us come together in a spirit of love and compassion for all and work together to create a nation that rejects violence and instead celebrates the holiness of every human being.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit RAC for more.

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“Can These Sacred Texts be Changed?” An Interfaith Panel Discussion in Paris with Rabbi Yann Boissière of the Mouvement Juif Liberal de France (MJLF)

On June 1, 2016, Rabbi Yann Boissière of the Mouvement Juif Liberal de France (MJLF) joined Professor Jacques-Noël Pérès from the Institute of Protestant Theology, and Karim Ifrak, a researcher of Islamic text and thought in the Muslim world at the Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique (CNRS) for an interfaith panel discussion of "Can sacred texts be changed?" ("Peut-on toucher aux textes sacrés?"), exploring the possibility of different interpretations of sacred texts, and the role of individuals in understanding their meanings. The conference was organized at Vincennes, near Paris, by the Association Cordoba, an interfaith cultural organization aimed at fostering dialogue between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 

Interfaith Event Programme by the Association Cordoba
with Rabbi Yann Boissière of the Mouvement Liberal Juif de France (MJLF)

Rabbi Yann Boissière led the discussion, explaining how Judaism respects the sacred "word", written and oral, and regards both as equally valid. While the era of divinely-inspired prophets is long past, he explained that revelation continues progressively through discussion. Rabbi Boissière clarified four levels of understanding Jewish texts: pshat (literal meaning), remez (allusion), drash (interpretation) and sod (secret). Interpretation is the responsibility of the reader, added Boissière, “who is not required to seek the intention of the author, even if the author be God his or herself. Religion is not to be judged by its founding texts alone. Both the "word" and the reader are essential.” The result flows from controversy which is fundamental in Jewish tradition, he concluded, and rabbinic conclusions are recorded with commentaries of different opinions as reflecting the word of the living God. 

From left: Rabbi Yann Boissière of the Mouvement Liberal Juif
de France (MJLF) speaking at an interfaith panel discussion
organized by the Association Cordoba

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Around the World on Shavuot: Snapshots of Celebrations from Klal Yisrael

In China:

Kehillat Shanghai celebrated Shabbat and Shavuot together at their first-ever family retreat. Hosted at Chongming Island, the festivities also included a baby-naming, a networking and social event with young professionals at Moishe House Shanghai, workshops led by Board Members, and children’s activities run by Carine Warsawski a NFTY alumnae. 

Kehillat Shanghai on their first-ever Shavuot family retreat

The kehilla is now preparing to host Limmud Shanghai later this year as they continue to grow and create new, exciting opportunities for engagement. 

In Germany:

Rabbinical student David Maxa joined Bet Haskala in Berlin, as part his internship, to lead the congregation in Shavuot services along with Cantor Aviv Weinberg, Board Member Sara Gross, CEO of Bet Haskala Benno Simoni, and Myfanwy Pipkin, Werner Wilhelm, Efraim Grisk-Simoni, among others. 

Reading Megillat Ruth at Bet Haskala Berlin in Germany, from left:
rabbinical student David Maxa, Cantor Aviv Weinberg, Board Member
Sara Gross, CEO of Bet Haskala Benno Simoni, Myfanwy Pipkin, Werner
Wilhelm, Efraim Grisk-Simoni, and others. Photo (c) Judith Bergman

Maxa and Cantor Weinberg led the reading of the Book of Ruth, which was accompanied by handmade puppets depicting characters of the story. At certain points during the reading, participants responded interactively with the stick figures, creating an experiential and enjoyable evening that engaged participants with the Megilla

In Israel:

Kehillat Birkat Shalom in Kibbutz Gezer celebrated its first Shavuot in its new building. Services and Torah reading embraced the entire community with song. 

A community celebrates its first Shavuot in its new synagogue
at Birkat Shalom in Kibbutz Gezer 

Rabbi Miri Gold unraveled the Torah scroll for all attendants, involving them in understanding its meaning and role on this holiday. 

In France:

In Paris, Shavuot was a major, all-night festival at the Mouvement Liberal Juif de France (MJLF). Called “The Crazy Night of Shavuot” (“La Folle Nuit de Shavuot”), from 6:45 pm Saturday to 8 am Sunday MJLF congregants and guests were not at the foot of Mount Sinai but at the base of the Left Bank towers after the flood – to sing, pray, study and have fun in celebration of the holiday.

Rabbi Yann Boissière presents new episodes of Pssshat,
short videos clips that explain Judaism in just a few minutes

Highlights included: the unveiling of sixteen new “Pssshat” short video clips by Rabbis Delphine Horvilleur and Yann Boissière that explain Liberal Judaism; ten study workshops; seven cultural activities; and a culmination of the all-night festivities with an emotionally-charged morning service at sunrise that included a reading of the Ten Commandments. Study sessions explored what the sages had to say about anti-Semitism, the Mesopotamian origins of the Torah, Ruth, Spinoza, Paul, innovation in modern Israel and more. Younger participants, ages 18-35, also explored the meaning of the 613 commandments. At the Surmelin synagogue Rabbi Floriane Chinsky led participants through a fascinating study of conversion, according to both halachah and history, major figures who were converts to Judaism and today's rules of the game, including the unthinkable question of whether conversion can be annulled. Of course, the three pillars of Jewish events were rigorously respected: prayer, study (havruta) and plenty of food.

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The World Union in the FSU: Updating our Partners

Rabbi Leonid Bimbat leads the congregation Le Dor VaDor in Moscow and has been serving the Moscow Progressive Jewish community for almost ten years. On June 7, 2016 he met with two members of the Board of Directors of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael - Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF): Chairman Daniel Atar and Vice Chairman Zeev Neuman.
From left: Chairman Daniel Atar, Rabbi Leonid Bimbat, and
Vice Chairman, Zeev Neuman 

During the meeting Rabbi Bimbat updated the two influential figures about the scope of activities run by the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) across the FSU and their impact in strengthening Jewish identity and forging deeper relationships with Israel. He shared news of the launching of the new Institute for Modern Jewish Studies in Moscow in March 2016 for training a new generation of dedicated men and women as rabbis, Jewish educators, community workers and spiritual leaders for Progressive communities across the FSU and Eastern Europe – which is already welcoming dozens of applicants to its multifaceted program. 

At the Israel Opens Doors exhibition honoring 25 years
of diplomatic relations between Israel and Russia

Coming together at the opening of interactive exhibition “Israel Opens Doors” honoring the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Russia, Rabbi Bimbat, Board Members of KKL-JNF, and other leading Jewish figures, participated in events related to the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to Moscow. 

For more information about the World Union’s activities in the FSU, read this report from their 2014 regional biennial, and stay tuned for more updates from their upcoming September biennial in Minsk.

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Live from Our Regions

WUPJ-Latin America is Hosting its 5th Biennial on June 23 – 25, 2016 in São Paolo, Brazil

Focusing on “The continuity of democracy as a Jewish value” the 5th biennial of the World Union for Progressive Judaism – Latin America (WUPJ-LA) welcomes visitors to São Paolo, Brazil on June 23 – 25 2016. Speakers include: Yaron Shavit, former President of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ); Rabbi Sergio Bergman, Argentina’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development since 2015, and Executive President of the Fundación Judaica and rabbi at the CIRA, Argentina's first synagogue; and Rabbi Roberto Graetz, President of the Yad B’Yad Task Force of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, California for the past few decades. 

Click here for more information about the biennial and look for updates from this event in our upcoming newsletters.
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UPJ Welcomes Visitors to Perth, Australia for its Biennial on November 17 – 20, 2016 

“Looking Back and to the Future” frames the upcoming program for the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) biennial in November 2016. Co-hosted by Temple David, the biennial will be preceded by three days of optional touring around the Perth region, and will also include an optional one-day, post-Biennial tour of the Margaret River region. The tours will provide an opportunity to get to know fellow conference attendees, build friendships and visit some of the beautiful attractions in and around Perth. Scholar in residence Dr. Ron Wolfson will be speaking about the future of Australian Progressive congregations and strengthening the movement in the region. 

For more information, including how you can still register to join, click here.

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Netzer News

Shnat Netzer – A Lifetime of Impact 

Joel Stokes, who spent a year on Shnat through RSY-Netzer, reflects on what he learned and gained by spending his gap year in Israel. “Spending time in the Shnat-Netzer environment, or those similar to it, teaches an individual to look at the world and its people from many different angles,” he writes in this blog post

“On reflection, Shnat, and specifically Etgar, has been the
most character defining thing I’ve ever been given the chance
to do." -- Shnat Etgar participant as the program comes to an end this month

We know spending the year here in Israel is transformative, and if you already knew that too then that’s because you’ve been here, on Shnat. As Netzer turns 37 next year, we're taking a few moments to reconnect with all of you and ask that you reflect on your time on Shnat or with Netzer. 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!

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Leadership Opportunities

What Does Jewish Education Have to Learn from the Circus? Join the Bergman Seminar for Jewish Educators and Find Out 

The Bergman Seminar for Jewish Educators at the Saltz International Education Center of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) is going to visit the Summer Peace Camp of the Ramle Open House at the mixed Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salaam. 

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.

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Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins Receives Queen’s Award
Please join the World Union in congratulating Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins on receiving a Medal [OAM] of the Order of Australia in the General Division by the Queen of England in honor of her birthday. 

Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins of Synagogue Emanuel, Sydney

Bestowed in recognition of Rabbi Kamin’s “service to the community through religious and educational institutions,” notable appointments include: Senior Rabbi, Congregation of Emanuel Synagogue, since 1999 and Associate Rabbi, 1989-1999; Rabbinic Consultant, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, since 1999; Rabbinic Consultant, Executive Council of Australian Jewry, since 1999; Chaplain, Religious Advisory Committee to the Services (RACS), Australian Army Reserves, since 1995; Board Member, Shalom Institute, since 1994; and Founding Member, Mazon Australia Board, 1991. 

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Rabbi Roberto Graetz Retires from Temple Isaiah

The World Union applauds Rabbi Roberto Graetz on a spectacular career of social action and meaningful impact in Progressive communities across Latin America and North America. Born in Argentina, he served as a rabbi in Buenos Aires during the military totalitarian dictatorship of Jorge Videla, advocating for families whose members ‘disappeared’ in the hands of the government. Upon relocating to Rio de Janiero he advocated for the rights of Brazil’s street children. Seeking a better life for his children, Rabbi Graetz came to Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, California to serve as a senior rabbi. 

Rabbi Roberto Graetz of Temple Isaiah, California

During his twenty five years at Temple Isaiah, Graetz continued to found social action organizations and work toward improving the lives of others; among them Contra Costa Interfaith Housing and the Multi-Faith Action Coalition, which is comprised of 30 active faith communities and lobbies for funding from state and federal governances to address social problems such as homelessness. 

Rabbi Graetz is vice-chair of the North American Advisory Board (NAAB) of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), and on the executive committee of the Board of Rabbis for Human Rights. He is also Chair of the World Union’s Yad B’Yad task force for social action in Latin America. We wish him congratulations on his retirement and much success in his next endeavors.

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Dear Reader

Stay current with newsletters from our regions. Click here for more details.

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Upcoming Events

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 2017, World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) 38th Biennial Conference, Jerusalem, Israel

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