Issue #552

8 December 2016 // 8 Kislev 5777


Connecting our Communities: What Biennials are All About 

Groundbreaking Agreement for the Institute of Modern Jewish Studies

In South Africa SACRED Lifts the Ban on Women Singing at Communal Events
Live from Israel 
Netzer News
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Upcoming Events


Connecting our Communities: What Biennials are All About 

Leadership from the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) joined board members of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) December 2 – 4 for a weekend of celebrating the strength of our movement and planning for the year ahead at Keren Or synagogue in Lyon, France. Nowhere was this conflation of priorities and experiences more apparent than during Shabbat morning services as Keren Or welcomed a Sefer Torah that was given by KAM-Isaiah Israel in Chicago, US, through the WUPJ’s Shomrei Torah program.

Leadership from WUPJ and EUPJ welcome a new
Sefer Torah at Keren Or in Lyon, France

“It was a privilege to be at Keren Or for Shabbat, and in Lyon in general,” noted WUPJ President Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander. “Joining our European leadership and congregations to think about our future activities, and personally delivering this Torah Scroll, really emblematized the strength of our movement, and the power of our congregational connections – that they overcome geographical borders in a unique and inspirational way. “

The Reform congregation of Keren Or in Lyon has many successes to speak of: they brought together two split communities, bought beautiful premises for their growing congregations, and raised money to employ a rabbi on a part-time basis. As a result, Keren Or has more than doubled its membership over the past year, along with increased religious school enrollment, service attendance, and participation in the many new community activities. Services have also, in turn, multiplied manifold, including adding a second day of Rosh Hashanah services, additional holiday festivals and celebrations such as Tu B’shvat and Slichot. Additional community events include a Tsedakah or Charity Social Action day, tiny tots programming, youth group activities, a planned trip to Auschwitz, a tour of Israel in July, increased teacher training, and more. Having a Torah Scroll for Keren Or synagogue will clearly strengthen the congregation’s presence for the thousands of Jews in Lyon and their efforts to enhance their services. One of the congregation’s key members is currently studying to become a rabbi at Leo Baeck College in London, so the Torah Scroll will certainly serve the growing community and its leadership for years to come. 

WUPJ Chair Carole Sterling lights candles at Kehillat Shanghai
during Friday night services 

Rabbi Freelander, along with Carole Sterling, Chair of the WUPJ, just returned from Perth, Australia where they attended the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) biennial in mid-November and visited congregations in Asia and Australia. The Australian Jewish News was on hand to interview biennial attendees from abroad, including Carole, to understand what motivates Reform Jews to attend biennials halfway across the world:

In the eyes of World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Chair Carole Sterling, non-Orthodox Judaism is thriving in unlikely parts of the world. She travelled to Perth from Shanghai, where Kehilat Shanghai, the Progressive congregation of China’s mega-metropolis is growing, as are congregations in Beijing, Tokyo and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation. And in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, a renaissance of Progressive Jewish communities – in locations such as Moscow and Belarus, led by rabbis, some of whom received s’micha from Abraham Geiger College, the Progressive seminary located in the Reform movement’s birthplace, Germany – is a heartening development, she said. For Sterling, “inclusivity” is a key word in grappling with intermarriage. In her home country, Canadian Progressive rabbis do not perform mixed-marriage ceremonies, but she subscribes to what she called “audacious hospitality” in welcoming non-Jewish partners into the Jewish lifestyle. Elected to office at the WUPJ’s conference in Rio last year, Sterling, a mother of two who lives in Toronto and worships at Holy Blossom Temple, was in her element at the UPJ conference in Western Australia, even if it is in a far-flung corner of the Jewish world. “I’m always amazed at how we can sit down and half an hour later, we’re family.”

Coming together with family, ushering in Shabbat together, and planning for greater impact in the Reform Jewish world are some of the highlights to experience and explore at the World Union’s upcoming biennial CONNECTIONS 2017. Taking place in Jerusalem, Israel, May 17-20, CONNECTIONS 2017 is about taking time, in Israel, to experience and support, strengthen and develop a pluralistic, inclusive and global Jewish peoplehood among the 1.8 million Progressive Jews around the world who share a common vision for Klal Yisrael. 

Registration is now open for CONNECTIONS 2017 and more information can be seen on our website. We’re finalizing speakers, events and details every day so check back often for updates and news. And check out our exciting pre-conference options to maximize your Israel visit with specialized tours and seminars for women, young adults, legal professionals, social activists, rabbis and more. 

Click here to register today!

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Groundbreaking Agreement for the Institute of Modern Jewish Studies

After two years of intensive effort, the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and Abraham Geiger College (AGC) signed a groundbreaking agreement that will allow students from the Institute for Modern Jewish Studies to continue their rabbinical training at the Abraham Geiger College and the University of Potsdam after having fulfilled their BA requirements at the Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH) in Moscow.

In this photo taken at the signing: Prof. Shkarenkov, Dr. Kagan,
Prof. Ivahnenko, Prof. Oliver Gunther, Prof. Dr. Florian J. Schweigert,
Rabbi Walter Homolka, Dr. Regina Neum-Flux

WUPJ and the AGC jointly maintain this program, which provides academic and practical training for future rabbis in countries of the FSU under the auspices of Abraham Geiger College as the ordaining institution.  

The Institute for Modern Jewish Studies, an initiative of the WUPJ to train Russian-speaking rabbis for the region, 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 are jointly guided by the Institute for Modern Jewish Studies and the Abraham Geiger College, after their successful application at both Institutions. 

Academic Presidents, including the president of Potsdam University Professor Oliver Günther and Rector of RSUH (РГГУ) Professor Evgeny Ivakhnenko, came together in Potsdam to discuss future projects and plans. 

At special invitation of Rabbi Professor Walter Homolka, Rector of Abraham Geiger College, two students from the Institute for Modern Jewish Studies in Moscow spent more than a week at both Potsdam University and Abraham Geiger College. The students, who are planning to continue on to rabbinic studies, attended classes, met students and were most impressed with the serious atmosphere of learning they encountered. The students also attended an ordination ceremony of rabbinic students graduating from Abraham Geiger College, in a Reform Jewish congregation in Hanover, together with Rector of RSUH Professor Evgeny Ivankhnenko and Professor Pavel Shkarenkov, who were also guests. 

Dr. Alex Kagan, Director of FSU activities for the WUPJ, noted, "This was an historic occasion to formalize unprecedented cooperation on the highest levels. Most importantly, Russian-speaking rabbis will now be educated primarily in Russia, and the results of this partnership will be felt soon by Jewish communities throughout the FSU."

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In South Africa SACRED Lifts the Ban on Women Singing at Communal Events 
By Rabbi Julia Margolis, Chairman of SACRED 
The South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity (SACRED) is pleased to see that the 11 year-old ban on women singing at communal events hosted by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) appears, at last, to be ending.


SACRED Chair Rabbi Julia Margolis explains: “SACRED has been trying to have the ban removed since our formation in 2011. Eventually, after attempts at negotiation did not succeed, we joined Mr. Gilad Stern’s Equality Court action against the Cape Region of the SAJBD. The action was intended to compel the region to drop its ban on women singing at its Yom HaShoah Memorial. Fortunately, negotiations were entered into and a suitable compromise was reached which removed the ban on women singing and allowed those members of the community whose beliefs prohibit them from hearing a woman’s singing voice to attend the Memorial”.

At the time SACRED stated that it expected “all chapters of the Board of Deputies across South Africa to include women singing in their Holocaust memorial ceremonies”.

SACRED and our co-applicants in the Equality Court are thus delighted to read that the Johannesburg region will apply the settlement reached in Cape Town to its own Memorial. Rabbi Margolis states that this news “fills her with optimism about the future of the South African Jewish community”.

In both Cape Town and Johannesburg, SACRED hopes that all future SA Jewish Board of Deputies ceremonies and events will be infused with respect for the equal treatment of all - regardless of sex and gender. No longer will parts of the community be treated as second class Jews. The end of the unacceptable situation of officially sanctioned discrimination at SAJBD-run Holocaust memorial ceremonies in South Africa should be cause for rejoicing.

Rabbi Margolis explains that “SACRED became involved in this issue as it is deeply committed to the full inclusion of all Jews and to the values of the Constitution which ensure the elimination of unfair discrimination within the Jewish community of South Africa (and beyond)”.

James Lomberg, Executive Director of SACRED, states that: “It is our fervent hope that young people, women and others who were alienated from the Holocaust Memorial due to the 11-year-old ban will once again feel able to participate in a manner which reflects their values and the lessons of the Shoah. We have also affirmed that our Jewish communal structures must infuse all their actions with the key constitutional value of equality – which is also a foundational principle of Jewish tradition.”

SACRED would also like to extend its sincere gratitude to all of those who have so generously given of their time, money and support in this struggle. The solid support and encouragement received from across the South African Jewish community – from multiple organisations and individuals – has enabled us to succeed. We invite those who have supported this campaign to become more actively involved in SACRED so that we continue to struggle for a country and community in which equality, dignity and freedom are realized.

To read more about this achievement in the South African Jewish Report, click here.

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Live from Israel 

Fall Courses Begin at Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon

In November, Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon launched its Fall courses with close to 220 people attending. Course subjects touched upon Jewish and Israeli culture, history, philosophy and scientific achievements. Upcoming lectures will dive into readings and interpretations of the five books of the Torah and the five Megillot (Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Song of Songs, Lamentations and Esther) and will be taught by Professor Yair Zakovitch, Father Takeji Otsuki, Professor of Bible Studies at the Hebrew University, and Professor Avigdor Shaanan, Yitzhak Becker Professor of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University.  

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Last Call for Community and Congregational Leaders: Success Starts with the Beutel Leadership Seminar in Jerusalem

The Beutel Leadership Seminar, run by the Saltz International Educational Center of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), is opening its application process for nominations of congregational and community leaders to join its prestigious ten-day seminar in Jerusalem in February 2017. 

Courses provide practical tools as participants explore Jewish texts, current political and social issues across world Jewry and Israel, spiritual pathways and concepts of Jewish leadership, and more, all within an interactive and experiential Progressive Jewish context. Scholarships are now available for applicants and nominees. 

It’s not as easy as it looks! 
Beutel Participants 2015 (picture by Bety Dimant)

To inquire about opportunities via e-mail, write to Rabbi Steve Burstein.

To nominate individuals from your congregation or find out how the Beutel seminar will transform your community, click here today.

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Netzer News

Through the London Eye: Dutch Netzer Youth Explore and Experience Reform Judaism 

More than a dozen counselors from Netzer in Holland visited London October 20-22 to explore Jewish history, practice and studies ahead of the opening of their annual Netzer activities. 

Netzer Group visiting London

The group visited Jewish neighborhoods in Whitechapel and Golders Green, and the Bevis Marks synagogue. The Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) welcomed them at a special sukkot reception and Shabbat dinner. For Tal, the gathering “made us feel like we all belong to one family and one people, Am Echad.” Social and educational activities with RSY Netzer & LJY further strengthened and explored their relationship to Reform Judaism in Europe.

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Condolences to Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon on the passing of her husband, Baruch (Barry) Shiryon

On behalf of its leadership and staff, the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) extends its deepest condolences to Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon, Rabbi and founder of the YOZMA Kehilla in Modiin Israel, on the passing of her husband Baruch (Barry) Shiryon. 

An artist, calligrapher and musician, Barry was well-known and beloved by both the community and his family, which includes four children and two grandchildren. We wish the Shiryon family strength and comfort in their good memories of happier times together. 

May his memory be for a blessing.

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Congratulations to Betty and Art Roswell on being honored by Temple Beth-El 

The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) joins Temple Beth-El in recognizing the leadership and support of Betty and Arthur Roswell for their long and dedicated leadership to the Jewish people. The World Union is proud to call the Roswells long-time supporters, friends and pioneers in enriching Jewish lives in North America, Israel, the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President of the WUPJ, will join leaders from the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and more in paying tribute to the Roswells at the gala dinner. 

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Congratulations to Rabbi Gary Robuck on retiring from North Shore Temple Emanuel

The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) wishes to thank and honor Rabbi Gary Robuck for his thirteen years of service to North Shore Temple Emanuel in Sydney, Australia. Though he’s retiring from pulpit life, Rabbi Robuck will continue to be an active member of the community and the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ). We wish him much success in his future endeavors. May you go from strength to strength.

חזק חזק ונתחזק

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February 16-26, 2017 - The Beutel Seminar For Progressive Jewish Leadership, Jerusalem, Israel

May 13-17, 2017 - Pursue Justice: Seminar for Legal Professionals, Jerusalem, Israel

May 17-20, 2017 - CONNECTIONS 2017, Jerusalem, Israel

July 13-23, 2017 - The Bergman Seminar for Jewish Educators, Jerusalem, Israel

December 6-10, 2017 - The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial Conference, Boston, USA

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