Issue #553

22 December 2016 // 22 Kislev 5777

Featuring

This Chanukah, Give the Gift of Jewish Identity: Support the World Union with an End-of-Year Donation

First Tikkun Olam Seminar in Brazil Mobilizes Netzer in Latin America for Social and Environmental Action

Another Milestone in the Strengthening of European Reform Jewry: 2016 Abraham Geiger College Ordination

A Rabbi, a Pioneer, and a Knight: Rabbi Dr Lionel Blue OBE (z"l)

Mark Your Calendars 
Condolences
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events



Featuring

This Chanukah, Give the Gift of Jewish Identity: Support the World Union with an End-of-Year Donation

The World Union’s 2016 Chanukah campaign is focusing on our Progressive Jewish summer camps as a life-changing engine for Jewish youth and Reform Judaism in the former Soviet Union. This past summer we welcomed over 1,100 children and teens – many of whom had little or no connection to Judaism – to our summer camps in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine; another 500 were left on the waiting list because we didn't have the resources to help. 

 
Young children enjoy learning about Progressive Judaism in Belarus

Our goal is to raise $500,000 before the end of December in order to eliminate our waiting list for next year.
 
It costs $1,000 to send one child to camp and we are grateful for gifts of all sizes. Your Chanukah contribution will have a lasting impact on a Jewish family in the former Soviet Union. 

The World Union thanks you for giving to others this holiday season. 
May this Chanukah holiday bring light and peace to all – Chag Sameach! 

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First Tikkun Olam Seminar in Brazil Mobilizes Netzer in Latin America for Social and Environmental Action
 
On December 9-11, 2016, the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Latin America (WUPJ-LA) led its first Tikkun Olam seminar for young adults in Brazil. Thirteen participants from different parts of the country came together to work and share moments of learning, respect and deep connection with activists from the town of Regencia Augusta (or, as it is affectionately called, "Regencia") in Espírito Santo, Brazil.

 
The contaminated waters of the Rio Doce near Regencia, Brazil

Located at the mouth of the Doce River, Regencia was hit over a year ago by the mudslides of the nearby Samarco mining dams which buried the city of Mariana and ran along the Rio Doce carrying with it a trail of destruction that released heavy minerals into the waters. (Read more about this environmental disaster here.) The beaches of the village, considered one of the ten best in the country for surfing, once provided steady tourism revenue for the village. However, today the reality is quite different: tourism has come to a halt, forcing inns and restaurants to close, and stagnating the local economy. The village is struggling to counteract and overcome the environmental disaster, but the task is daunting and will require long-term solutions and regional efforts. 

 
Participants of the first Tikkun Olam seminar in Regencia, Brazil
 
The Tikkun Olam seminar is predicated upon one of the most striking expressions of Reform Judaism: that our social responsibility translates into actions of repair and restoration; into weaving learning and text study; and into community building for maximum effort and impact. Responding to the need in Regencia, WUPJ-LA and Netzer, the World Union’s global Reform Zionist youth movement, partnered with Hillel Rio, Hashomer Hatzair, and local synagogues, with the support of the Jewish Agency and TaMaR, and organized a seminar that would combine Tikkun Olam action in Regencia with Jewish identity exploration and youth engagement activities.
 
Hosting the seminar in Regencia was Instituto Unidos pela Vida (IUPV) which was established in 2016 to welcome children and the youth of Regencia who lost their main entertainment, sports and leisure equipment - the Rio Doce and the sea – in the flooding. IUPV promotes artistic, social and educational activities in the region and at its headquarters – La Casa Rosa (“The Pink House”). 

 
Participants of the first Tikkun Olam seminar in Regencia, Brazil
listen to local organizations and villagers discuss the impact of
the contamination of the Rio Doce on the village

Together, WUPJ-LA and IUPV developed a program that enabled participants to understand the impact of the natural disaster on the local village and take action in a meaningful way. For the World Union this was a pioneering initiative with the IUPV and it served as a test run of this concept for future initiatives in Social Tourism for both organizations. Supporting Casa Rosa’s activists and their programs in education, labor, and awareness was also one of the main goals of the seminar. 

Seminar participants spent their first day visiting the village, meeting with locals, repairing doors, cleaning yards, painting walls, planting gardens, studying Jewish texts, singing, and praying together. Participants were asked to bring books and games from their home communities to establish the Institute's library, which provided much-needed resources for the recreational activities of the participants and locals. 

 
Jewish text study with participants of the first
Tikkun Olam seminar in Regencia, Brazil
 
Jewish text study, integrated with activities throughout the seminar, focused the role of water in our lives – literally and metaphorically. From the Torah’s story of creation to modern Jewish philosophers like Rambam, participants explored water in Jewish writings – the role of water in social responsibility toward each other, toward others, and toward Mother Nature, and how power over water and water diplomacy serves individuals, communities, and even countries like Israel and elsewhere in the world. 

Marcelo Vilela, President of IUPV, recounted his personal involvement with establishing IUPV, his challenges, achievements, and dreams. Board members of IUPV and local activists also participated in study sessions. Hauley S. Valim, a university professor and environmental and political activist, spoke to seminar participants about current efforts to form alliances among the various areas affected by this environmental disaster, and how some of the strategies adopted by Samarco in the aftermath of the dam disruption have led to deep divisions among the affected social groups. 

 
Participants of the first Tikkun Olam seminar in Regencia, Brazil
restoring villagers’ homes

As participant Júlia Herszenhut from Brasília noted, “We as Jews and human beings have a duty to help those in need, in any way we can give, whether going out in the field and working hands-on, donating or simply becoming the ambassadors of what we saw there and increasing visibility. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity and hope to be able to continue transforming and improving those in need.”
 
Rodrigo Baumworcel, Director of Netzer for Portuguese and Spanish-speaking countries at the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), who traveled from Israel to Brazil to lead the groundbreaking seminar, spoke of the inspiring dedication of all involved and the way the seminar impacted and motivated the Jewish young adults in particular. “For three days, Judaism and social action were one thing: From Kabbalat Shabbat to Havdalah, we experienced two days of soul-inflating. And for the overall three days, the dirty waters of Samarco turned into sweat – physical and spiritual – as we worked on behalf of Casa Rosa, the villagers and our belief in Tikkun Olam.”

 "I thank you for my participation as a representative of Congregação Israelita Capixaba (CICAPI) at the first Tikkun Olam seminar organized by WUPJ-LA,” expressed participant Blima Fux, Victoria.
 
Owing to the success of this initial seminar, WUPJ-LA, WUPJ and Netzer hope to lead similar impact-generating seminars for youth and young adults in the region in coming years. 

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Another Milestone in the Strengthening of European Reform Jewry: 2016 Abraham Geiger College Ordination

Abraham Geiger College’s seventh ordination ceremony was held in the city of Hannover on December 1 and saw two rabbis receiving smikhah, or rabbinic ordination, as well as the investiture of one cantor. The ordination was granted by the college’s president, Rabbi Walter Jacob, himself the sixteenth generation of rabbis in his family. The Liberal Jewish Community of Hannover, one of the biggest Jewish communities in German-speaking countries, numbering some 800 members, hosted the ceremonies, and its president, Ingrid Wettberg, had the privilege of welcoming about 250 invited guests to the Etz Chaim synagogue, a strikingly modern and spacious building. 

 
Attending the seventh ordination ceremony of Abraham Geiger College
at the Liberal Jewish Community of Hannover
(Photo © Courtesy of Tobias Barniske)
 
Among the guests of honor were Stephan Weil, Minister-President of Lower Saxony, Bodo Ramelow, Minister-President of Thuringia, Abraham Lehrer, Vice President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Miriam Kramer, Chairman of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), Sonja Guentner, President of the Union for Progressive Jews in Germany, and Alex Kagan, Director of Activities in the Former Soviet Union for the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). About 35 rabbis were also present, including Rabbi Denise L. Eger, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), who brought greetings and blessings from the oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America.

Since 2006, Abraham Geiger College has ordained 23 rabbis and eight cantors have been invested. “The aim of this institution, in the vision of its founder and rector Rabbi Walter Homolka, is to produce rabbis for Europe and beyond, and that is precisely what is happening,” explained EUPJ Chairman Miriam Kramer. 
 
Rabbi Ariel Pollack receives his ordination by Abraham Geiger College
in ceremony at Liberal Jewish Community of Hannover
(Photo © Courtesy of Tobias Barniske) 

This year’s graduates reflect the college’s mission to grow Reform Judaism across the region. Rabbi Lior Bar-Ami, who comes from a Swiss-German family, will divide his time between France and Austria, taking the pulpits of both the Synagogue Libérale de Toulouse and Vienna’s progressive congregation, Or Chadash. Israeli-born cantor Assaf Levitin will continue to work with Hannover’s Etz Chaim synagogue, where he is already interning. And Rabbi Ariel Pollák will return home to Budapest where he sees great potential in expanding the Progressive Jewish community there together with the EUPJ. The attendance of Rabbi Eger was also a strong signal of the Central Conference of American Rabbi’s interest in strengthening its ties with colleagues abroad.
 
Rabbi Lior Bar-Ami receives his ordination by Abraham Geiger College
in ceremony at Liberal Jewish Community of Hannover
(Photo © Courtesy of Tobias Barniske)

Hannover’s thriving Progressive congregation, which is comprised of members from eighteen countries, as well as guests from all over Europe, Israel, and the United States, underlined the congratulations of the EUPJ and the WUPJ on this important occasion: “Our wish is that Abraham Geiger College and Progressive Judaism continue to go from strength to strength.”

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A Rabbi, a Pioneer, and A Knight: Rabbi Dr. Lionel Blue OBE (z"l)

The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) joins the Movement for Reform Judaism and many others across the UK and the world in mourning our friend, colleague, rabbi and mentor, the inspirational Rabbi Dr. Lionel Blue OBE (z"l) who died on December 19 at the age of 86. 

 
Rabbi Lionel Blue (z”l)

Born in 1930 in London, Lionel Blue became one of the first two rabbinic students at Leo Baeck College in 1956. After receiving his rabbinic ordination in 1960, he served as rabbi of Middlesex New Synagogue shortly after its founding, and subsequently oversaw the Beth Din of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain (RSGB) as the Convenor, and later as European Director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. 

A lecturer at Leo Baeck College, Rabbi Blue is perhaps best known for his insight, wit and charm as a journalist and broadcaster for BBC radio on Thought for the Day, “mixing religious insights with honesty and humour,” as Rabbi Jonathan Romain wrote in this piece for The Independent.

“But away from the media,” Rabbi Romain continued, “[Rabbi Blue] made several other major contributions to religious life. The first was his work in helping to reconcile Jews and Germans after the Holocaust. He spent two years on the Continent building bridges between the two communities, organising conferences and seminars, both at clergy level and for young Jews and Germans.

“He was also highly influential in promoting inter-faith dialogue in Britain. Not only did he regularly go on retreats to monasteries – almost certainly the first rabbi to do so – but he encouraged a whole generation of rabbis to follow his lead and influence their congregations to look outwards and find common values with local churches.”

In 1994, Rabbi Blue was appointed to an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism, said “Rabbi Lionel, as a teacher, writer and much-loved national broadcaster, transformed how Britain viewed Jews, Judaism and most importantly, ourselves. May his memory be a blessing”.

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Mark Your Calendars 

Early Bird Discount for CONNECTIONS 2017 – Register Today!

Early bird discounts are available for registration for CONNECTIONS through January 15, 2017, so register here today to take advantage of this significant discount and reserve your spot for CONNECTIONS 2017

 
Wondering “What makes CONNECTIONS so special?” click here to learn more.  

Count down to May 2017 with our website as we post the latest news and developments, including speaker appointments and gala events. Register online with our one-stop resource for all your conference and traveling needs: pricing and payment information, accommodation, and exciting pre-conference options

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Condolences

To Judy Smith on the death of her mother

The leadership and staff of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) extend their sincerest condolences to Judy Smith on the passing of her mother, Lori Sinason. Judy and Gordon Smith serve as key lay leaders in the World Union and the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), as well as dedicated members of the Liberal Jewish community in London. We wish their family much strength in the resources of their supportive and caring community. 

May her memory be for a blessing.

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To Harry Jacobi on the death of his son

The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) offers its deepest condolences to Rabbi Harry Jacobi and his children Rabbi Margaret Jacobi and Rabbi Richard Jacobi on the passing of their beloved son and brother, David Jacobi. David was a devoted member of the Liberal Jewish community in London and served as past Chairman of the WUPJ-US. A regular attendee and warm presence at many EUPJ and WUPJ biennials, his presence will be sorely missed. 

May his memory be for a blessing.

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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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