Issue #557

16 February 2017 // 20 Shevat 5777

‘Praying With Our Feet’: Reform Congregations in Toronto and London Stand Against Religious Discrimination

International Holocaust Day Ceremonies at the United Nations in Vienna and South America

NFTY Leadership at Netzer Veida: Seven Days, 14 Countries, and an Important Lesson

Letters from our Leadership
Join the World Union at Upcoming Events
Announcements: In Our Lives & Communities
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events

‘Praying With Our Feet’: Reform Congregations in Toronto and London Stand Against Religious Discrimination

In the aftermath of a deadly shooting at a Quebec City mosque on January 29, hundreds of Jews and other Canadians formed “rings of peace” around mosques across Canada on Friday February 3. The protective human shields were the initiative of Rabbi Yael Splansky, Senior Rabbi at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple

“After Splansky floated the idea by her pan-denominational colleagues and gained support from Toronto Board of Rabbis,” reported The Times of Israel, “many of the city’s synagogues worked together to rally people to come out midday on Friday to encircle seven mosques throughout the Greater Toronto Area. The mosques were all receptive to the gesture, and in some cases local churches partnered in the interfaith effort.”

Holy Blossom Temple’s Rabbi Yael Splansky (right)
speaks with the leader of the Imdadul Islamic Centre
in Toronto, Canada, on February 3, 2017.
(Facebook/Holy Blossom Temple)

Splansky told The Times of Israel she came up with the idea after sending a condolence letter to leaders of the Muslim congregation, the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, that was targeted.

“Words are just words. But then I suddenly remembered having read about how two years ago Muslims formed a ring of peace around a synagogue in Oslo, Norway after murderous attacks against Jews in Paris and Copenhagen. I thought that could be something we could do here — only in reverse, with Jews showing solidarity with Muslims,” Splansky said.

Carole Sterling, Chair of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and member of Holy Blossom Temple, attended the protest, and shared these thoughts with the World Union about her reasons for attending and the experience of being there: “It was a freezing cold day, the kind of day that makes one not want to leave the house, or be outside, and I thought how much more significant and important it would be for us to head outside and show our support on a day like today. People are feeling helpless and that there is nothing to do. Protests like this enable us to ‘pray with our feet’ – to have our presence and effort be the signal for hope and change and tikkun olam.

“It was very moving being at the mosque and surrounding it with our beliefs in tolerance and togetherness. There was no distinction between gender, religion or age among us. And as the men walked in to pray they expressed sheer gratitude, some surprise, and many were so touched. There were ‘rings of peace’ across seven mosques or Islamic centers that day – a significant number in Judaism.  

“The fact that there was so much media coverage there spoke to the need for more action like this. I was very proud to be a part of a community – and congregation – that values and supports differences and diversity. I am also very proud of Rabbi Yael Splansky for her leadership, sensitivity and compassion.” 

In London, a similar “circle of solidarity” was formed by members of all faiths at one of the capital’s biggest mosques during prayers on February 3. 

Londoners of all faiths and beliefs formed a human circle of solidarity around the Wightman Road Mosque during Friday prayers. The event was jointly sponsored by Reform Judaism, the Islamic Society of Britain, the Christian Muslim Forum, the Faiths Forum for London, and Hope not Hate, and strove to demonstrate solidarity with Muslims at a time of international turbulence.

“London and Britain stands as one,” tweeted Rabbi Laura
Janner-Klausner at the Circle of Solidarity demonstration
in London on February 3, 2017

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism said: “This week started with President Trump’s executive order, and is ending with news that anti-Semitism is at record levels in the UK. Tomorrow, we will show our determination, as minorities and people of different religions, to stand together and protect one another.”

Talking with Reform Judaism, Ajmal Masroor, Chair of Islamic Society of Britain, noted: “After recent events in the US and Canada, we received calls from leaders of many faiths and beliefs wanting to show solidarity with British Muslims. I feel these leaders wanted to relay the message that we are all equal citizens of this great country and that we must stand as one when any of us feels isolated or scared. We are deeply touched by this real show of support”.

For more about the event in London, read the following articles in The Standard, The Times of Israel, or watch this video on YouTube.

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International Holocaust Day Ceremonies at the United Nations in Vienna and South America

Once again this year, the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), in cooperation with the Israeli Embassy, organized an event at UN Headquarters in Vienna which was attended by several hundred people, including representatives from Vienna’s Liberal Jewish Community, Or Chadasch, and the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). Director General of the United Nations Office in Vienna, Yury Fedotov, opened the ceremony, and the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, Ambassador Talya Lador-Fresher, underlined the importance of remembering the victims of the Holocaust. 

Ceremony honoring International Holocaust Day at the UN.
To watch the full speech, click here.
The ceremony featured musical performances, including singing El Malei Rachamim, and a recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish. The ceremony was also accompanied by a poster exhibition entitled, “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda,” produced by the United Nations Outreach Program, in cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It examines how the Nazis used propaganda to win broad voter support in Germany’s young democracy.

After the commemoration, there was a screening of the documentary film “Shalom Italia.” The newly appointed UN Secretary General, António Guterres, reminded the audience of their “duty to remember.”
In South America, several institutions affiliated with the World Union for Progressive Judaism – Latin America (WUPJ-LA) participated in the campaign launched by the World Jewish Congress in honor of the occasion of the International Day in Memory of the Holocaust Victims on January 27. The proposal was for people to post photos on social networks with the hashtag #WeRemember.
In memory of the victims of the Holocaust in the
Adat Israel Congregation in Guatemala

In Brazil, the Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP) hosted an event exploring the theme "Holocaust and Intolerance in the World", organized by the Confederação Israelita do Brasil (CONIB) and the Federação Isrealita do Estado de São Paulo (FISESP), with the support of several institutions. 

Present at the event were President Michel Temer, Foreign Minister José Serra, Governor Geraldo Alckmin and Mayor João Doria. "To remember the Holocaust, to remember its pain and all its anguish, is to prepare the future," Temer said. The President greeted survivors of Nazi barbarism attending the event, saying that the suffering to which they were subjected should serve as a lesson so that the Holocaust will be permanently remembered. "If it is a day, a month, years or centuries, we must always remember. It is a lesson for the future and for the present."

Holocaust memorial exhibition at Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP)

In Rio de Janeiro, the Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI-RJ) organized a series of lectures with Professor Silvia Rosa Nossek Lerner, author of "Freedom to Choose How to Die: Armed Resistance of Jews in the Holocaust." The topics covered were: "How could it happen?", "New winds blow in Germany", and "The end and a new beginning." 

In Santa Catarina, Associação Israelita Catarinense (AIC) held a special Kabbalat Shabbat with the participation of Professor Pietro Nardella-Dellova, who spoke on "Jewish Contributions to Human Rights".

The Israeli Embassy in Brasilia will organize an event in conjunction with the Israelite Cultural Association of Brasilia (ACIB) on March 15 in the Legislative Chamber of the Federal District.

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NFTY Leadership at Netzer Veida: Seven Days, 14 Countries, and an Important Lesson

In January 2017 more than 30 young adults from Germany, France, England, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Panama, Australia, the Netherlands, Brazil, Spain, South Africa, Israel and North America came together in Jerusalem for four days of discussions, workshops, and networking as part of the Netzer Veida (international conference). Designed to strengthen young adult Reform and Progressive Jewish leadership from all corners of the world, the Veida offers experiential and practical training that attendees can then bring back to their communities for further growth and engagement. 

Kathryn Fleisher and Jordan Iserson from NFTY
at the Netzer Veida in Jerusalem

This year, Kathryn Fleisher and Jordan Iserson, NFTY President and Programming Vice President (PVP) respectively, participated in the Veida as North American NFTY snif delegates. Since the Veida coincided with the first weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, the group found themselves debating American politics and global issues as headlines interrupted discussions and workshops about Israel programming and Jewish identity. In their blog post for the NFTY website, Kathryn and Jordan reflect on their experiences and takeaways from the Veida, including eye-opening discussions with their peers – young Reform Jewish leaders – about how snifim around the world are protesting and standing up for justice locally and globally. 

Click here to read the full post.

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Letters from Our Leadership

Experiencing our Global Reform Family: Travel with the World Union

By: Tadd Schwab

We Americans love to travel abroad. But as Jews, when we travel, we miss Shabbat if we don’t want to take time from our touring or we don’t know how to find a Reform Synagogue where we are. My wife Sandy and I make a habit of using the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) website before we go.  

Tadd Schwab, at left, documenting his trip to Berlin
with the World Union in April 2016 

We have enjoyed visits to congregations for services and meeting with rabbis and individuals living in Budapest, Berlin, London, Israel, and most recently Melbourne, Australia. Just a week ago we attended services at Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne. That Shabbat was my Mom's yahrzeit and it was important for me to be in shul and observe the day. In this case, I got in touch with the Rabbi in advance and even put my mother’s name on their yahrzeit list. Temple Beth Israel turned out to be a 15-minute ride from our hotel. And since we were in touch with them ahead of time, we had arranged for our names to be on their security list. (Many synagogues around the world require security clearance and arrangements ahead of one’s visit, so I advise emailing them and bringing your passport to provide official identification). 

Upon arrival, the congregation at Temple Beth Israel was warm and welcoming. The services were more musical than others, and many of the melodies were familiar. Interestingly, the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ), representing Reform Judaism in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia, as well as the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) use an adapted version of the Mishkan T’filah siddur. It was both eye-opening and heart-warming to experience Shabbat with familiar yet new prayers and songs. 

Visiting a congregation overseas for Shabbat, or just getting together with a member or Rabbi, is a great way to add a special experience to any trip. I recommend taking time in planning your trip abroad to look up Reform and Progressive congregations in your destination city on the World Union website. Send an email to the Rabbi or congregation to let them know you’re coming and to arrange your visit. Attend Shabbat services, meet a member for coffee, visit the synagogue, and discover a local Jewish community by connecting with those living it. Our movement is a global one; make your trip overseas more personal by getting to know Reform and Progressive Jews all over the world.  

Visit the World Union’s congregations worldwide listings to
find synagogues, services and more waiting to welcome you! 

Click here to search through congregational listings. Use the contact information to send your inquiries about services, events, home hospitality and more. The World Union is comprised of 1.8 million Reform Jews in 1,200 communities; let us connect you with other Reform Jews – it’s like visiting the family you never knew you had.

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Sharing Our Values and Prayers at Tu B’Shvat Festival in Rosh Pina 

By: Phyllis Dorey 

This past Shabbat, we spent a few hours out in the warm sun at a park in Rosh Pina with Rabbi Golan ben Chorin and members of our local kehilah, Rosh Pina Reform Congregation (RPRC), celebrating Tu B'Shvat. To my surprise, among new and old friends, were two English rabbinic students from Leo Baeck College, one of whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past few years as part of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) family. 

Interfaith Tu B’Shvat Ceremony with Rosh Pina Reform Congregation

The Rosh Pina community chose to share the festival and meal with a group of students and their teachers from the Catholic seminary at the Domus Galilaeae International Center, located on the edge of the Kinneret. The seminary is a very special, spiritual place, where an internationally diverse group of male students spend a number of years studying (and speaking) Hebrew and Italian (the common language) and the Jewish roots of Christianity, and undertaking missionary work in other countries before they are ordained as priests. And so, over a vegetarian ‘potluck' lunch, we shared our stories, experiences, values and beliefs, and sang songs and prayers for understanding and peace.

While many of us were from different backgrounds, countries, cultures and traditions, we were able to come together and focus on our similarities, our shared humanity, and our desire to help make our world a better place. At one point, the seminarians lead us in a musical rendition of the Sh'ma. The verses, sung in a range of different languages with the chorus in Hebrew, brought tears to my eyes. For some of the members of our kehilah it was also a moment of realization that what was central to our beliefs could be shared and meaningful for others too. What an honour to be able to participate in this richly energizing and rewarding experience. Thank you all for reminding me why I am so proud to be a Progressive Jew.

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Join the World Union at Upcoming Events

Register Today for CONNECTIONS 2017
On May 17-20, 2017 explore, experience and connect with global Reform Judaism right here in Jerusalem. CONNECTIONS 2017 is the international biennial conference of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), which brings together Reform, Progressive and Liberal Jews from around the world for four days of workshops, lectures, prayer, gala events, site visits and more. 

Learning together at CONNECTIONS 2015. See what we’re
planning this year at CONNECTIONS 2017!
Count down to CONNECTIONS on our website, where you can also read the latest news and developments, including speaker and schedule appointments. Register online with our one-stop resource for all your conference and travelling needs: pricing and payment information, accommodation options, and exciting pre-conference events. 

Register today by clicking here

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Creating Meaningful Connections: The Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators, July 13-23, 2017

Educating the educators is one of the Bergman Seminar’s guiding principles. An intensive ten-day program for Progressive Jewish Educators from around the world, the Bergman Seminar, led by the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ)’s Anita Saltz International Education Center, combines classroom and text study with site visits and face-to-face encounters with individuals and educational projects that explore the multitude of Jewish narratives inside and outside of Israel. 

2016 Bergman seminar participants practice project-based
learning and alternative STEM approaches at the
innovative ecological classroom of Ein Shemer

For more information, including the schedule and fees, click here.

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Summer Camp for Adults! Join the WUPJ Summer Mission to Netzer Camps in Ukraine, Germany and France

This July, join Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander on a special ten-day mission to experience and learn more about Netzer Summer camps across Ukraine, Germany and France. See first-hand how we’re reviving Jewish identity and engagement through camping among the next generation. 


Join the WUPJ Summer Mission in July 2017 to Netzer Camps in Ukraine, Germany and France. Click here for details, including fees and itinerary.

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Announcements: In Our Lives & Communities

Mazal Tov to Miriam Vasserman on the Birth of a Grandson

Please join the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) in wishing hearty congratulations to Miriam Vasserman, Vice Chair of the WUPJ Executive Board, on the birth of her first grandson, David. We wish the family much health and happiness ahead. Mazal Tov! 

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Mourning the passing of Rabbi Herman Schaalman z”l

With great sorrow, the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) mourns the passing of a long-time leader of the Reform Movement in North America, Rabbi Herman Schaalman z”l, an educator, rabbi and leader who touched the lives of many. He was 100 years old at the time of his passing on February 1, 2017. 

Rabbi Schaalman was among five young men selected by the influential German Rabbi Leo Baeck to come to the United States in 1935 for a rabbinical school scholarship at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He received smicha in 1941 and spent his career in the Midwest, serving a small congregation in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before moving to Chicago and becoming the Midwest regional director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, later renamed the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). In 1956, he became a Senior Rabbi at Emanuel Congregation in Chicago, a pulpit he held for 30 years. He continued to be affiliated with the congregation as an educator even after his retirement.

“Rabbi Schaalman inspired generations of rabbis, as well as countless Jews and people of all faiths to search for God and repair our world,” URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said in a statement. “As a teacher and community leader, his legacy extends from prewar Germany to the pillars of contemporary Reform Judaism, and includes introducing innovation, preserving tradition, and embracing diversity. The current work of the URJ owes much to the pioneering interfaith outreach and cutting-edge theology of Rabbi Schaalman. He will be sorely missed.”

May his memory be for a blessing.

Read the full obituary here from Tablet magazine.

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Condolences on the passing of Jack Davidson z”l

With great sorrow, the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) mourns the passing of Jack Davidson z"l, former President and active member of the Union of Jewish Congregations of Latin America and the Caribbean (UJCL). “Jack was a tremendous pillar of the region whose commitment to Progressive Judaism was second to none,” noted Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President Emeritus of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. “He will be long remembered for his many contributions to the growth of the UJCL.”

May his memory be for a blessing.

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Upcoming Events

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

July 19-30, 2017 - WUPJ/Netzer Summer Youth Camp Mission, Europe 

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

February 17-24, 2018 - Igniting the Musical Jewish Soul, Caribbean Cruise

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