Issue # 312
Issue #312 – 15 May 2008 / 10 Iyar 5768
IN THIS ISSUE:
WORLD UNION LATIN AMERICA CONFERENCE REGISTRATION DEADLINE NEARS
The deadline is approaching to register for the third Conference of Jewish Communities of Latin America - Sounds and Flavors of Latin American Judaism. This conference, sponsored by the World Union for Progressive Judaism, will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from July 10-13, 2008. Reserve your place now, while there’s still time!
Both the World Union’s chairman, Steve Bauman, and its president, Rabbi Uri Regev will be featured speakers during the conference, which will also bring together rabbis, cantors, educators and youth workers from the region and around the globe, as well as many guests.
In an exciting lead-up to the conference, the World Union is offering a unique mission to Argentina and Brazil from July 3 to 10. Besides Rio, the mission will take in Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre in Brazil, and Buenos Aires. Experience the sights, sounds, culture and architecture of these cities, and visit the synagogues, schools and social justice programs of the World Union’s growing network of communities in the two countries. You’ll do so while staying in leading 4- and 5-star hotels and enjoying the finest Argentine cuisine and Brazilian churrasco.
The trip will be led by Rabbi Roberto Graetz, senior rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, California, and by Lenore Mass, who chairs the Brazil sub-committee of the World Union’s Yad B’Yad Task Force for Latin America. A native of Argentina, where he also held pulpit positions, Rabbi Graetz is an expert on Progressive Judaism in Latin America and is a member of the Yad B’Yad Task Force. Mass is a frequent visitor to South America and is intimately familiar with Brazil’s Progressive Jewish communities.
The mission will wind up in Rio de Janeiro at the Conference of Jewish Communities of Latin America, from July 10 to 13. There, you will join hundreds of fellow Progressive Jews from throughout South America to discuss the historic challenges and opportunities facing their communities on this diverse continent.
For further information or to register for the World Union mission to Argentina and Brazil, click here. You can also visit the conference site directly for details here.
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FIRST STATE-FUNDED PROGRESSIVE SYNAGOGUE DEDICATED IN ISRAEL
History was made on May 5th when Kehillat YOZMA, an affiliate of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, dedicated the first synagogue provided by the state to a non-Orthodox congregation.
YOZMA is located in Modi’in, a completely new city that has gone up over the past decade halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The prefabricated structure was delivered to the site with great fanfare late last year (see WUPJnews #295) and will house the congregation until it can build a permanent structure.
In her remarks at the ceremony, YOZMA’s senior spiritual leader, Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon, called the new building a location to gather as a community, a place for prayer and a center for study. “The beit knesset of YOZMA,” she told the gathering, “is a reflection of all of these aspects of communal life and opens its doors to each and every one of you seeking a warm environment, a spiritual home which honors Jewish tradition while translating it into our modern lives.”
The government-funded pre-fabricated structure caps years of court cases and Supreme Court appeals waged by YOZMA through the Israeli Progressive movement’s Israel Religious Action Center against the city of Modi’in and Israel’s ministry of housing and construction. Compromises on the issues of land and funding were hammered out through the good offices of Modi'in’s mayor, Moshe Spector; the municipality’s director-general, Yoram Carmon; and the Israeli government’s housing minister at the time, Yitzchak Herzog. The final cost involved in setting up the temporary building, including infrastructure, was approximately $200,000.
The dedication ceremony was attended by Spector and other municipal officials, senior staff from both the World Union and the IMPJ, donors, YOZMA members and Modi’in residents, and numerous journalists. In fact, the event garnered wide press coverage both in Israel and abroad (see below for selected links).
Kehillat YOZMA was founded 11 years ago and currently has some 240 member families. A total of 550 families utilize the congregation’s services on a regular basis, while thousands more take part in one or more activities during the course of each year. It offers six preschool classes and a growing elementary school under the rabbinic guidance of Rabbi Nir Barkin, as well as social action projects and cultural activities open to all. In addition to Rabbi Shiryon and Rabbi Barkin, the community enjoys the dynamic leadership of its executive director, Yossi Aud.
The government is providing a total of six pre-fabricated structures to Progressive and Masorti (Conservative) congregations in Modi'in, Tivon, Zichron Ya'acov and Tzur Hadassah.
The following are selected links to local and international press coverage of Kehillat YOZMA’s pre-fab dedication ceremony:
Counterclockwise, from top: YOZMA’s pre-fabricated structure shortly after its delivery; YOZMA’s children welcome guests with songs and presentations; Rabbi Nir Barkin trumpets a new era for non-Orthodox congregations in Israel.
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POLAND’S PROGRESSIVE COMMUNITY FORMS ROOF ORGANIZATION
Poland’s nascent Progressive Jewish community – based around Beit Warszawa in Warsaw, but with growing havurot in such cities as Krakow, Lublin, Chelm and Zielona Gora – has established Beit Polska, the Union of Progressive Jewish Communities in Poland. The goal is to obtain government recognition of the Progressive movement, making it eligible for state subsidies as well as for vacant land to build future synagogues, schools, mikvot, and establishing cemeteries.
Currently, funds and property are being provided only to the officially recognized Jewish community, which is led by the Orthodox. Beit Warszawa and other Progressive communities subsist solely on dues and private funding, most notably from Severyn Ashkenazi, a Polish-born businessman now living part of the year in Los Angeles, part of the year in Poland, mostly Warsaw.
Rabbi Burt Schuman, spiritual leader of Beit Warszawa, will lead Beit Polska along with Rabbi Tanya Segal, the country’s first woman rabbi. Schuman told the Associated Press that Beit Polska is a sign of the “incredible dynamism” of Progressive Judaism. “People were looking for a contemporary Judaism ... to experience Jewish practice, Jewish culture and our great tradition of Torah and rabbinic text,” he said.
Orthodox Jews in Poland have reportedly said they fear that non-Orthodox streams of Judaism will divide what essentially is a tiny remnant of the country’s pre-war Jewish population of some 3.5 million. However, Schuman told the AP that Beit Polska should not be considered competition for the Orthodox. "With diversity and more Jewish options, everyone benefits,” he said. “As more and more people of Jewish ancestry emerge from hiding or the shadows, they have rich and diverse ways of expressing their Judaism."
Rabbi Tanya Segal and Rabbi Burt Schuman of Beit Warszawa announce the launch of Beit Polska – the Union of Progressive Jewish Communities in Poland. (AP photo/Alik Keplicz)
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GERMAN LEADERS OF NETZER OLAMI TRAVEL TO ISRAEL FOR SEMINAR
The German branch of Netzer Olami, the international Progressive Zionist youth movement, recently sent 19 madrichim (youth leaders) to Israel for a leadership seminar that literally covered Israel from north to south. The madrichim came from cities and towns throughout Germany, including Bad Segeberg, Berlin, Bielefeld, Goettingen, Hamburg, Hannover, Munchengladbach, Munich and Oberhausen.
They started out at Har Halutz, a community settlement in the lower Galilee affiliated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, where they were hosted by members of Noar Telem, the Israeli branch of Netzer. According to Sivan Gaides, the Progressive movement’s youth emissary to Germany, “the madrichim and their hosts spent two wonderful days working, attending workshops and celebrating Shabbat together” before moving on to the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa, where the seminar participants “studied the concept of responsibility and how it can be applied in their work with youth.”
From Haifa the participants moved to Jerusalem and Mercaz Shimshon/Beit Shmuel, the World Union’s education and culture center, where they focused on study and spirituality and even took a field trip to the city’s famous Mahane Yehuda outdoor market to deal with food and ethnic identity. “Interesting, as well as tasty!” says Gaides.
From Jerusalem, the madrichim traveled to the Arava desert and to Lotan and Yahel, the Israeli Progressive movement’s two kibbutzim. They spent Purim at Yahel, where they mingled with kibbutznikim and with participants in Shnat Netzer, Netzer Olami’s post-high school gap year program. At Lotan, says Gaides, “they engaged in ecology projects, which enhanced our understanding of global ecological preservation – something that will certainly be applied to their work with youth.”
The seminar was sponsored in part by the World Union and Netzer Olami, along with the Jewish Agency, the Central Council of Jews in Germany (one of two umbrella organizations; the other is the Union for Progressive Jews of Germany), the Jewish National Fund, the Liberal community of Munich and the Efraim Veitel Foundation.
Netzer/Germany madrichim learn to make bricks from mud at Lotan, a kibbutz affiliated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism that emphasizes ecology and self-sustainability.
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May 23-24, 2008 – Biennial conference of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism
June 13-15, 2008 – Biennial conference of the South Africa Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) in Cape Town
July 3-13, 2008 – World Union mission to Brazil and Argentina, culminating in the biennial conference of the World Union’s Latin America region, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
July 4-6, 2008 – Biennial conference of the British Movement for Reform Judaism in Leicester, UK
July 10-13, 2008 - Annual conference of the Union of Progressive Judaism in Berlin, Germany (information currently in German only)
March 17-23, 2009 – CONNECTIONS 2009 – The 34th international convention of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
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