Issue # 336

Issue #336 – 20 November 2008 / 22 Heshvan 5769


IN THIS ISSUE:

TIME RUNNING OUT FOR CONVENTION DISCOUNT

ISRAELI CONGREGATIONAL RABBI SEEKS FURTHER SUPPORT FOR STATE RECOGNITION

WORLD UNION PLAYS RABBINIC SHADKHAN FOR HIGH HOLY DAYS

MOVEMENT AFFILIATES MARK 13 YEARS SINCE RABIN ASSASSINATION

UPCOMING EVENTS


TIME RUNNING OUT FOR WORLD UNION CONVENTION DISCOUNT

The World Union for Progressive Judaism is offering an early bird discount to those who register now for CONNECTIONS 2009, its 34th international convention, March 18-23, 2009, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Go to the special convention Web site – www.kenes.com/connections2009 – and either sign up online or download the registration form (now available in English, Spanish and Portuguese), which can be faxed or sent by mail.

Even with today’s economy, participant registration is ahead of our last biennial, so don’t miss this opportunity to save your place and save money too!  Registering today will lock in your convention and hotel rates against any possible future price increases.

And don’t forget to bookmark the site so you can return often to learn about the latest program and event updates.




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ISRAELI CONGREGATIONAL RABBI SEEKS FURTHER SUPPORT FOR STATE RECOGNITION

Rabbi Miri Gold, spiritual leader of Congregation Birkat Shalom at Kibbutz Gezer, half-way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, has issued an appeal for additional signatures to a petition urging the state to recognize her and pay her salary (see WUPJnews #331). A graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem, Gold is one of 17 rabbis serving communities in the Gezer Regional Council; the rest, all Orthodox males, are state employees and receive state salaries.

“I was heartened to learn that over 3,500 people have signed the www.irac.org petition demanding recognition for Reform rabbis in Israel,” wrote Gold. “Our court case, which began in September, 2005, reflects the resolve of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism to be pro-active on issues of religious pluralism in Israel. The Israel Religious Action Center has brought our case to the court and raised awareness among Israeli citizens who believe that Israel must be a democracy.”

“There is another facet that I'd like to call to your attention,” Gold continued. “I was picked as the ‘test case’ because Peter Weiss, the ‘mayor’ of our Gezer Regional Council, was willing to stick his neck out [and] risk the wrath of the Orthodox (and it has rained down hard!). He wrote to the Prime Minister's Office asking that Kibbutz Gezer, populated by liberal Jews, be assigned a liberal rabbi. I believe that Weiss' willingness to write this letter of advocacy stems from his connections with the Kansas City Jewish community, which ‘partners’ with the [Gezer] Region. This partnership shows that our connections to Progressive Jewish communities outside of Israel will make the difference.”

“We need your support to bolster this fledgling turning point,” added Gold, “by sending a clear message to the government of Israel that the majority of world Jewry will not sit idly by while intolerance reigns in the Jewish homeland. We're looking for at least 10,000 signatures. Please take an active role as Jewish leaders in winning this battle.”


Screenshot of the IRAC Web page and the petition. Click here to sign it.


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WORLD UNION PLAYS RABBINIC SHADKHAN FOR HIGH HOLY DAYS

As it has for the past several seasons, the World Union matched rabbis with congregations around the world in need of prayer leaders for High Holy Day services this year. Among these rabbis was Joel Oseran, the World Union’s vice president for international development, whose presence in Bangkok as part of a short Far East sabbatical yielded additional developmental value.

“We spread the word every way possible,” said Oseran upon his return, “and were delighted to see over 30 people in attendance for our Erev Rosh Hashana service, which we conducted in a centrally located hotel. After services we had a lovely Thai cuisine holiday meal that included a discussion about how the group saw its future development. We all agreed that we would approach the formation of the congregation, step-by-step, with a small steering committee taking the lead in designing a Hanukah festival celebration for families. Our goal is to build upon the fact that people now know there is an ‘address’ for Progressive Judaism in Bangkok.”

Also in Southeast Asia was Rabbi Lennard Thal, senior vice president emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism. For the16th straight year, he led High Holy Day services at the United Hebrew Congregation of Singapore, joined by Cantor Susan Caro, a vice president of the American Conference of Cantors, there for the fifth time. “With about 110 households, attendance was larger than ever,” says Thal, who adds that during his stay in Singapore, the congregation “held a special Shabbat service for new members, a family education program and three adult education programs, and planned and implemented its first ever Sukkot celebration, drawing well over 100 members.”

Elsewhere in Asia, Rabbi Alona Lisitsa, a member of the staff of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem, led High Holy Day services for members of the Progressive community in Mumbai, India. Services were held at the offices of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. “It was very rewarding when so many people came to me with generous compliments and warm words of appreciation,” said Lisitsa. “It was very surprising that so many told me that one of the most important experiences for them and their families was that I came with my [own] family and that my children participated in all the services, not only reading from the Torah, but praying in Hebrew.”

Another example of World Union matchmaking was Rabbi Ilana Baird, a Russian-speaker ordained at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem in November, 2006, who now resides in Haifa. For the second year in a row (see WUPJnews #281), Baird led services for the Liberal congregation in Hameln, Germany, whose part-time rabbi had holiday commitments at her home congregation in England. "Like most in Germany, our congregation is 90 percent Russian-speaking,” says Rachel Dohme, the Hameln community’s president. “We have always tried to make Judaism accessible. Inviting a Russian-speaking rabbi makes sense. We thank the World Union for helping us obtain the services of Ilana, a vibrant and creative young rabbi."


Rabbi Joel Oseran (l.) poses in Bangkok with Narissara and Michael March, a couple that has undertaken to help develop a local Progressive congregation.


Rabbi Ilana Baird of Haifa (l.) trumpets the arrival of the new year with Volodymr, a member of the Liberal congregation in Hameln.


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MOVEMENT AFFILIATES MARK 13 YEARS SINCE RABIN ASSASSINATION


Congregations and institutions affiliated with the World Union for Progressive Judaism recently marked the anniversary of the slaying of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z”l with special services, programs and candlelight vigils. This year was the 13th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination at the hands of a right-wing Jewish zealot, and commemorations began at sundown on November 9.

In Israel, affiliates of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism were able to use a special guide prepared in 1999 by MARAM, Israel’s Union of Progressive Rabbis. The guide features a Yizkor prayer - which has since become the official memorial prayer used at all government, military and school ceremonies memorializing Rabin. The prayer was written by Rabbi Yehoram Mazor, chairman of MARAM’s Liturgical Committee. (Each chapter of the guide, which is in Hebrew, can be accessed as a pdf document at http://www.irac.org.il/news.asp?id=81.)

As it has in previous years, MARAM issued a statement urging that the day be one of “private and public reckoning" to include fasting, prayer and study, and called on its members to avoid officiating at public celebrations. It also urged schools to place further emphasis on civics and citizenship, and demanded that this be a condition for government funding for schools.


Cover of the special memorial guide for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z”l.


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UPCOMING EVENTS

March 15-17, 2009
– Golfing FORE! Reform – Second annual IMPJ amateur fund-raising golf tournament in Caesarea

March 18-23, 2009
CONNECTIONS 2009 – The 34th international convention of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

March 29-April 2, 2009
Riding4Reform – Sixth annual IMPJ countrywide bicycle fund-raising tour.


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