Issue # 272

Issue #272 – 12 July 2007 / 26 Tammuz 5767







The popular and successful Netzer Olami youth camps in the former Soviet Union have received a significant boost from the AVI CHAI Foundation, which has just awarded a second year of generous funding for a series of training and enrichment seminars for madrichim (counselors) in 2007-08.

"These seminars," says Alex Kagan, director of World Union programs in the FSU, "have increased the number of madrichim and their overall skill level, enabling us to expand the number of summer and winter camps and to improve their educational programs." They are led by the World Union’s FSU-based rabbis and educators, and by rabbis and students from the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

The monthly weekend seminars take place throughout the year in five regions, from Riga in the west to Siberia in the east, and like the camps, will be operated by Netzer Olami, the World Union’s international Zionist youth movement. They help train young Netzer leaders to work as camp counselors and provide them with enrichment courses in Judaism, Jewish history, Jewish literature and Israel. Madrichim from Israel, many of whom are Russian speakers, impart valuable Zionist awareness and perspectives to the campers.

This summer, over 1,300 teenagers and college students, including approximately 100 staff members, are expected to participate in 14 camps in Moscow, Kiev, Minsk, Riga and Siberia. Two of these camps will be for families with young children. The summer camps are considered to be the high point of Netzer’s year-round programs for its more than 50 branches throughout the FSU.

Also this year, Dr. Alexander Silnelnikov of Moscow State University will be conducting his second study of Netzer summer camps, looking into their impact on involvement in the Jewish community. One of the significant findings in his 2005 comprehensive study was that the number of campers who identified “very strongly” as Jews increased from 41 percent before attending camp to 67 percent afterwards.

The AVI CHAI Foundation is committed to the perpetuation of the Jewish people, Judaism and the centrality of the State of Israel to the Jewish people.

Netzer madrichim plan activities for their summer campers.

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TaMaR (T'nuat Magshimim Reformim), the international movement for young adult Progressive Jews, recently led a conference for members of the Union of Jewish Congregations of Latin America and the Caribbean (UJCL). Held in Panama City June 1-4, the conference was TaMaR's first in the region.

“Our youth took advantage of the meeting," said UJCL president, Hilda ten Brink, "and are motivated to keep working together and bonding to become the next generation of leaders in the region."

“This experience had a big impact on me,” said Julio Cohen, a participant from Panama. “I want to become a leader in my community, and my interest in learning more aboutour roots, culture and finding the way to help others, especially those who are younger, has been strengthened.”

Hosted by Panama City's Congregación Kol Shearith Israel, which is led by Rabbi Gustavo Kraselnik, the conference took place at the family hacienda of Ernesto Motta, a very active member of the congregation. The 30 young people at the conference represented Progressive communities in Aruba, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guadalajara, Panama and Porto Alegre, Brazil.

One of the conference goals was to provide help and encouragement to young adults seeking to organize TaMaR chapters in their home communities. “The Seminar was fantastic,” said Gabriel Cohen Henriquez. “The programming was good, there was a great atmosphere of friendship and respect and we had fun too. Every new person you meet changes you in some way. The connection with other communities was strengthened. There is lack of activities and frameworks for young adults in Panama, and TaMar fills it perfectly. I shared the pictures and my experiences with those at home who didn’t come, and now they are sure that they won’t miss the next one! "

Tamara Schagas, of the World Union's Youth and Young Adult division, reported that the conference participants formed a programming committee, and will be planning another encounter just prior to the UJCL's annual conference next winter in Kingston, Jamaica.

"This TaMaR UJCL conference, which exceeded all our expectations, was the result of almost two years ofwork and great cooperation from all those who were involved,” said Schagas. “We should be very proud of the work we are doing in this region, but also know there is much more to achieve.” Schagas also acknowledged the Michele and Martin Cohen Family Foundation, whose generous support enables the World Union to strengthen its strategic activities, including youth and young adult programs and leadership development in Latin America.

Says Richenella Wever, a participant from Aruba, "It is very important to preserve our traditions and principles. These encounters enable us to extend our circle of friends and exchange ideas."

Young Progressive Jewish youth leaders at the TaMaR conference in Panama City.

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Over one relaxing weekend at the end of June, 15 golfers from Israel, the U.S., Canada and Switzerland came together to enjoy their favorite pastime while, at the same time, becoming familiar with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.

Golfing FORE! Reform, the IMPJ’s inaugural golf tournament, was held on the links in Caesarea. Participants were hosted for Kabbalat Shabbat by members of Congregation Ohel Avraham, an IMPJ affiliate in Haifa, and for Shabbat dinner by Rabbi Bob Samuels. The former principal and director of Haifa's Leo Baeck Education Center – and inveterate duffer – Samuels was the “master of ceremonies” and main spirit behind the tournament. The participants also toured nearby Zichron Yaakov, met with members of its Progressive congregation and were briefed on the IMPJ by its chairman, Professor Avraham Melamed, and its executive director, Iri Kassel.

Zohar Sharon, who lost his vision 25 years ago as an Israel Defense Forces sapper and went on to win the World Golf Tournament for the Blind in 2003, was Golfing FORE! Reform's guest of honor.

Like the IMPJ's annual Riding4Reform cross-country bicycle ride (see WUPJnews #259), Golfing FORE! Reform is aimed at raising funds for the movement's many education and social projects, among them holiday food drives, bar and bat mitzvah programs for low-income youth, winter assistance for the elderly and summer camp stipends.

According to Kassel, this year’s tournament was intended to establish a firm basis for what is hoped will be an annual event. "By the end of the tournament," he says, "we felt we had indeed gained a group of committed friends who will be our ambassadors in their own countries and the seed for future golf fund-raisers. I am convinced that the number of participants in future tournaments will grow, which is what happened with our annual bicycle ride."

Riding4Reform started out four years ago with 17 riders, while this year's event attracted 53 and raised over $100,000.

Golfing FORE! Reform participants get ready to tee off.

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July 12-15, 2007 – Annual conference - Union of Progressive Jews in Germany, Berlin/Spandau. For information, write to

October 18-22, 2007 – Biennial conference of the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ), Hobart, Tasmania

December 12-16, 2007URJ Biennial - Union for Reform Judaism, San Diego, California

January 29-February 3, 2008 – Annual conference of the Union of Jewish Congregations of Latin America and the Caribbean (UJCL), Kingston, Jamaica

February 27-March 20, 2008 – “Shalom India: Seeing India through Jewish Eyes” tour, led by Rabbi Fred Morgan of Melbourne, Australia

March 13-16, 2008 – Biennial conference of the World Union’s European Region, Vienna, Austria

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