Issue #487 – May 15, 2014 | 15 Iyyar, 5774
The European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) held its biennial conference Faith in Action April 24–27 in Dresden. Over 300 delegates attended this conference, including several senior staffers from the World Union and a number of World Union Executive Board members who also led workshops. This was a very special conference and one which will remain in the memories of those fortunate enough to have been present for many years to come. The opening ceremony began with a welcome from EUPJ President Leslie Bergman. He was followed by five dignitaries from the local and state governments and national churches who all expressed their pleasure at Dresden having been chosen for the conference and recognized the significance of a Jewish organisation meeting in Germany and Dresden in particular. The ceremony concluded with the presentation of the Abraham Geiger Medal by Rabbi Walter Homolka to Stuart Matlins, a renowned publisher of Jewish books (see WUPJnews #480), who gave a light hearted interpretation of our conference theme Faith in Action, and music by the band Mizwa. Miriam Kramer, EUPJ chairman, made the closing remarks.
From Left to Right: Dr. Josef Schuster, Vice-President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Miriam Kramer, Stuart Matlins, Rabbi Walter Homolka. Credit: Tobias Barniske
As part of the festivities, a new haggadah that was recently published by Geiger College (see WUPJnews #483) was presented to Anne Molloy, Chair of the FSU committee, in recognition of her outstanding service to FSU Jewry.
From Left to Right: Shai Pinto, Rabbi Walter Homolka, Anne Molloy, Alex Kagan, and WUPJ Chairman Mike Grabiner, with new Haggadah published by Geiger College. Credit: Tobias Tanzyna
Our conference was opened the next morning by Rabbi Harry Jacobi with a thoughtful prayer of hope followed by keynote speaker Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), and in the afternoon, Josef Konvitz, a former senior member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, who delivered an incisive analysis of the state of the world economy. The interesting and varied programme included lectures and workshops such ‘Can we agree to disagree “Who is a Jew”, “For you have been a stranger in the Land of Egypt”, “Bringing Torah alive through music”, and much more.
Dr Philip Bliss, WUPJ Secretary and Chair of WUPJ’s Advocacy Committee, and Jim Heeger, past Senior Vice Chair, led a workshop on “Money, Money, Money, must be funny” together with Steve Lurie, Chair of the SAUPJ (not in photo). Credit: Tobias Tanzyna
Friday afternoon concluded with two receptions hosted by Arzenu and by the Union for Progressive Judaism in Germany (UpJ). Kabbalat Shabbat service was led by Rabbi Alexander Nachama of the Dresden Jewish Community, ably assisted by the rich baritone voice of Abraham Geiger College student cantor Assaf Levitin. The night was brought to a fitting close with a magnificent dinner at the Hilton, enhanced by an address from WUPJ chairman Mike Grabiner and two presentations given by Rabbi Homolka to Leslie Bergman and then by Leslie to Dori Much, the President of 25 years at Or Chadash in Vienna.
Youth track held concurrently to the conference. Credit: Tobias Tanzyna
After Birkat Hamazon led by Yuval Adam our band, Mizwa, began a medley of Israeli dance music which brought us all to our feet and it wasn’t long before there was a human chain of dancers encircling the large ballroom of nearly 300 diners. Of the many highlights of this weekend, this was one which we shall all cherish for many years.
Welcoming the Shabbat, with Ruth Shire. Credit Tobias Barniske
Shabbat morning began with study sessions led by Rabbis Sybil Sheridan, Celia Surget and Edward Van Voolen. Morning worship services were led by Rabbis Tom Kucera and Lea Muehlstein and Cantor Cheryl Wunch and passages were read in 12 different languages. After kiddush and lunch, delegates joined one of five different tours organised for Shabbat afternoon. Havdalah was enthusiastically led by the young adults who enjoyed their own leadership conference during the weekend. Saturday night ended with a wonderful Dresden Cabaret when almost 140 people crowded into our “nightclub” and enjoyed a wonderful array of European and international talent.
Friday morning services led by students of Abraham Geiger College. Credit: Tobias Barniske
Sunday morning began in somber mood as we commemorated Yom Hashoah. WUPJ VP & COO Shai Pinto spoke about the experiences of his own family, many of whom perished in the Holocaust, and his own feelings on visiting Germany for the first time. “Very honestly I had no idea how it would feel. But I do know one thing for sure - I feel Jewish, and I feel proud. As we gather here this morning before Yom Hashoah, let us proudly bear the pain, cry with the loss of six million of our family, cherish the memories and names. And let us also look to the millions of Jews around the world who are part of the World Union family and beyond, and help them every day and every hour to feel Jewish and proud.” We then held our Annual Assembly including several resolutions which welcomed new communities into the EUPJ. Rabbis Deborah Kahn-Harris, Principal of Leo Baeck College, and Walter Homolka, rector of Abraham Geiger College led a discussion which probed the various positions for and against the existence of a God and why such a God could be considered good when humanity continually suffers from natural and man-made disasters.
WUPJ VP & COO Shai Pinto (Left) and VP-International Development Rabbi Joel Oseran (right) led several sessions and workshops throughout the conference. Credit: Tobias Tanzyna
Anat Hoffman, Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and Chair of Women of the Wall (WOW), took the conference by storm when delivering her keynote lecture on the rights of women in Israel. The conference closed with Miriam Kramer, the EUPJ chairman, thanking all those who had made the conference such a success.
David Pollak, conference chairman, said "I am deeply grateful to my committee and to many more who made Faith in Action ‘the best ever conference’ according to many delegates. We have set the bar very high but I am sure that the next Biennial, scheduled for April 2016 in London, will deliver another conference which will be equally memorable. We must all have Faith in Action and that is exactly what Dresden 2014 was able to deliver.”
A video of the conference can be seen here. The WUPJ held its second Interregional Youth Leadership Seminar in Minsk, April 11-13 (see WUPJnews #482 for details on the first seminar).Thirty-two new and returning youth leaders from all over the FSU took part.
32 young leaders Netzer FSU, Minsk, 2014
The meeting of new and returning madrichim made the seminar that much more interesting. The returning madrichim not only taught the new ones, but were also inspired and impressed by the knowledge and enthusiasm of the younger generation. One of the aims of the seminars was to work on the 2014 summer camp program. The theme this year will be the Bible as we all felt that it was important to go back to the original text and learn about the development of Judaism and modernity.
Due to the current situation in Ukraine, we are encountering additional challenges this summer: parents expressed their concern and did not want to send their children to Ukraine and we decided to move the camp program to Belarus.
Learning, praying, singing and fellowship
The weekend seminar included meaningful Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat Shacharit and Havadalah services. As Rita Fruman, Netzer Coordinator in the FSU notes, “Shabbat Shacharit was even more special as Rabbi Gregory Abramovich led the service and invited a very important member of Beit Simcha, Andrei, leader of the Men's Club, to speak about the weekly Torah portion, Pesach. The service was done in Limmud style and Rabbi Abramovich gave the madrichim suggestions and examples on how to lead the service and make it more interesting and age appropriate for their campers this summer.”
In addition, a brainstorming session on the WUPJ website in Russian was led by Andrei Botenko, the new website editor who was looking for some new ideas.
The seminar concluded at Beit Simcha in Minsk with a very important discussion among participants regarding the future of the Reform Movement in the FSU, and the role of each and every one of us future leaders in strengthening and developing the FSU Jewish community.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the generous sponsors of this seminar: Sue and Jimmy Klau for their continued support and belief in us and our Jewish future.
For years I, along with Ron and Joan Cohen have touted the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). The WUPJ is the umbrella body for Liberal, Progressive and Reform congregations outside of North America. These WUPJ congregations – often quite small and humble compared to ours – are our family away from home. And when we find ourselves in foreign lands, as Jews often have, it is our family that takes us in. My family and I traveled to Rome for Passover. Knowing that we would be away from home for this holiday, I reached out to Rabbi Joel Oseran, VP of Congregational Development for the World Union, to find out what sort of Progressive community might exist in Rome that we could join with for Passover. As luck would have it, a new congregation, Beit Hillel, had just been formed. My contact? Fabio Benjamin Fantini. The Seder was held in a restaurant owned by a Beit Hillel congregant. According to Fabio (who speaks six languages) she had spent three days cleaning the restaurant for Passover. Over 50 people attended, led by a “charismatic, itinerant, native Italian, Rabbi Antonio who was incredibly thoughtful in trying to keep us ‘in the loop’ given the language barrier,” While the Seder was basically the same, the tunes and language were very different. These melodies were not Ashkenazi or Sephardi. They were, according to Rabbi Antonio, “Roman.” That is, these were melodies of the Jewish community of Rome, a community dating itself back to the destruction of the Second Temple when the gold of our Temple was used to finance the building of the Coliseum.
What was particularly powerful about this Seder was how it bridged the memories of a centuries old community with modern sensibilities. Here, women were counted as equals and issues surrounding the plight of Sudanese refugees in Israel were raised. And between the ancient Roman melodies and the modern issues was a touching prayer for those deported to the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, an event which obviously touched many of their families' lives directly. Beth Hillel organized two communal Sedarim to accommodate the large demand in Rome for a Progressive experience.
This visit portrays yet another example of the global family we are part of - in 49 countries with close to 1200 communities. Should your plans this summer include a trip abroad, include a visit to a WUPJ member congregation. You can find a listing here. Tell them Rabbi Daniel Gropper and Ron and Joan Cohen sent you.
Pesach Seder in Rome with Beth Hillel congregation and Rabbi Antonio (left front corner).
Gidon Ben-Zvi joins the WUPJ family as the organization's Marketing Communications Director. An accomplished writer, Gidon left behind Hollywood starlight in 2009 for Jerusalem stone. American-born, Gidon had twice lived with his family in Israel before returning to the country in 1994 to serve in an IDF infantry combat unit. Gidon has over 10 years' experience in developing marketing strategies and enhancing clients' brand awareness, having honed his craft in the fields of public relations, advertising and news media. Most recently, Gidon was the Senior Marketing Writer for Kenes Media, the marketing arm of Kenes Group, an Israeli-based company providing long term scientific professional congress organization in dozens of countries around the world.
Gidon has written for and continues to contribute to several well-known web sites including the Algemeiner, Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post. Gidon is married to Debbie and is the father to two little girls, Tamar and Yarden.
Gidon Ben Zvi
Rabbi Rick Block, CCAR President, said that “based on the favorable recommendation of the examining committee, composed of HUC-JIR Professors Michael Meyer and Reuven Firestone, the Board of the CCAR has voted to admit to membership, upon application, rabbis ordained by the Levisson Institute.” He also said that “its [CCAR] decision places Levisson in the same category as HUC-JIR, Leo Baeck College, and Abraham Geiger College, as well as several other seminaries, in terms of the admissibility of ordainees to CCAR membership.”
Many individuals are responsible for the CCAR’s acceptance of the rabbis who have received their ordination from the Levisson Institute. The rabbis who demonstrated that they possess the training and qualities to be part of the CCAR community; the teachers, trainers, and counselors who made the program possible and effective; and the commitment, wisdom and energy of Rabbi David Lilienthal and the staff he assembled while he was Dean and the Management Team he created to succeed him.
Rabbi Mark L. Winer, a world-renowned American interfaith activist and scholar was recently named a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to interfaith dialogue and social cohesion in London and the United Kingdom. The award was announced in the Queen’s 2014 New Year’s “Honours List” (see WUPJnews #479).
Princess Anne confers MBE upon Rabbi Winer on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II
Rabbi Winer becomes the first American-born rabbi honored with an MBE.
“I am humbled and thrilled to accept the MBE,” said Rabbi Winer, who has led congregations in the US and London – including serving as senior rabbi of the West London Synagogue.
Beit Shmuel recently hosted another session of “Children Create Shabbat” which focused on Lag Baomer and Israel’s Independence Day. The children learned about the history of the holidays and discussed the importance of recycling and other environmental issues. Together with their parents, they learned how to make safe bonfires and made kites and other toys. The series offers a unique program for young families, with creative workshops that focus on Progressive Jewish content. It is one of the very few programs offered to families in Jerusalem on Shabbat, and has become a focal Shabbat activity for many families looking for a Jewish activity and connection that is both entertaining and informative for children and adults.
Enjoying the program and sunshine at Beit Shmuel
In addition, Beit Shmuel Hotel & Guest House is offering a special deal for the Shavuot Holiday. Stay at our hotel, get the second night for 50% off, and participate in our annual Tikun Leil Shavuot.
(Click anywhere on the banner for more details)
The TaMaR Kenes Olami (World Conference) will take place in Jerusalem from June 2-7, 2014. We encourage young adults to come to the seminar, participate in the workshops, acquire educational and leadership skills, get to know Israel from various perspectives and take home the skills and lessons that they can pass on to their peers in their home communities.
TaMaR gatherings showcase the global diversity of our members
TaMaR Olami is a WUPJ framework for Progressive Jewish young adults, a natural continuation for graduates of WUPJ’s youth and teen movement Netzer Olami as well as other young adults from the Reform Movement worldwide. If you are a young adult in the Progressive world, we would like to invite you to join our activities and participate in the TaMaR conference in June. Please visit our Facebook page or send us an email to find out more on how you can participate. As Israel marks 66 years of independence with a tribute to women, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper has compiled a list of 66 Israeli women everyone should know. The common denominator is that they are all women who break barriers, defy stereotypes and wield influence to achieve their goals. One of these 66 women is attorney Nicole Maor, Director of IRAC’s Legal Aid Center for Olim for the past 22 years. She spends the bulk of her time representing new immigrants whose Jewish credentials or whose conversions have not been recognized by the Ministry of Interior for citizenship purposes. Primarily active behind the scenes, she is nonetheless a familiar face in the Knesset, where in recent years she has lobbied incessantly for Israel to welcome, rather than turn away, those who have chosen to make the Jewish state their home.
The following position is available in WUPJ congregations around the world:
Questions regarding employment opportunities with WUPJ congregations or sabbatical opportunities serving WUPJ congregations can be addressed to Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President, International Development.
June 27-29, 2014 – Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ) UK, biennial conference – “Chagigah”