Issue #490

Issue #490 – 12 June 2014 / 15 Sivan 5774

Special: World Union Congratulates New President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin

In This Issue

Finding Angels, Hope and Sparks of Light in Poland,
By Rabbi Steve Burnstein

Wish you were here! TaMar Olami Convenes Successful Annual Conference

Celebrating Jerusalem Day in Minsk

News in Brief:

* Couldn't Make the World Cup in 2014? Get Connected with Reformed Rio in 2015!
* Connecting Kids: FSU Summer Camps Prepare for Busy Season
* Ich bin ein Berliner: Union for Progressive Judaism in Germany Gets Ready for Annual Conference
* Sussex University Boycott Against Israel, Overturned: Reform's Role


Live (almost) from Israel:

* Shavuot in Jerusalem: a Night of Torah, Tours and Secrets
* Shabbat's Children: Beit Shmuel Teaches Kids Everything there is to know about Summer!


Upcoming Events

Special: World Union Congratulates New President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin

Israel's newly elected President Reuven Rivlin visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on June 10, 2014. (Photo by AFP)

On June 10, The Knesset elected Reuven “Rubi” Rivlin as Israel’s next president. He’ll succeed Shimon Peres, whose term ends in July. Progressive Jewish communities around the world join in congratulating President-elect Rivlin.

“The WUPJ representing 1.8 million affiliated Jews around the world send their greetings and best wishes to the new President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin for a successful term in office. We pray for a president who will speak for all Israelis and for all Jews around the diaspora.

The role of president of Israel, while largely ceremonial, is seen by many as a powerful and rational voice in a region clouded by dissent and belligerent factions. We hope that President Rivlin will continue the role set by Shimon Peres in bringing peoples of all varying backgrounds together in peace and harmony.”

Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President-Elect, WUPJ
Michael Grabiner, Chairman, WUPJ
Shai Pinto, Vice President Operations, COO, WUPJ
Dr. Philip Bliss, WUPJ Advocacy Committee Chair

Back to In This Issue

Finding Angels, Hope and Sparks of Light in Poland

By Rabbi Steve Burnstein, Director Anita Saltz International Education Center

Over the course of a week in Poland I had the honor of traveling with an intelligent and engaged group from the Australian Union for Progressive Judaism. We wept at Auschwitz, Birkenau, Belzec and Majdanek. We struggled to comprehend the inhumanity of the treatment of Jews and others as we visited the Umschlgplatz, Mila 18, as well as the Krakow and Warsaw Ghettos. We were shocked at the desecration of graves in the Jewish cemeteries of Lublin, Krakow and Warsaw.

Warsaw Pact: Rabbi Burnstein and the Mission to Poland.

On Friday night, the local WUPJ Congregation Bet Warszawa arranged a wonderful reception for us with several other community members. We celebrated Kabbalat Shabbat with them at Cafe Młynek.

On Shabbat morning, we held a service at the historical Temple Synagogue in Kazimierz’s Jewish Quarter.

By time we reached the end of the silent prayer of the Amida, we were delighted to have been joined by hundreds of Jewish people from Israel and around the world.

253 Years Old and Counting: at the Historic Lancut Synagogue, Built in 1761.

Next, we arrived at the magnificent Lancut Synagogue, recognized as an official site of Jewish Heritage.

It was here that we met Miroslaw Kedzior, the Angel of Lancut. Miroslaw is the caretaker of the synagogue. He works meticulously to restore, preserve and protect it. Mirislaw is even known to sleep at the synagogue when there are major local soccer games so as to keep young people from vandalizing the sacred building. A self-taught Hebrew speaker, Miroslaw is not Jewish.

When we asked him why he does what he does he quoted a passage from Pirkei Avot: "In a place where there are no worthy people, strive to be worthy." Miroslaw went on to explain how he interpreted this quote: “In a place where there are no Jews left, I must preserve the holy site for them.”

Never Again: at the Majdanek Memorial Site that Contains Ashes of Holocaust Victims.

On Yom HaShoa, we conducted a somber ceremony, commemorating the day next to the gas chamber-crematorium complex that surrounds a memorial mausoleum filled with several tons of human ash.

Next Stop, Equality: IRAC Freedom Riders (picture courtesy of Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images).

Our group then traveled to Israel. Along with the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), we participated in a Freedom Ride, prayed with the Women of the Wall and met with the staff of IRAC's Legal Aid Center for Olim. We also met young people involved in the Reform Movement’s Mechina (army preparatory program).

Next, we toured Jaffa with Moslem and Jewish guides from the Reform Movement’s Daniel Center and met with participants of the Netzer Shnat program.

We were blessed to meet with sparks of light in Israel.

The entire program was professionally organized by group leader Sandy Hollis, in cooperation with the Saltz Center of the WUPJ. The Australia Union for Progressive Judaism, the Australian Reform Zionist Association, Emmanuel Synagogue and Temple Beth Israel generously sponsored the activities.

Back to In This Issue

Wish you were here! TaMar Olami Convenes Successful Annual Conference

"We encourage everyone who appreciates our unceasing efforts to strengthen and widen TaMaR and its role in our young adults' lives to invest in these future community leaders today…"
-Executive Director of Netzer Olami and TaMar Maoz Haviv

Miles of Smiles: TaMaR Olami Conference Delegates Explore Israel.

From June 5 to June 10, TaMar Olami gathered in Israel for its 16th worldwide meeting of young adults from some 12 countries.

TaMaR Olami is a framework for Progressive Jewish young adults to connect with one another. The annual conference brings these young men and women together to discuss important issues in the Progressive world, learn about ways they can be active in the Movement, and how to enhance TaMaR as a viable organization.

Back to Israel: Conference Participant Scopes Out Old City from On High (File picture).

TaMaR Olami is comprised of graduates of the Netzer Olami Youth Movement as well as other members of communities around the world who are interested in continuing their educational and spiritual journey in the Progressive world.

This year's conference included 30 sessions for delegates from such countries as Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Spain, Britain, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, France, Panama, Costa Rica, Brazil, Australia, South Africa and Israel.

The conference featured educational activities aimed at developing leadership skills that TaMaR's best and brightest took back to their home countries and local communities.

The theme of this year's meeting was 'Art as a Window to Israeli Society.'

Facing the Future, Together: Conference Delegates Smiling Before Feasting!

TaMaR is both an acronym for the Hebrew words Tnuat Magshimim Reformit (Movement of Reform Achievers), and the Hebrew word Tamar (date).

Special thanks to Executive Director of Netzer Olami and TaMar Maoz Haviv, Spanish and Portuguese Desk Coordinator Anabella Esperanza and Education Coordinator Miri Nachmias for their tireless efforts and dedication.

Back to In This Issue

Celebrating Jerusalem Day in Minsk

Praying for Jerusalem: Beit Simcha Congregants at Special Jerusalem Day Service.

The Beit Simcha Center in Minsk was the first Jewish religious center in Belarus to celebrate Jerusalem Day, an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem in the aftermath of the June 1967 Six-Day War.

According to Rabbi Grisha Abramovich, the World Union for Progressive Judaism's rabbi for Belarus and spiritual leader of Minsk's Congregation Simcha: "While Jerusalem is several thousands of years old, we here know very little about its 'birthday'".

This year's celebration is in fact the second time that the Beit Simcha Center has commemorated Jerusalem day, having first done so in 2013. Rabbi Abramovich noted that this year, "110 community members from Simcha, Sheket, Tamar, along with several diplomats from Israel, Belgium, Austria and Kazakhstan joined us in wishing the city of Jerusalem peace and prosperity."

Making Music in Minsk: Rabbi Grisha Abramovich (left) Conducts Jerusalem Day Service.

Secretary of the Embassy of Israel Anna Keinan noted that "Jerusalem is important to each Jew. At the end of the chuppah ceremony, we break a glass in memory of the destruction that befell the city."

The Honorary Consul of the Embassy of Belgium Philippe Vanderbrule, expressed his condolences to the victims of the recent terrorist attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels and also wished the Jewish communities in Belgium, Jerusalem and the rest of the world prosperity.

Rabbi Abramovich conducted the Jerusalem Day service with the assistance of several leaders of the Netzer movement as well as Rabbi-in-Residence at Be'chol LashonRuth Abusch-Magder from the United States.

One Jerusalem, Honored: A Most Distinguished Audience Celebrates Israel's Capital.

The service's guest of honor was the Archpriest and head of the department of education and catechesis of the Minsk diocese Alexander Shimbalev, who spoke about the Russian Compound in Jerusalem.

As the congregants lifted their glasses in unison to toast the service that was, Executive Director Michael Kemerov noted that the champagne that was about to be imbibed was the same golden color as the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Back to In This Issue

News in Brief

Couldn't Make the World Cup in 2014? Get Connected with Reformed Rio in 2015!

While thousands of Jewish soccer fans from many nations including Israel are expected to travel to Brazil to view the World Cup 2014 live, 2015 is actually the year that 'Rio' is marked on the calendars of almost two million people affiliated with the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Connections 2015, being held May 13-16, will spotlight the rapidly growing Reform presence in Latin America as a key component in the future growth of the Movement.

Within Latin America, Rio's ARI congregation is the beating heart of a small but thriving Progressive community. In 2015, ARI's members will inspire the Reform Jewish world with their good works, timely teachings and unforgettable hospitality.

So while the World Cup will field 32 of the best clubs in the world, Connections 2015 will be represented by its own A-team: leading Progressive congregants from almost 50 communities around the globe.

Connections 2015: find your Jewish rhythm in Reformed Rio.

Curious? Contact Berta Zylberstaijn for more information

Connecting Kids: FSU Summer Camps Prepare for Busy Season

Learning the Ropes: FSU Summer Camps Educate Young People about Israel and Judaism.

Building on the wildly successful 2013 FSU Summer Camps program, FSU Netzer and TaMaR have organized a 2014 camp season that will be full of laughter, learning and connecting.

However, much has changed over the last 12 months. The current political climate and the concern of parents resulted in moving the summer program from the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine to a facility in Belarus.

Furthermore, in response to the deteriorating economic situation in Ukraine, registration rates have been reduced by over50 percent.

Night Moves: Campers Worshipping to their own Beat.

Despite the financial strain, the FSU Summer Camps program has vowed to make it possible for any young person to attend and participate in a summer camp, regardless of financial circumstances or potential security issues.

With a myriad of obstacles to overcome, great efforts have been made to bring together the Jewish children and youth from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. This time, in an ultra-modern facility near Minsk.

To Israel, with Love: FSU Summer Campers Revel in Some Stunning Scenery.

This year's theme will be nothing less than the Bible. Specifically, 2014 will focus on the period from Abraham to the destruction of the Second Temple. Subsequently, 2015 will focus on the 2,000-year Jewish Diaspora.

To help ensure that more Jewish children are able to enjoy a summer camp experience in the FSU, you can MAKE A DONATION , or call our office in NY (212-452-6534).

Click here to read about our past successes.

Sussex University Boycott Against Israel, Overturned: Reform's Role
(Excerpt taken from the Jerusalem Post)

Boycott Be Gone: BDS Movement Fails Against Proactive Progressive Jews.

On May 30, students at the University of Sussex in England voted not to boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions.

Sussex was the first university to have a boycott of Israeli goods in place, as it still does. However, the vote against this motion marks a shift in the way campaigns against BDS motions are conducted, highlighted by the role of Progressive Jews.

The campaign focused around progressive ideas and attitudes to the Arab-Israeli conflict that are not typical from an anti- BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign. It focused on highlighting those people working toward a two/multistate solution that both sides agree with.

Read the complete Jerusalem Post article now.

Ich bin ein Berliner: Union for Progressive Judaism in Germany Gets Ready for Annual Conference

From July 24 to July 27, the
20th Annual Meeting of Progressive Jews in Germany will take place at the Union for Progressive Judaism in Germany. The past year's achievements, important new relationships that the congregation has formed as well as a lively series of workshops and lectures will be presented in Berlin/Spandau.

Since 1995, Progressive Jews have gathered every year at the Union for Progressive Judaism in Germany to pray, celebrate, share experiences and clarify positions. The conference is a highly regarded showcase for the diversity of Jewish life in German-speaking countries.

If you happen to be in the area, please note that the conference will be conducted in German, Russian and English.

Back to In This Issue


All of us connected with the World Union for Progressive Judaism in 45 countries and 1200 communities around the world, join in joyful songs of praise for:

Honored: Rabbi Frederick Howard Morgan.

Rabbi Frederick Howard Morgan, who was recognized for his services to the community in the Queen's Birthday honors announced on June 9. Senior Rabbi at Melbourne's Temple Beth Israel (TBI), Morgan was named as a Member in the general division of the Order of Australia, known as an AM, for his significant contributions to "the Hebrew congregation of Victoria, particularly through the development of spiritual and educational programs, and to a range of interfaith organizations."

Tenured: Rabbi Walter Homolka Taking the Oath Administered by Sabine Kunst.

Rabbi Walter Homolka, who was sworn in on May 19 by German state Minister of Higher Education, Culture and Research, Sabine Kunst, as tenured Professor of Modern Jewish Thought, a lifetime appointment as a public servant.

Rabbi Homolka, an executive board member of WUPJ, was the first appointment at the new School of Jewish Theology of the University of Potsdam. For Rabbi Homolka, who is also the rector of the Abraham Geiger College, the installation as tenured professor coincided with his 50th birthday on May 21.

Blessed: the WUPJ's Newest Grandparents are Michal and Yaron Shavit.

Yaron and Michal Shavit, who became grandparents for the first time. Yaron is currently serving on the WUPJ Management Committee and was the most recent Chair of the Israeli Reform Movement. The proud parents, Sarah and Yochai, were blessed with the safe arrival of a beautiful baby girl, the first in perhaps a long line of new Reform leaders in Israel!

May only Naches and happiness come their way.

Back to In This Issue

Live (almost) from Israel

Shavuot in Jerusalem: a Night of Torah, Tours and Secrets

Singing Torah at Beit Shmuel: Israeli Singer Alma Zohar (photo courtesy of Shani Sagi).

During Shavuot, Mercaz Shimshon/Beit Shmuel, Jerusalem, the global headquarters of the World Union, organized its own unique take on Tikkun Leil Shavuot (all-night Torah studies). In cooperation with the neighboring Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, 'Beit Shmuel' hosted a fascinating series of workshops, lectures and tours. A highlight in a day full of highlights was the 'Night Journey: from Strangeness to Fellowship.'BINA Center'sRabbi Mira Regev took her audience on an unforgettable tour through some of the Torah's surprising secrets. Interpreting the Torah with love, Rabbi Regev's presentation was accompanied by the soul stirring vocal stylings of critically acclaimed Israeli musician and singer Alma Zohar.

Shabbat's Children: Beit Shmuel Teaches Kids Everything there is to Know about Summer!

Welcoming Summer: 'Children Create Shabbat' Gets Kids Ready for the Sunny Season.

With summer upon us, Beit Shmuel recently hosted another 'Children Create Shabbat' workshop that enabled local boys and girls to learn about what makes this season different from the rest.

First, participants were taught about the flowers, fruit and plants that grow in the summertime.
Then, after spending some time in the great outdoors, Shabbat's children explored their artistic side, creating little summer-themed masterpieces out of eco-friendly materials.

The series offers entertaining and educational activities that focus on Progressive Jewish content. 'Children Create Shabbat' is one of the very few programs offered in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, and has become a must-attend event for many local families.

Back to In This Issue


The leadership and staff of the World Union offer their sincerest condolences to the family of Graham Sawyer, brother of Jocelyn Robuck who is the Project Coordinator at the Union for Progressive Judaism, and brother-in-law of Rabbi Gary Robuck of Australia's North Shore Temple Emanuel.

May his memory be for a blessing.

Back to In This Issue

Upcoming Events

June 27-29, 2014 – Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ) UK, biennial conference – “Chagigah”, UK

July 24–August 3, 2014The Anita Saltz Education Center Bergman Seminar for Jewish Educators, Jerusalem, Israel

November 20–23, 2014Union for Progressive Judaism in Australia, Asia and New Zealand (UPJ) Biennial - "You and I Will Change the World", Adelaide, Australia

January 2015 -Netzer Veida Olamit, Israel

January 8-15, 2015 - The Roswell Seminar for Social Justice, Israel

February 5-15, 2015 - Beutel Seminar, Israel

May 13-16, 2015
Connections 2015, World Union for Progressive Judaism(WUPJ) 37th Biennial Conference, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

July 2-12, 2015 - Bergman Seminar for Jewish Educators, Israel

November 4–9, 2015
Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) 73rd Biennial Conference, Orlando, Florida

Back to In This Issue

Recent Issues