Issue #499

Issue #499 – 23 October 2014 / 29 Tishrei 5775


WUPJ Family Gathers for High Holidays

Latin America: Rio de Janeiro Embraces Simcha, Soul and Solidarity during Sukkot and Simchat Torah

Get a Glimpse of our European Communities

Days of Awe in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine

Pop in on Some of our Australasian Celebrations 

Mumbai Magic: Visit One Especially Festive Indian Jewish Community 

Live from Israel: Reform Kehilot Pray and Party Hard
Legal Notes: Polish Court Upholds Religious Freedom for Progressive Jews

News Bits:

The WUPJ Family Mourns…
In Memoriam: Belkis Escribano Klau Z"L
With Heavy Hearts: WUPJ President's Moving Eulogy for Donald Day

Dear Reader

Upcoming Events

WUPJ Family Gathers for High Holidays

The World Union for Progressive Judaism's (WUPJ) family of communities gathered to pray, hear the shofar, shake the lulav and of course celebrate the beginning of 5775. Whether in Rome, Shanghai, Moscow, Mumbai, Munich, across Israel, and around the entire United States, each WUPJ-affiliated kehila observed the High Holidays in its own inimitable way.

Below, are just a few highlights of the holiday season that was:

Latin America: Rio de Janeiro Embraces Simcha, Soul and Solidarity during Sukkot and Simchat Torah

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI) congregation unveiled its sukkah, decorated by a lively group led by Deborah Dimant, from the community's Department of Education.

The children drew, colored and hung fruits and flowers inside the sukkah while munching on delicious snacks.

Kids Connecting to Sukkot: Learning about the four species inside a very special sukkah

At the end of the activity, Rabbi Sergio Margulies did the berachot of the four species and everyone present had the opportunity to hold them and learn about their significance in Jewish tradition.

On October 9, participants of the ARI's morning minyan enjoyed a Kiddush in the Sukkah.

On October 10, children and young people participated in the activities organized by the ARI’s Department of Education and celebrated the Kabbalat Shabbat in the grand sukkah!

Simchat Torah simultaneously marks the end and the resumption of the reading of the Torah.  As in life, ends and new beginnings seem to occur at the same time. Such periods are likewise accompanied by both moments of joy and solemnity.  

'Rockin' Reform Rio: Simchat Torah at the ARI'

At ARI, Simchat Torah was celebrated with much joy, with representatives of all ages dancing and carrying around the Torah scrolls. After the activity, snacks and falafels were passed out to everyone! On the morning of October 17, during the morning service, ARI congregants honored two dedicated volunteers who have given much to the community, as chatan torah and chatan bereshit.

Now that the High Holiday season is behind them, the members of ARI are looking forward to CONNECTIONS 2015! Visit the new CONNECTIONS 2015 website today for program and registration information.

Get a Glimpse of our European Communities

Salute! Italian Progressive Jewish Communities Celebrate Joyous High Holiday Services

Progressive Judaism is alive and well in Italy - demonstrated by the successful High Holiday services conducted in Milan, Florence and Rome. Congregation Beit Shalom in Milan celebrated the New Year, once again, with services led by visiting Rabbi Leigh Lerner, retired CCAR rabbi from Toronto, Canada.

Guiding Hand: Rabbi Joel Oseran assists the community's youngest members.

Lev Chadash, also in Milan, enjoyed the services conducted by Yitzchak Dees, the congregation's in-house Jewish educator, as well as other service leaders.

Congregation Shir Chadash in Florence welcomed Cantor Louise Treitman from the United States to lead High Holiday services and conduct special activities with the children over the holidays.

The newest Progressive community in Italy, Congregation Beth Hillel in Rome, once again invited Rabbi Joel Oseran, WUPJ Vice President for International Development, to conduct High Holiday services and present a community lecture on the relationship of Reform and Orthodox Judaism.

Mix, Mingle, Worship, Pray: Rome's Congregation Beth Hillel during the holiday season.

During the interim days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Rabbi Oseran traveled to meet with congregational leaders in Florence and Milan and update the communities regarding developments in Rome and future plans for Progressive Judaism in Italy.

The growth of Congregation Beth Hillel in Rome over this past year has been quite substantial indeed. Over 120 people attended the holiday services including a large number of foreign university students spending part of their academic year in Rome.

View more pictures of the High Holy days at Beth Hillel here.*
*password: 14051948

Beit Simcha: Historic Pinkas Synagogue Most Fitting Place for Yom Kippur Services

Rabbi Ellen Dreyfus visited Beit Simcha in Prague and led the High Holiday services with the assistance of Beit Simcha Cantor Ivan Kohout. The Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services were held in the historic 16th century Pinkas Synagogue that is today part of the Jewish Museum and serves as a memorial to Czech Holocaust victims, with 78,000 names inscribed on its walls.

Wall of Tears: Nearly 80,000 names of Holocaust victims are inscribed on this monument.

The Pinkas Synagogue was a most fitting place to hold our Yom Kippur service, which included the reciting of the names of relatives who perished in the Holocaust during the Yizkor. Yom Kippur at Beit Simcha included moments of reflection and prayer, and ended with a communal break-the-fast meal.

Rabbi Ellen Dreyfus and Beit Simcha congregant during High Holiday service.

Over 90 people attended the services, resulting in a full synagogue that included distinguished guests such as newly appointed US Ambassador to the Czech Republic Andrew Shapiro and violin/cellist Jonas Krejci, who played during Kol Nidre.

Israeli Father-Daughter Team Leads High Holiday Services at Munich's Beth Shalom

Munich's Beth Shalom Liberal Jewish community welcomed a variety of participants to its High Holiday services. Among the distinguished guests, General Consul of Israel in Bavaria Dr. Dan Shaham and his daughter Shai prayed and worshipped with local community members.

General Consul of Israel Dr. Dan Shaham during services at Munich's
Beth Shalom.

During the Shacharit service for Rosh Hashanah, Dr. Shaham chanted the Haftarah about Hannah and her plea for help. Shai lead the congregation praying for the State of Israel.

High Holiday Services were led by Rabbi Tom Kucera and new Cantor Nikola David, with the Beth Shalom Choir adding its collection of powerful voices to the festive and well-attended services.

Luck of the (Progressive) Irish: WUPJ Brings Holiday Traveler Together with Dublin Community

Did you know that there is an active, thriving Progressive Jewish community in Dublin, Ireland? During the High Holidays, the Dublin Jewish Progressive Congregation (DJPC) opened its doors to visitors from far and wide including a young woman who was spending her first holiday season away from her family in New York.

Chatima Tova from the Emerald Isle: DJPC, Progressive community.

Laura Copel wanted to make sure that her daughter Sarah would be spending her holiday season in the warm embrace of a religious community praying and celebrating together.

Once Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, visiting rabbi to the DJPC, was notified by the WUPJ's Vice President of Philanthropy, Rabbi Gary M. Bretton-Granatoor, as to Sarah's travel itinerary, the wheels for a classic WUPJ intervention were set in motion.

Rabbi Goldstein made sure that High Holiday tickets were set aside for Sarah at the DJPC. As a result, Sarah was thrilled to have been able to spend Erev Rosh Hashanah at the DJPC and is already planning a return visit, according to mother Laura.

It turns out that even in faraway Dublin, Sarah met several young women from her native New York, along with the warm and welcoming young people from the local community.

Scheme of a Jeneration: Over 200 Unaffiliated Adults Attend Holiday Services, Gratis

The Movement for Reform Judaism's (MRJ) High Holy Day ticket scheme gave over 200 young adults who were not members of synagogues the chance to attend High Holy Day services in Reform synagogues, free of charge.

The MRJ's initiative for students and young adult, Jeneration recognizes that 18-27 year olds should be given the opportunity to build upon their Jewish identity, even if they do not belong to a synagogue. The cooperation between Reform synagogues and Jeneration enables young adults to engage with Judaism during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Smiling Schemers: Jeneration has helped connect over 2,000 young adults with Reform synagogues.

Students in particular benefited from the scheme, as it gave them the chance to observe the festivals in a welcoming Reform environment away from home.  Student Deborah Hasen-Klein, who attended West London Synagogue, said, “The scheme was a life saver. It was the perfect opportunity for me to feel like I was still involved with a Jewish community”.

Jeneration is proud to be in partnership with so many Reform synagogues and thanks them for welcoming many young adults into their communities.

Over the past decade, more than two thousand people have benefited from this scheme.

Days of Awe in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine
Across the countries that once comprised the Soviet Union, the High Holidays were observed and celebrated by thriving Reform congregations. From Odessa to Moscow, St. Petersburg to Kiev, Lutsk to Poltava, each community infused the Days of Awe with its own local flavor. Jewish men and women living in the FSU gathered strength by worshipping together, and welcoming visitors from around the world.

Russia: Celebrating Rosh Hashanah in Moscow, Resting the Soul in St. Petersburg

The Le Dor va Dor congregation in Moscow held Yom Kippur services and Rosh Hashanah celebrations. A total of 150 people took part in both events.

Chag Sameach from Moscow: Celebrating Sukkoth.

Meanwhile in St. Petersburg, Rabbi Helena Rubinstein reminded congregants that 5775 is a year of Shmita. In accordance with the law of the Torah, it is a year of rest for the land in Israel. On the eve of the holiday, Rabbi Rubinstein wished all participants a "rest for the soul", and a year of peace and compassion.

Rabbi Helena Rubinstein leading Rosh Hashanah services in St. Petersburg.

In total, over 400 people took part in the High Holiday celebrations at St. Petersburg's Shaarei Shalom.

Belarus: 1,500 People Cannot Be Wrong!

In a year that included many milestones for the communities in Belarus, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services in Minsk services were held for the first time for children. Many children who were born after the opening ceremony of the Beit Simcha Center in 2011 had the opportunity to take part in this year's Yom Kippur service.

Party Time: Minsk Jewish kindergarten celebrates Rosh Hashanah. 

During Sukkot, an evening of Jewish humor was held at the Beit Simcha Center, symbolizing the joy being felt by community members.

Also, festivities took place in seven additional Belarus communities, with large numbers of people attending.

In total, over 1500 people took part in High Holiday celebrations in Belarus.

Ukraine: Worshipping where the Baal Shem Tov Prayed

After services and festive celebrations of Rosh Hashanah at Kiev's Hatikvah Center, members travelled over 900 kilometres (650 miles) through Ukraine's four provinces for a joint Shabbaton with members of the Progressive congregations of Khmelnitsky and Kamenets-Podilsky, cities that were largely populated by Jews 80 years ago.

Chag Sameach from Kiev: Rosh Hashanah at the Hatikvah Center.

Nearly 250 people took part in the religious services, workshops and lectures. Led by Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny, participants visited former places of Jewish residences, prayed at Jewish graves, and sang in the old synagogues where the founder of Hasidism, Rabbi Baal Shem Tov, once prayed.

On the March: Kiev's Hatikvah Center members hit the road during the High Holidays!

Lviv, Cherkassy, Kirovograd, Khmelnitsky, Korsun’-Shevchenkovsky, and other Progressive congregations across Ukraine held festive celebrations during the month of Tishrei, which were attended by over 1500 people.

Every congregation prayed for peace in Ukraine and Israel, and were convinced that their prayers were heard.

Read the complete summary of High Holiday events across the FSU here.

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Pop in on Some of our Australasian Celebrations 
The growing number of Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ)-affiliated congregations across Australia, New Zealand and Asia means that more than ever before members of the Jewish communities in the region are able to participate in egalitarian and inclusive Prayers and celebrations. The New Year of 5775 got off to a great start with Sukkot and Simchat Torah celebrations across the region, as well as pluralistic events in Japan, China, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia. 

The UPJ invites members of WUPJ-affiliated congregations to come and visit during the coming year, be it for a festival or to share a Shabbat meal with like-minded people.  

Simchat Torah in Melbourne, the Movie

Melbourne, Australia's Temple Beth Israel offered a wide range of activities over the holiday season.
While many different family-oriented activities were arranged for Sukkot, the Sukkah Sleepout, geared for 11-13 year olds who did everything BUT sleep, was simply unforgettable!

Welcome to our Booth! Celebrating Sukkot 5775 at Melbourne's TBI.

TBI capped off the holiday season with a slew of Simchat Torah activities.           
Check out the highlights here.

Eastern Greetings: Kehilat Shanghai's 5775 High Holidays Celebrations

This year, Kehilat Shanghai was very fortunate to have Rabbi Jonathan A. Stein, who traveled from the United States together with his wife Susan, lead the High Holiday services.

Shanghai Delight: Local Progressive community rehearses for the big bima!

The High Holiday celebrations at Kehilat Shanghai brought together Jewish people from different ages, countries, cultures and traditions, creating a vibrant Reform Jewish community in the very Far East.

Kehilat Shanghai would like to thank everyone who joined the community in welcoming the New Year and supporting the good works of local members.

Kehilat Shanghai is looking forward to seeing everyone again very soon!

Mumbai Magic: Visit One Especially Festive Indian Jewish Community

Spice, Light and Color at the Jewish Religious Union Mumbai

By Rabbi Judith Edelman-Green, who conducted the services for the JRU (Jewish Religious Union).

Joy! Joy! Joy! Spicey scents from the Chai masala in our little kitchen at the JDC.  Women wearing colorful saris, greens, gold, turquoise, pinks, orange - while wearing their kipot as well.  The Bene Israel community, with its 2400-year-old tradition of chanting, has embraced egalitarian Judaism with gusto.

The melodies of Ata Herata along with the local Bene Israel tunes ensure that we are in tune with the history of the community.

Mumbai's Children: Rabbi Edelman-Green demonstrates the pinyata she had made in Israel.

This year, my friends Daniel Miller and Rickie Burman joined us in Mumbai for a series of study sessions. Anthropologists who are experts in Judaism as well as being very knowledgeable about India, Daniel and Rickie traveled to the Konkan coast to meet Bene Israel Jews.

There, they found a young man who is an oil presser and who uses the oil to light the Eternal Lamp.  The group also found colorful and beautiful synagogues, with handprints on the wall. They also discovered a special oil lamp for Havdalah.

Another highlight of the trip was visiting the very stone where Eliyahu HaNavi, a venerated prophet, is believed to have ascended to heaven in his chariot, alive.  Danny and Rickie also taught during the Yom Kippur study session and added a great deal to our services by their warm presence.

The community itself could not have been warmer or more accepting.  Everyone took an active part in the services. Our oldest member is Abie Moses, 91, who participated in the opening of the Ark. Our youngest member is still in the womb and was called up to the Torah to hear the Shofar with the other children.

Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends – all took turns reading at the service. In fact, we have developed a custom whereby we leave the Ark open on Yom Kippur for much of the service and people may take time and space for personal prayer and connection.

High Holidays, Mumbai Style: Progressive Jewish community ushers in 5775.

Elijah Jacobs and Norma Suvarna helped to make sure that everything ran smoothly. Kimberly Duenes, a volunteer serving her second year in Mumbai, helped immensely. Kimberly initiated a Challah baking project, whereby adults with special needs bake challah and sell it to the community. They currently receive about 50 orders per week and the Challah that we ate after services was provided by this wonderful project. Nissim Pringle showed us films about the JDC's work with the elderly, those who need support for food, meals on wheels, the young, education.

We emphasized the value of DOING and being an active partner with God in Repairing the World.

Paying it forward, one generation to the next: Residents of Bayiti in Panvel. Elijah Jacobs, community leader, is on the right in the doorway.

Live from Israel: Reform Kehilot Pray and Party Hard

Dance the Night Away: Celebrating Hakafot Shniyot with Israel's Reform Communities

The Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) is proud to share that this year, High Holiday services and celebrations took place in no less than 60 locations all over the country. Following the completion of Yom Kippur services, Reform communities all over Israel spent the week of Sukkot learning and singing together in their sukkot.

Shaking it: Hakafot Celebrations at Kibbutz Mefalsim, located in southern Israel.

The High Holiday season ended with the celebration of second Hakafot – an especially festive event – all over the country. Besides the impressive second Hakafot that took place at veteran communities, the IMPJ was also proud to celebrate the completion of the Book of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Genesis in some newer Reform communities.

Following a turbulent summer for all Israelis, but especially those residing in southern cities and towns, the IMPJ decided to hold a Hakafot celebration for residents of Kibbutz Mefalsim.

At a small courtyard in the kibbutz, which numbers around 1,000 residents, joy and laughter filled the air as of over 100 children, regional community members, IMPJ lay leadership and staff, members of Noar Telem and soldiers serving in the region celebrated to the sounds of the "Ensemble Nigunim” band, which sang and played music throughout the evening.

Learn about some of the other holiday celebrations that took place in towns and cities across Israel here.

Jerusalem Classic: Israel's First Reform Congregation Serenaded by Ten-Person Choir

Kehilat Har-El, the founding congregation of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, celebrated 56 years of Reform services in Jerusalem for the High Holidays, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah. The clergy team of Rabbi Ada Zavidov and Cantor Evan Cohen led Har-El.

During Sukkot, in the spirit of interfaith cooperation and to emphasize the universal aspects of the holiday, Har-El welcomed to its sukkah some dear friends from the
Baptist Church, led by Pastor Chuck Kopp.

For Simchat Torah, members and guests from all over the world, ages four to ninety-two, danced from morning to evening in joyous celebration.

Click here to watch Elohai Netzor during a choir rehearsal.

View this clip of the conclusion of Havdalah, at the end of the N'ilah.

Milestone Moment: Kehilat YOZMA's New School Building Opens in Time for Holidays

5775 will forever be remembered at Kehilat YOZMA, the Reform community in Modi'in, as the year that the congregation's 350-student elementary school opened in a brand new, permanent building.

The timing of this milestone enabled Kehilat YOZMA to transform the school into a beautiful prayer space and hold this year's Yom Kippur and Simchat Torah services in the gorgeous atrium at the heart of the school, with comfortable seating for 350 participants.

Awesome: Kehilat YOZMA's decade-old communal dream is hereby fulfilled.

As the gates of heaven closed during the final Neilah service, it was standing room only as neighborhood residents joined the YOZMA community to hear the shofar being blown.

On Simchat Torah, hundreds of visitors experienced YOZMA's unique tradition of unrolling the Sefer Torah in its entirety, and then joined community members in dancing with the Torah scrolls to the accompaniment of klezmer musicians.

Scroll Call: The entire Sefer Torah is unrolled at Kehilat YOZMA.

What a joy to be able to include all those who want to worship with Kehilat YOZMA!

On behalf of Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon, Rabbi Nir Barkin, Director Eyal Ronder and the entire community, the kehila cordially invites members of the WUPJ family to visit YOZMA on their next visit to Israel.

'We welcome the opportunity to host you!'

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Legal Notes: Polish Court Upholds Religious Freedom for Progressive Jews

Leslie Bergman, European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) President, and Miriam Kramer, EUPJ Chairman, report on the latest legal developments in the recognition of the Movement in Poland.

On October 14, the Supreme Administrative Court handed down a decision in favor of Beit Polska, our national affiliate in Poland, which supports its continuing recognition by the Polish State as a distinctive and legitimate branch of Judaism. 

The nominally orthodox Union of Polish Jewish Communities (UPJC) has sought by legal action, which they started about five years ago, to preserve its hegemony in matters of State recognition.  They argued that Progressive Judaism in Poland need not be recognized separately and that it (UPJC) represented all streams of Judaism in the country.  This has important consequences including those related to unclaimed pre-War restituted  property as claims for compensation have only flowed through UPJC.

The Battle for Recognition Continues: Members of Beit Polska at Court in Poland.

This court ruling is not the end of our struggle for pluralistic recognition in Poland but the view of our legal counsel is that the lower court to which this matter has been referred by the higher court is unlikely to reject the legal basis of the higher court ruling.

This development in Poland is important for our broader European movement because in many, but not all, European countries the State is involved in matters of recognition and support of various religions. This has prejudiced the development of Progressive Judaism financially and in other aspects in these countries.

The role of EUPJ and WUPJ in these legal proceedings has been important.  We have provided financial support for legal costs as well as documentary evidence of the existence of Progressive Judaism in pre-War Europe.

The ruling in Poland underpins the philosophy of the WUPJ that Judaism is pluralistic and where necessary we have to fight for this principle to be upheld in all the countries in which we operate.

News Bits:

Belarus, Israel Sign Visa Cancellation Agreement: WUPJ's Role

On September 19, Belarus and Israel agreed to cancel each country's visa requirements in relation to the other. The landmark event was held in the Foreign Ministry of Belarus. An Israeli delegation, headed by Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver, arrived in Minsk specifically for this purpose.

High ranking members of the Israeli delegation stressed the crucial role played by the Belarus Jewish community in the visa cancellation process. Attesting to the importance that the local Reform community in this important decision, the Ambassador of Israel in Belarus Yosef Shagal along with First Secretary of the Embassy of Israel in Belarus Anna Keinan will have confirmed that they will be speaking at the upcoming WUPJ Conference in Minsk, taking place October 23-26. 

The WUPJ Effect: Belarus Reform Rabbi Grisha Abramovich and Minister Sofa Landver.

At the signing ceremony, Minister Landver note that when, "…President Lukashenko addressed the National Assembly and appealed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs that the need to sign this document, we did everything. This is a new qualitative approach in our humane relations to what is happening around the world."

After the signing, the document is expected to be ratified. The treaty will go into effect no earlier than the end of 2014.

The IMPJ Unveils New Festival Machzor: Hasimcha Shebalev

After more than three years of work, three drafts and input from numerous members of MARAM, the Israeli council of Progressive Rabbis, a new festival Machzor – Hasimcha Shebalev - for use on Pesach, Shavuot and Succot has been unveiled in Israel.  It was used for the first time this Succot at Jerusalem's Kehilat Kol Haneshama, MARAM’s partner on the project.

New Prayer Book Launching: Jerusalem's Kehilat Kol Haneshama (file picture).

It has been 25 years since the IMPJ last introduced a new prayer book – Kavanat Halev for the High Holidays. Since then, much has changed in both the design and content of prayer books. Thus, the festival Machzor breaks new ground in a number of areas.

HaSimcha Shebalev was edited by Rabbi Oded Mazor and Rabbi Levi Weiman Kelman, who were assisted by a committee of rabbis and laypersons as well as professional linguistic editors and administrative staff.

For Rabbi Mazor, the son of Rabbi Yehoram Mazor, the editor of the IMPJ's daily prayer book, Avodah Shebalev – published more than 30 years ago, this was a particularly meaningful project. “It has been an honor and privilege to work on this important undertaking,” said Rabbi Mazor. “I hope and believe that this Machzor not only completes the set of prayer books for daily and festival prayer, which was started many decades ago, but will also be the start of a new generation of Israeli Reform prayer books reflecting the changes that have occurred, while at the same time strengthening our connection to our liturgical roots.”

The festival Machzor was financed in part by donations in honor of Geoffrey Chinn, who was an active member of the WUPJ and a former Chair of the WUPJ FSU Committee.

Partnership Video: New York Congregation Connects with Haifa's Ohel Avraham

Gateways and Tents is an exciting partnership between New York City's Shaaray Tefila congregation and Haifa's Ohel Avraham-Leo Baeck Education Center. As 5775 kicks off, Gateways and Tents is pleased to share its new partnership video.

The vision of Gateways and Tents is to build strong and deep personal connections between members, students and families, thereby developing stronger Jewish identities, leading to richer Jewish lives.

The programming engages congregants of all ages, from early childhood to adult-oriented activities.  The name for the partnership draws on the names of the two congregations: Shaaray Tefila (Gates of Prayer) and Ohel Avraham (Tent of Abraham).

The organization would like to take this opportunity to express its immense gratitude to the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Agency of Israel for their financial support in producing this video and for the resources that have allowed Gateways and Tents to establish its program.

Gateways and Tents: View this inspirational video now.

How the Union for Reform Judaism's Camp George Prepared Me for the IDF

By Leor Mann

"Going into summer 2013, I knew that it would be my last summer at Camp George, at least for a little while. In May I had taken the steps to make Aliyah (move to Israel) and join the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). What would make a born and raised Canadian decide to leave the comfort of his home, friends and family to “go it alone” in Israel, and the IDF, no less? Well, if you ask my close friends and family the answer is obvious. But let me explain how it came about that a Camp George alum joined the IDF. And how Camp George actually prepared me so well for this journey.

Leor Mann (right) with friends at Camp George.

I was truly fortunate that as I was growing up at camp I was also exposed to great Israeli role models every summer. My family hosted the Israeli mishlachat every summer for more than 10 years. They would stay at my house before and after camp, and as I grew older I made strong friendships with many of the mishlachat members, some of whom I now consider family. The fact that I had the opportunity to connect with them and hear their stories strengthened my decision to make the journey to defend the way of life they so passionately expressed to us…"

Read about Leor's inspiring from Camp George to the IDF here.

See what all the excitement is about: visit Camp George now.

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The WUPJ Family Mourns the Loss Of…

In Memoriam: Belkis Escribano Klau Z"L

The leadership and staff of the World Union offer their sincerest condolences to the family of Belkis Escribano Klau, who died peacefully on October 11 after a valiant battle with cancer. Belkis is survived by her husband, David Klau, and their two sons, Samuel and Jaime.

Belkis, following in the footsteps of David's parents, Jim and Sue Klau, became a leader of Temple Beth Shalom in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Belkis’ memory will be a blessing. Our hearts and prayers go out to Sue and Jim, David, Samuel, Jaime and the whole extended Klau family.

Letters of condolence can be sent to:

Sue and Jim Klau
3611-B Wildflower Drive
Greensboro, NC 27410

David Klau
73 Placid Court
San Juan, PR 00907

With Heavy Hearts: WUPJ President's Moving Eulogy for Donald Day

On October 5, WUPJ President Rabbi Daniel Freelander paid tribute to Donald Day Z''L, former Chairman of World Union for Progressive Judaism and Union of American Hebrew Congregations, who passed away at the age of 90.

Yesterday, Yom Kippur, we sat in these same seats for our Yizkor service of remembrance. One particular text during that service seemed to speak of Don Day, and our obligation to remember him:

“Let us call to mind the great and good, through whom the Eternal has done wonders. They were leaders of our people, helping many with understanding and insight. Wise and eloquent I their teachings, they were just and loving in their deeds.  All these were honored in their generations; they were the glory of their times.” P. 487

The Reform Movement's Indispensable Man

Donald Day, served both as chairman of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now Union for Reform Judaism) (1979-1983) and as President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (1988-1995).  A Reform Jewish leader of extraordinary vision and strength, he served the Movements' board continuously since 1969.

May his memory be for a blessing: Donald Day Z''L.

I am here today representing international leaders of Reform Judaism, to express our deep respect and love for Don.  I am deeply grateful to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Richard Hirsch, Executive Director Emeritus of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, WUPJ Vice President for Philanthropy, for their contributions in creating these words of tribute.

With the passing of Donald Day, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Reform movement have sustained a terrible loss. For more than two decades, Don Day was the preeminent Reform leader of his day. He was a giant in the Reform ranks, providing support and direction to the Union’s Presidents and inspiration and expertise to the Union’s volunteers.  Indeed, he was in every sense “the indispensable man,” who stood at the very heart of Reform organizational life.

Don was a Reform Jew who believed that his movement and its progressive ideals had a responsibility for the moral and spiritual renaissance of the Jewish people.  He cared deeply about the idea of one Jewish people; he was always moved by it vision and summoned by its call. 

Taking Command: Donald Day is inaugurated as Chair of the WUPJ.

A Meteoric Rise: Reaching out to Interfaith Couples  

Originally inspired by Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath to become involved in what was then the Union for American Hebrew Congregations, Don quickly rose in the ranks, helping to create the NorthEast Lakes Council of the UAHC. During the tenure of President Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, he was elected Chairman of the Union’s Board.  He was indispensable to Rabbi Schindler at a time when the Union was expanding its activities and its vision, especially in the launch of the massive outreach initiative aimed at normalizing patrilineal descent, and opening our congregational memberships to interfaith couples.  He shared Rabbi Schindler’s soaring aspirations and helped to translate them into facts, programs, and realities.  An inspiring and forceful speaker in his own right who chaired the Union’s Biennials with elegance and charm, Don was admired for his absolute integrity and ability to see and analyze problems as well as provide solutions.

Serving his Country and Community: Donald Day, US Army Veteran.

The WUPJ Years: A Commitment to the Jews of the Former Soviet Union

Following his tenure as UAHC chair, he accepted the nomination to serve as chair of the WUPJ.

Austin and Nani Beutel, who are present today, remember Don's commitment to and vision when the Soviet Union opened up in 1988 and his strong leadership in a time of great expansion of the World Union's work in the former Soviet Union and in Israel.  Austin was convinced by Don to assume the presidency when Don stepped down, thus creating continuity of strong leadership.

Rabbi Dick Hirsch loved Don like a brother. He recalled the many personal trips that they took together to Russia, as Don was inspired by the renewal of Soviet Jewry.  Don chaired the committee charged with the construction of Mercaz Shimshon (the World Union's headquarters) in Jerusalem, as he firmly believed that North American and World Jewry needed to be rooted in Israel.  As Rabbi Hirsch recalled, "Don knew that if Diaspora Jewry did not feel comfortable in Israel, then Israel couldn't be the spiritual home of all Jews."  He was absolutely committed to building pluralism in the State of Israel.

Behind Every Great Man...Donald Day and His Beloved Wife Edie.

Don represented the World Union on the executive committees of the Conference on Material Claims Against Germany – which represents Holocaust victims, survivors and their families – and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture., and was instrumental in negotiating with the Polish government to restore Polish Jewish cemeteries, and to share the religious treasures of what was once the largest Jewish community in the world with international scholars.

The Legacy of a Man: Securing the Future of the Reform Movement

Don was beloved in the Reform movement because he was seen by all as a wise man, a discerning man, a caring and compassionate man.  We knew him for his brilliance and accomplishments, and even more for his devotion to his family and above all to Edie, whom he cherished and put at the center of his universe.  No matter how weighty the issues we were considering, no matter how urgent the topic, no matter how significant the consequences, we at the Union knew that Don had one unbreakable rule:

Yedishkeit, Personified: Donald Day.

Edie and his family came first, always, no matter what.  To use the terminology of our mystical texts, Edie was the better part of Don’s soul, and his lofty attainments derive from her as much as they do from his own being.

Don's most remarkable talent was his ability to navigate and reconcile differences of opinion  -- he listened carefully to all views, and when he rendered a final decision each person came away feeling that his or her voice was heard and considered, even if the decision did not go in their favor.

Don Day did as much as any person, anywhere, to secure the Reform Jewish future.  It is hard to think of anyone who served the Reform movement for so many years, in so many capacities, with such brilliance and organizational skill, not to mention modesty and selfless devotion.  We loved him, and we will miss him.

He was one of the g'dolei hador - one of the greats of his generation." Don knew how to learn, how to listen, and how to lead.

He was one of the stars that Hanna Senesh, a poetess who like Don, escaped from a Nazi prison, write about in her poem: Yesh Kochavim.

There are stars up above 
so far away we only see their light long,
long after the star itself is gone
And so it is with people that we loved,
Their memories keep shining,
Ever brightly, though their time with us in done
But the stars that light up the darkest night,
These are the lights that guide us
As we live our days,
These are the ways we remember.

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Upcoming Events

October 23-26, 2014 - The WUPJ-FSU Conference, Minsk, Belarus

November 20-23, 2014 - 
 Union 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

March 22-25, 2015
 - Pursue Justice: Seminar for Legal Professionals, Israel

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

May 28-June 7, 2015
 - The Israel Study Kallah, Israel

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

June 9-19, 2015
 - Australian Council of Christians and Jews Multi-Faith Seminar, Israel

November 4–8, 2015
 – Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) 73rd Biennial Conference, Orlando, Florida

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