"Four people were slaughtered on Tuesday when Palestinian assailants entered a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood with knives, axes and guns and attacked worshipers. The World Union for Progressive Judaism mourns with the families of those whose only crime was praying in a house of worship on a Tuesday morning in Jerusalem. May the memories of those killed be for a blessing.
The WUPJ condemns this act of terrorism. An attack against Jews in a synagogue is an attack on Jews everywhere. While we continue to pray that a just, comprehensive agreement can finally be reached with Israel's neighbors, scenes of Palestinians celebrating the attack cannot be ignored.
For true peace to prevail, leaders representing all sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict must inspire their people to rise above anger and commit themselves to the pursuit of peace."
כִּי הֶהָרִים יָמוּשׁוּ, וְהַגְּבָעוֹת תְּמוּטֶינָה--וְחַסְדִּי מֵאִתֵּךְ לֹא-יָמוּשׁ, וּבְרִית שְׁלוֹמִי לֹא תָמוּט, אָמַר מְרַחֲמֵךְ, יְהוָה
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,"
says Eternal, who has compassion on you.
Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, WUPJ President
Michael Grabiner, WUPJ Chairman
Dr. Philip Bliss, WUPJ Advocacy Committee Chair
(Note: due to technical difficulties, we were unable to get this out in a timely manner.)
On 21 Chesvan, 5775/November 13, 2014, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion ordained four new rabbis. Rabbi Noa Sattath, Rabbi Galit Cohen-Kedem, Rabbi Merav Kalush and Rabbi Ian Chesir-Teran joined the approximately 100 rabbis who are members of the Israeli Council of Progressive Rabbis (MARAM).
(Left to right) Rabbi Galit Cohen-Kedem, Rabbi Noa Sattath, Rabbi Ian Chesir-Teran, Rabbi Merav Kalush
The World Union for Progressive Judaism's President Rabbi Daniel Freelander extended his congratulations to the new rabbinic ordainees and the entire HUC community on this extraordinary occasion.
Freelander stated in his message that the ordination is "another important milestone in the remarkable growth of a true Israel Reform Judaism. Our new rabbis will create a new reality for Pluralistic and Progressive Judaism in Israel in ways we cannot even imagine. Today's ordination gives us optimism about the future for Progressive Judaism and for Israel itself."
At a time when the necessity for Jewish-Israeli voices that promote moderate values, attitudes of respect towards all human beings and the pursuit of peace is at a premium, these four rabbis represent a ray of light.
The entire Israeli Reform community is proud of their achievements and is confident that even greater successes lie ahead!
Around the Reform world, memorial services were held in honor of Hannah Szenes, an Israeli hero who gave her life to save fellow Jews.
It was 70 years ago, according to the Hebrew calendar, that this young Jewish girl was executed by firing squad by the Hungarian Nazi police force. Szenes, a native of Budapest, Hungary, had been captured after parachuting into Europe with a group of paratroopers from the Haganah, the military organization that represented the majority of Jews living in Palestine from 1920 to 1948.
Too Young: Hannah Szenes' stroll with her brother on the Tel Aviv promenade marked their final meeting.
(photo credit: MIRI TZACHI)
The paratroopers' mission: rescue Jews from the Nazi war machine.
By the age of 23, Hannah Szenes had passed into legend, largely due to the letters poems, and diary entries she left behind. One poem she had composed during a walk from her kibbutz, Sdot Yam, to the ancient Roman ruins of the port city of Caesarea became famous around the world.
To look back and learn from the life and words of Hannah Szenes, musical performances, study sessions and prayer services took place at the four most significant cities in this young woman's short life.
Loved Forever: Visitors to Caesarea's Hannah Szenes memorial leave stones behind.
Nahalal: a special Kabbalat Shabbat service was held at the Ifat Museum with Kehilat Nigun Halev.
Mount Herzl: a memorial and prayer service at Israel's national cemetery was held at Szenes' gravesite, led by Rabbi Ezra Endi of Kehillat HaDror, a sister community of Jerusalem's Kehilat Kol Haneshama. Israeli musicians Shani Ben-Or and Boaz Dorot lent their talents to the moving occasion. Before the legend of Hannah Szenes, there was a girl named Szenes Aniko who was a student at Budapest's Baar-Madas high school. Marianne Dembitz, nee Engel Marianne, grew up with the woman who would become Hannah Szenes. The two girls knew each other for eight years, studying together at Baar-Madas. Marianne is the mother of European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) board member Alexander Dembitz, who is also President of Geneva's Liberal Jewish Congregation (GIL).
First in Her Class: Hannah Szenes was an exemplary student in Budapest.
In a phone interview with the WUPJ Newsletter, Marianne, a resident of France, remembered Szenes as a very intelligent girl who was also an exceptional. According to Marianne, it was in fact Szenes' failure to be accepted as the secretary of her school's debating society by the upperclassmen - even though she had already been elected by her own class - due to her Jewishness, that caused a profound change in outlook. "After being rejected, she [Szenes] realized that no matter what, she'll always be Jewish first, Hungarian second. Something inside her collapsed," Marianne reminisced.
School Days: Hannah Szenes with a friend. Behind them, the girl facing the camera and looking down is Marianne Dembitz.
As part of the many memorial events held in honor of Szenes, Marianne was invited to Geneva's Liberal Jewish Congregation (GIL) on Friday, November 14, where she shared her thoughts about the Szenes legacy and her friend Aniko.
Hannah Remembered: Marianne Dembitz Speaking about Szenes at GIL.
From reading Hannah Szenes' diary, one learns that her Jewish identity was much more complicated than often presented. In essence, her outlook on Israeli and Judaism, for all its complexity, is one that resonates with those who today struggle to find the balance between national, ethnic, and religious identities.
Abraham Geiger College will celebrate its 15th anniversary on November 25. This flourishing institution, affiliated with the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), provides vocational training programs for rabbis and cantors that complement the education received by Jewish students at the University of Potsdam's School of Theology.
Guest of Honor: German President Jochen Gauck
attends a cantorial concert co-sponsored by Abraham Geiger College
at the Berlin Cathedral.
(Photo credit: Bundespresseamt)
The state-funded program was founded in 1999 by Rabbis Dr Walter Jacob and Dr Walter Homolka, who noticed that the Jewish community in modern Germany was lacking rabbinic leadership. The development of the college corresponded with the re-emergence of Progressive Judaism in Germany. Its struggle for recognition by the German government and the Central Council of Jews in Germany was supported from the very beginning by the WUPJ leadership.
“When we ordained our inaugural three rabbis in 2006, the first ordainees in Germany since the Shoa, German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that the event was ‘special because many did not believe that after the Holocaust Jewish life would flourish in Germany,’" Dr Homolka recently said.
Breaking Ground: Government officials, religious leaders
and the Israeli ambassador take part in the inauguration of the
School of Jewish Theology at Potsdam University.
(Photo credit: Universität Potsdam)
Today, Geiger College is training homegrown rabbis and cantors who are in tune with modern society. American friends like the Women of Reform Judaism have subsequently become committed partners in this endeavor.
According to WUPJ President Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, Abraham Geiger College is "maturing and growing, creating a new rabbinate for Europe.”
Since 2006, the college has ordained twenty rabbis and invested six cantors serving Jewish communities throughout Europe and beyond, with four graduates having taken pulpits in South Africa.
Stay tuned for a full report from the November 25th celebration!
CONNECTING to Latin America
Full House: The ARI congregation, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Dalia Gorodovits, an architect, is a lifelong member of ARI. Below, are some of her thoughts about growing up in Progressively Jewish Rio.
My parents were actually the first members of my family to join the ARI, although my roots in Rio go back to my grandfather on my mom's side, who immigrated to Bahia from Russia in 1913, arriving in Rio in the 1920s. My grandparents from my dad's side came from Poland around 1919. True story: the man who sold my grandmother's family its tickets to sail on a ship from Europe to Brazil introduced his brother to my grandmother. The two went on to get married and live in Rio. A classic shidduch!
Family Ties: Dalia and Ricardo Gorodovits are the proud parents of Bar-Mitvah boy Felipe and older brother Leo.
Beyond family tradition, every service at ARI is carefully and lovingly prepared. In addition, one key reason that I have remained with ARI is its focus on educational programs: particularly the way our kids are prepared to become bnei and bnot mitvah. Above all, I am consistently amazed at how effectively our community promotes and implements Progressive values in Rio.
Progressive Rock: Israeli singer Rami Kleinstein brings ARI to its feet!
While our innovative Tikkun Olam projects are conducted among the general Rio population, it is the sense of egalitarianism that pervades within the community that I feel very comfortable with: men and women sitting together, performing the same tasks and assuming similar roles in our religious services.
When in Rio
I'd like to remind our friends from around the world about the 'Marvelous City' of Rio. I have lived here my entire life and the site of an Arpoador sunset still moves me. The panoramic view from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain is incredible. A boat trip through baia da guanabara is simply a stunning vantage point from which to view Rio. And of course, a soccer game at Maracanã Stadium never ceases to thrill!
Although, as when visiting any big city, one must be careful, Rio is blessed with both a natural beauty of scenery and natural hospitality of its residents that make it utterly unique.
See you in Rio at CONNECTIONS 2015!
Project: Tikkun Olam
Located in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the community of Kleinskool is inhabited by drug dealers, suffers from a 60% unemployment rate, and has an astronomically high violent crime rates.
The Faces of Tikkun Olam: Shalom Educare Center's schoolchildren.
Temple Israel's Shalom Educare project in Kleinskool is thus a ray of hope to local pre-school children whose world is too often dark and hopeless.
It is the care provided by a team of dedicated teachers who are largely responsible for the continuing success of the Shalom Educare project.
A Classic: Shalom Educare Center student displays his latest artistic masterpiece.
In particular, Principal Jean van Rayner (affectionately known as “Auntie Jean”) has been the heart and soul of Shalom since the very first day. She is now teaching the children of some of her first pupils. The high standard of pre-school education provided by Shalom Educare guarantees children places in first grade once they go off to ‘Big School’.
This little school, in a wood and iron 12m x 10m building, has had an enrolment of over 90 children each year since its inception in 1987 and continues to fulfil a desperate need for pre-school education in the area.
Small School, Big Dreams: Kleinskool's Shalom Educare Center.
As for the members of Port Elizabeth's Temple Israel, they feel a deep commitment to the project. In November, the children of Shalom enjoyed a very special outing when the women of the temple organized a bus to transport the kids from Kleinskool to Fairy Hollow at Kings Court, where they were treated to a puppet show and party fun.
Leading Ladies: Temple Israel members visit the Shalom Educare Center.
The children, teachers and parents involved in Shalom Educare are deeply grateful for the consistent support and financial donations of the Temple Brotherhood, current congregants, former congregants, as well as the annual 'welcome gift' from the Women of Temple Sinai, in Oakland, California.
Despite the hardships, political issues, inadequate facilities and a perpetual lack of funding, the teachers have persevered and continue to make a profound difference in the lives of local boys and girls.
Among the breathtakingly diverse array of Reform congregations in Israel, there is Gadera's Kehilat Yuval, famous for its annual 'Sigd' celebration, a Chag observed by Ethiopian Jews.
Sigd symbolizes the renewal of the Covenant, seven weeks after Yom Kippur. In Ethiopia, it was celebrated on a high mountain, symbolizing Mount Sinai, while in Israel the main celebration takes place in Armon Ha-Natziv, Jerusalem - overlooking the Temple Mount.
Come One, Come All: Kehilat Yuval's Sigd Celebration advertisement.
This year in Gadera, around 150 participants tasted Injara, Ethiopian (gluten free) bread; Kolo, a dried chickpea snack, and Buna, Ethiopian coffee. People played games in which they were taught basic words in Amharic; viewed Ethiopian artwork; listened to Ethiopian legends; sculpted traditional clay dishes, and learned about the history of Beita Yisrael – Ethiopian Jews.
Hands-On Learning: Israelis explore Ethiopian Jewish arts and crafts during 'Sigd'.
Rabbi Myra Hovav of Kehilat Yuval and a local organization, "Garin Gedera," are the driving force behind educating the wider Israeli population about this colorful (and delicious) slice of life. The celebration was sponsored by Keren B'Kavod and lead by Ethiopian leader Yuvi Tashome, member of the local town council and noted social activist.
Hopefully, Sigd celebrations will soon be celebrated at Reform congregations all over Israel.
Since the publication of Reform Judaism Magazine's first Guide to Jewish World Travel in the spring of 2013, the WUPJ's Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor has helped dozens of travelers wishing to visit Progressive congregations around the world.
Due to security concerns, many Jewish houses of worship are difficult to access independently. Synagogues often times do not publish their street addresses, phone numbers, or any other contact information.
This is where Gary comes in. Since the WUPJ serves, nurtures and supports close to 1,200 congregations worldwide, the organization has the unique ability to make an introduction between globetrotters and congregations.
A recent success story is that of Carol Sterling a member of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York. Carol was planning to participate as a presenter at a puppetry festival/conference in Nanchong, China. WUPJ's World Jewish travel program connected Carol with Jewish communities in Beijing and Shanghai last June.
Travel, Progressively: Let the WUPJ connect the dots for you.
In Beijing, Carol met Jake Laband, who graciously provided her with a guest room. In Shanghai, Hadas Haham showed Carol around the city. Next, Carol hired Israeli tour guide Yael Farjun, from whom the New York native learned about the history of Shanghai's Jews.
According to Carol, "any Jewish person who is traveling should consider making contact" with Gary and the WUPJ's World Jewish Travel program.
Between November 20 and November 23, the Union for Progressive Judaism will be convening it biennial conference in Adelaide, Australia. Co-hosted by the University of South Australia, the conference's theme is inspired by the music of Arik Einstein, a pioneer of Israeli rock music whose work inspired social activism throughout the Jewish world.
With the dynamic theme of "change", the conference will offer exciting plenaries, workshops and interactive panels
presented by our international and regional guests and speakers.
Stay tuned for a full report about the UPJ Biennial Conference in the next issue of the WUPJ Newsletter.
British Prime Minister Expresses Support for Liberal Judaism's Stance on Israel
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron recently wrote to Liberal Judaism's (UK) chairman Lucian J. Hudson, reiterating his support for the Movement's position vis a vis Israel during the Gaza War.
A Friend at 10 Downing Street: Prime Minister David Cameron.
"The conflict has taken a terrible toll and I am aware of the impact that this has had on the British Jewish community," Cameron stated.
Regarding the way forward, the British premier asserted that he shares the Movement's belief that a two-state solution remains "the only way to resolve the conflict once and for all."
Read the complete article as it appears on the LJ website here.
Never to Forget: South African Community Honors Local Jewish War Veterans
On November 7, during Erev Shabbat services, Kwazulu Natal Temple David in Durban, South Africa honored veterans of various wars. The names of Natal Jews who died in conflicts ranging from the Boer War to wars in Lebanon were read out.
Greatest Generation: Temple David in Durban remembers the heroism of Natal Jews.
US President John F. Kennedy once said: “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors and remembers.” It is with this sentiment in mind that the South African Jewish community commemorates these veterans' profound sacrifice for future generations' peace and security.
By taking time to remember, the heroism of these Jewish men and women will never be forgotten.
A Thousand Words
Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner at London's Cenotaph war memorial on Remembrance Sunday. "The ceremony was moving and dignified. It was an honor to represent British Jews at this solemn occasion."
Peace and Freedom, Secured: Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner at London's Cenotaph war memorial.
Remembrance Sunday commemorates all those who have given their lives for peace and freedom. On this day, people across Britain pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by the nation's brave service men and women.
Learn how Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner took on the religious establishment, and won.
The WUPJ Family Mourns…
The leadership and staff of the World Union offer their sincerest condolences to the family of Frederic Kramer, beloved father of Stephen and father-in-law of Miriam Kramer, Chair of the European Union for Progressive Judaism. Frederic passed away on Saturday, November 15, after a lengthy illness.
May Frederic Kramer's memory be for a blessing.
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January 8-15, 2015 - The Roswell Seminar for Social Justice, Israel
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
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
October 7-22, 2015 - Israel - Poland Mission, Israel & Poland
November 4–8, 2015 – Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) 73rd Biennial Conference, Orlando, Florida