Issue #502

Issue #502 – 4 December 2014 / 27 Kislev 5775


HUC-JIR President Rabbi Aaron Panken Ph.D. to Speak at CONNECTIONS 2015

Celebrating in South Australia: UPJ's Biennial Conference Attracts Progressive Leaders from around the World

Abraham Geiger College Turns 15: A Continuing "Source of Courage and Hope” 

Mitzvah Day 2014: Progressive Communities across the Globe Give Back

Project Tikkun Olam: Temple Israel, Cape Town, South Africa
Congregation Spotlight: Sim Shalom Progressive Jewish Congregation, Budapest
Netzer Notes
Live from Israel
News Bits
Linking Up
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events

HUC-JIR President Rabbi Aaron Panken Ph.D. to Speak at CONNECTIONS 2015

CONNECTIONS 2015, the World Union for Progressive Judaism's (WUPJ) worldwide celebration of our movement taking place May 13-16 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is pleased to announce that Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), will be delivering the keynote address at the biennial conference.

HUC-JIR President Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D.

Rabbi Panken will be bringing his inspiring vision and in depth teaching skills to CONNECTIONS 2015. He will be speaking on the future of global Progressive Judaism, about what makes us uniquely equipped to engage global Jewry going into the future, and of the crucial role Progressive Judaism can play in advancing Jewish life in Latin America. He will also be teaching at the Rabbinic Kallah that will take place before the conference.

Rabbi Panken began his tenure as president of HUC–JIR in early 2014, making his mark almost immediately as a teacher among teachers. Trained as an electrical engineer and an amateur pilot, Rabbi Panken brings a tech savvy approach to his new position, saying in a recent interview, "there are major changes going on in the way people relate to one another — social media, small-group gatherings, the use of technology for Bible study, for instance. We’re currently teaching in a cross-campus way with dedicated video rooms. We’ve got a Jewish studies portal online. Lots of alumni are continuing their Torah studies with one another by Skype. We’ll continue to expand on these kinds of things. [at HUC-JIR]"

Rabbi Aaron Panken and Israel President Reuven Rivlin on November 11, 2014
(Photo credit: Isaac Harari).

He currently serves on faculty for the Wexner Foundation, on the Editorial Board of RJ Magazine, and has served on the Rabbinical Placement Commission, the birthright Education Committee, the CCAR Ethics Committee and in a variety of other leadership roles within the Reform movement and greater Jewish community.

Learn Rabbi Panken's views on the future of Liberal Judaism here.

CONNECTIONS 2015 will include a wide variety of educational, inspirational and entertaining sessions that touch on the matters of Reform Jewish living that affect all Reform, Progressive and Liberal Jews, regardless of zip code.

Ready for Rio? Online registration for CONNECTIONS 2015 is now available!

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Celebrating in South Australia: UPJ's Biennial Conference Attracts Progressive Leaders from around the World

Between November 20 and November 23, the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) of Australia, New Zealand and Asia convened it biennial conference. 160 delegates from across Australia, New Zealand and Asia were joined by leaders of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) for four days of learning, leyning and laughing together.
160 leaders standing strong: UPJ Biennial group picture.

Beth Shalom Progressive Synagogue in Adelaide, South Australia hosted the conference.

Guided by the theme of Ani v’Atah Neshaneh et Ha'olam (“You and I can change the world”), the conference focused on how individuals and groups can, and do, make a real difference in the world. This crucial point was highlighted by a diverse range of speakers, musicians, artists and presenters who provided practical examples of Tikkun Olam and meaningful social action. 

Honored: David Robinson and Sharene Hambur are the recipients of the President’s Award for outstanding and dedicated service to the Progressive movement.

Special guests included Immediate Past President of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) Yaron Shavit, along with WUPJ Chairman Mike Grabiner, Senior Vice Chair Carole Sterling, Secretary Philip Bliss, Executive Board members Phyllis Dorey and David Robinson, and VP/COO Shai Pinto.  

From the presentation of awards to special volunteers to a Saturday night celebration of “Purim in November”, the conference was marked by a sense of unity and common purpose shared by all in attendance. 
Purim down under: making new friends at the UPJ Biennial!

The event also highlighted the important role that the UPJ has within the WUPJ. 

According to UPJ Executive Director Steve Denenberg "We must remember how crucially important each of us is in keeping our movement a strong, dynamic and active force around the world, and particularly in Israel."

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Abraham Geiger College Turns 15: A Continuing "Source of Courage and Hope” 

On Nov 25, Abraham Geiger College celebrated its 15th anniversary in grand style, with many dignitaries from around Europe attending festivities in honor of the Germany-based Jewish theological institute.

Among the many well-wishers who applauded the college’s achievements was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who noted “Many did not believe that after the Holocaust Jewish life would flourish in Germany.”
Faces of flourishing Jewish life in Germany: (left to right): College President Rabbi Walter Jacob, Heidi Weidenbach Mattar of the German Conference of Education Ministers, Brandenburg State Education Minister Sabine Kunst, Federal Secretary of State for Education Thomas Rachel, Charlotte Knobloch of the German Jewish Communities, Rector Rabbi Walter Homolka and Potsdam University President Oliver Günther.

Vice President of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) Sonja Guentner enthused at Geiger's many accomplishments: “Who would have thought 20 or even 15 years ago that Geiger College would not just exist but also be the flourishing institution it is?”

During the 15th anniversary celebrations, the college conferred its Abraham Geiger Medal on Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Rachel, MP, acknowledging his significant role in establishing the Potsdam School of Jewish Theology. The laudatory speech was given by Past President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Dr Charlotte Knobloch, who called the college “a source of courage and hope.” 

2014 highlight: At the first rabbinic ordination in the city since before World War II, four rabbis and three cantors from Abraham Geiger College were ordained at a ceremony in the White Stork synagogue in Wroclaw, Poland.

Chairman of the German Association for Judaic Studies Dr Guiseppe Veltri, delivered the anniversary lecture. The audience of some 250 guests included government members, ambassadors, MPs, rabbis and church leaders as well as college graduates and representatives of the Jewish community. The chairperson of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany gave an impromptu speech that was well received and widely covered by local media outlets.

Geiger College President Walter Jacob explained the institute's mission: “We are training homegrown rabbis and cantors who are in tune with modern society.” To Rector Rabbi Walter Homolka, the college is “a vision come true. We assume that Judaism in Germany and beyond will continue to flourish and that our graduates will stand at its center.” 

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Mitzvah Day 2014: Progressive Communities across the Globe Give Back

Members of Progressive communities took part in projects for Mitzvah Day, the Jewish community's global annual day of social action and giving.

Mitzvah Day International takes place each year in November and was founded in 2006 by Alyth (North Western Reform Synagogue) member 
Laura Marks, Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews

It seemed as if the spirit of Tikkun Olam was everywhere. In Germany, the Liberal Jewish Community Beth Shalom joined forces with the city of Munich's Department of Social Services to help people who have fallen on hard times. In Britain, Glasgow Reform Synagogue joined with the Calderwood Jewish Day school at Giffnock and Newlands Hebrew Congregation to pack food parcels for asylum seekers in Glasgow. 
Repairing their world: Beth Shalom in Munich collaborated with the city's Department of Social Services to help people who have fallen on hard times.

This was also the year that Mitzvah Day was celebrated for the first time by Progressive community members in Barcelona. Volunteers of Liberal Congregation ATID collaborated with Congregation CIB to assemble clothing and toys. In total, 54 huge bags and 50 drawings were brought to the Sant Joan de Déu Children's Hospital.
Southern Bound: Participants in Netzer's Shnat program recently drove down to Eilat to volunteer at a WIZO day care center.

Mitzvah Day 2014 broke all records, attracting 37,000 volunteers from 20 countries who simultaneously participated in over 1,200 varied social action projects, making a meaningful and long-term difference across a range of compelling causes, issues and charities.

In recognition of the vital Tikkun Olam programs being developed and implemented by Progressive communities around the world, the brand new Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch International Social Action Award was created to honor World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ)-affiliated congregations and organizations outside of North America that put Jewish values to work.

Know about a social action program that is changing lives?                                    
Learn more about the Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch International Social Action Award today.

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Project Tikun Olam: Temple Israel, Cape Town, South Africa

Not Forgotten: Cape Town's Temple Israel Conducts Special Shul Services for the Community's Elderly

Temple Israel, Cape Town's Progressive Jewish Congregation, recently started a little retirement home on the top floor of the Good Hope Park Retirement Complex that is having a big impact on the some of the local community's elderly members. 

Shabbat morning services are conducted about twice a month, attracting around 30 people, most of whom are simply too frail to visit a Shul anywhere else.  
Good morning, Cape Town: view from the 'little Shul' at the Good Hope Park Retirement Complex.

Due to the weakened condition of many of the worshippers, services are kept relatively brief, never exceeding an hour. In addition, a small Torah, a Czech scroll, is used. The other small scroll that is used is known as the 'Dibowitz Scroll', in honor of the man who donated it to Temple Israel many years ago, Phillip Dibowitz.

There are no fees or dues to attend services at 'Our Little Shul' at Good Hope Park Retirement Complex. However, whosoever wishes to sponsor a modest brocha, is welcome to do so.

According to Temple Israel's Rabbi Richard Newman, Shuls for the elderly are a natural for retired or semi-retired rabbis who want to maintain contact with the community. 

Indeed, Rabbi Newman would like tailored services for senior citizens "expanded to satisfy the religious needs of the huge worldwide population of older people. Our senior citizens are sometimes overlooked by younger rabbis, who tend to focus their time and energy on younger congregants."

Questions about Temple Israel's Shul for the elderly? Contact Rabbi Newman 

Budapest Kehila Offers Guidance to Jewish People on the Path Back to Judaism

The Sim Shalom congregation was officially established in 1992, as many Hungarian Jews were beginning to discover their religious heritage. For over twenty years, the kehila has been welcoming men and women into the warm embrace of Progressive Judaism. 

Sim Shalom is led by Rabbi Katalin Kelemen, Hungary's first and only female rabbi. 

Despite many obstacles, Sim Shalom organized well-attended High Holidays services. In fact, Erev Rosh Hashanah was celebrated in a hotel meeting room, since the synagogue was too small to accommodate the crowd that had turned out.

Project Outreach: Sim Shalom's Sukkah attracted curious visitors, who may one day become community members.

This year's Yom Kippur service was especially meaningful, as it inaugurated the use of Sim Shalom's new Yom Kippur Siddur. For over 20 years, congregants had been using a cut and paste siddur cobbled together in the early 1990's by some early members of the kehila, many of whom were still in the process of learning how to be Jewish. The new Siddur is something to behold: beautifully edited, with some new material added. In short: a joy to pray from.

Once again, the Sukkot celebration was held in a public park. For three days, Sim Shalom members conducted services, ate meals and organized activities for families in and around the sukkah. The park is in the middle of one of the most popular Jewish neighbourhoods in Budapest, so there were many visits from people who will hopefully become new members of Sim Shalom. 

Kids Incorporated: Sim Shalom's Sukkah provided family-friendly activities.

With the High Holidays behind them, Sim Shalom congregants are happy to have a respite from all the celebrations, and just get back to the regular schedule of services, as well as educational and cultural programs offered by the community.

To learn about ways to support Sim Shalom, click here.

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Netzer Notes

Taking Paris: Jong LJG Netzer Visits the City of Lights
By Yuval Ben-Horin, Netherlands Youth Leader/Shaliach Jewish Agency

Every year a group of youngsters, ages 12-16, from the liberal community in the Netherlands, goes on a weekend trip to a different city in Europe. The main goals of these excursions are to strengthen the connection between youngsters from the different liberal congregations in the Netherlands and to learn about Jewish life across Europe.

This year, a group of 32 youngsters travelled to beautiful Paris between October 17 and 19. Notably, this was the first time that the annual weekend getaway was recognized as an official Jong LJG-Netzer trip.
A Progressive romp through Paris: group picture of Jong LJG-Netzer.

Participants visited a reform congregation in Paris, where they joined in on Friday services, followed by a dinner with youth from the local Netzer-Paris group. 

Next, the group visited many of Paris's most famous landmarks: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Avenue des Champs-Élysée, Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre. All the while, participants were taught about Jewish life today in Paris as well as the city's unique Jewish history.

The trip was very successful. The youngsters had a wonderful time and made many new friends. 

I hope that this group will continue with us in our future activities. 

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Live From Israel

Jewish Leadership Begins with Jewish Learning: Beutel Seminar 2015

The Beutel Seminar, scheduled for February 5 - 15, 2015, is a prestigious ten-day seminar in Jerusalem run by the Anita Saltz International Education Center

The seminar offers the opportunity to connect with other Progressive Jewish leaders from around the world and address critical issues facing our communities like engaging young adults, balancing innovation and tradition and more.
History is your guide: Beutel Seminar participants learn about the first and second Temple Periods.

Using Israel as our classroom, we will also explore ancient texts and history; discuss current political and social issues; explore spiritual pathways and concepts of Jewish leadership - all within a Progressive Jewish context. 

There are still a few spaces available for this year's Beutel Seminar, but they're filling up quickly!

For more information contact the Saltz Education Center

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News Bits

Forging Bonds: Jerusalem's Kehilat Har-El Hosted by German Lutheran Church

At the invitation of the Lutheran Church district of Schleswig-Flensburg in northern Germany, Rabbi Ada Zavidov and Cantor Evan Cohen of Jerusalem's Kehilat Har-El visited the state of Schleswig-Holstein from November 6 to 13.

The trip included a series of lectures, concerts, visits to schools, and meetings with church leaders and the press in order to strengthen the interfaith relationship between the two communities. 
Two communities, one destination: Rabbi Ada Zavidov and Cantor Evan Cohen together with Pröpstin Johanna Lenz-Aude and Pastors Antje Hanselmann and Karstin Winter at the St. Petri-Dom Cathedral in Schleswig.

Among the highlights of the visit was when Rabbi Zavidov spoke at a special church service commemorating both Kristallnacht and the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

The itinerary also included visits to three Reform communities in the region, Pinneberg, Bad Segeberg, and Kiel. As such, the visitors from Jerusalem witnessed firsthand the growth of the Movement since their last visit to the region in 2008.  

Dreidels to Mountains: Prague's Bejt Simcha Hosts a Weekend Getaway for Families

From November 7 to November 9, Bejt Simcha, the Jewish Progressive community in Prague, Czech Republic, hosted a special weekend for families in the beautiful countryside of central Bohemia.

The weekend's activities started on Friday evening with Shabbat services, a shortened form of which was adapted for the children. 
Bible as child's play: Kids learn about Noah's ark and its animals.

Next, an origami workshop was held that taught the children about Noah, his ark, and his ark's many different animals. Then, a theater workshop told the story of Abraham in a fun yet educational way. In addition, since Hannukah season is almost here, the kids also played games with dreidels.
It was a gorgeous weekend to  experience the great outdoors. The kids made the most of it: exploring a large garden and jumping on a trampoline. 
'Tis the season: Children experience Hannukah early at Bejt Simcha's weekend for families.

On Sunday, everybody climbed to the top of Mount Moninec, where all the hikers were rewarded not only with an awesome view but also with a sweet reward.
In short, the weekend was an unforgettable experience - for children and adults alike!

Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives: New Book by Former WUPJ President

Rabbi Stephen Fuchs, formerly senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, a leader of Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care and a past president of the WUPJ, has written a new book: "What's In It for Me: Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives".

The books invites readers to discover a middle ground that takes biblical narratives seriously without regard to their historical or scientific truth. The "truth" of these stories has nothing to do with, "Did this really happen?" Their truth emerges in the valuable lessons these stories can teach all of us.

Learn more about 'What's In It for Me: Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives'

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All of us connected with the World Union for Progressive Judaism in 49 countries and 1200 communities around the world join in joyful songs of praise for:

Three New Communities Become Members of Australia's UPJ

One of the major highlights of the recent UPJ biennial conference was when three new congregations were welcomed as members of Australasia's Union for Progressive Judaism. 
Welcome! Kehilat Shanghai President Arie Schreier is flanked by UPJ Executive Director Steve Denenberg (left) and WUPJ VP and COO Shai Pinto (right).

The most recently formed congregation, Kehillat Shanghai, is now offering an amazing range of programs and activities to the Jews who reside in, or visit, Shanghai. Kehilat Shanghai has also succeeded in having a Jewish Agency Shlicha (emissary) sent to assist with the community's development.  

The two other new members of the UPJ are based in Japan and Australia. The Jewish Community of Japan is a strong and inclusive community located in Tokyo that has a full-time rabbi. The Sunshine Coast Jewish Community in Queensland, Australia has been operating for a number of years thanks to the dedicated work of a number of volunteers. 

All three congregations are a welcome addition to the family, adding to the rich mixture of cultures that make the UPJ such a strong and dynamic regional group.

Welcome to the Progressive Far East: Go on a tour of Kehilat Shanghai now.

Kehilat YOZMA's Officially Opens Elementary School Building

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.

It's elementary: Invitation to the dedication of Kehilat YOZMA's school 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.

Kehilat YOZMA would like to take this opportunity to thank community supporters whose time and generosity turned the vision of a local elementary school into a bricks and mortar reality.

The building will be officially dedicated on December 5.

South Africa's Temple Israel Hillbrow Granted Heritage Status

Temple Israel Hillbrow, the mother synagogue of Progressive Judaism in South Africa, was awarded a prestigious heritage plaque, conferred by the city of Johannesburg with the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation.

The first Reform synagogue in South Africa, Temple Israel opened in 1936 under the leadership of Rabbi Moses Chaim Weiler

Temple Israel Hillbrow has long promoted equality between men and women. In 1949, the sisterhood at Temple Israel founded the M.C. Weiler School in Alexandra, to counter the inferior "Bantu Education" offered by the apartheid state.

Great leaders of South Africa's Progressive Jewish movement, such as Rabbi Weiler, championed justice, freedom and peace - the cornerstones of Jewish heritage – from inside the walls of Temple Israel Hillbrow. 
Progressive South Africa's beating heart: Temple Israel Hillbrow.

As such, the leadership of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the largest Jewish religious movement in the world, congratulates Temple Israel and looks forward to celebrating  many more joyous occasions with congregation members within this sacred space.

Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh Appointed Dean of Leo Baeck College

Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh was appointed Dean of Leo Baeck College, responsible for academic and student affairs.

Charles joined the College faculty in 1984. Over many years he has taken on a wide
range of roles and responsibilities, serving as the Director of Studies at the College for the past three years.

Mazal Tov Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh.

Charles is a graduate of University College London, from which he gained his BA in Semitic languages and his PhD in Targumic Studies. He was ordained by Leo Baeck College in 1986. In addition to his academic achievements, Charles has
contributed to and edited a number of key Progressive Jewish publications. 

As well as being an accomplished teacher and academic, within the realms of the College Charles is a voice of wisdom and the go-to person for students and staff alike. Charles' unstinting commitment has become a foundation for Leo Baeck College's continuing success.

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Linking Up

Thinking Progressively about the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Campaign against Israel

Bet David Jewish Congregation's Rabbi Julia Margolis' stance on BDS is to SIT. Get linked up to Rabbi Margolis' full interview with the South African Jewish Report now.
Confronting BDS: Rabbi Julia Margolis

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Upcoming Events

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

October 7-22, 2015
 - Israel - Poland Mission, Israel & Poland

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

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