Issue #502 – 4 December 2014 / 27 Kislev 5775
Celebrating in South Australia: UPJ's Biennial Conference Attracts Progressive Leaders from around the World
Mitzvah Day 2014: Progressive Communities across the Globe Give Back
Project Tikkun Olam: Temple Israel, Cape Town, South Africa
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.
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]"
(Photo credit: Isaac Harari).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.”
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.”
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.”
Members of Progressive communities took part in projects for Mitzvah Day, the Jewish community's global annual day of social action and giving.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
Taking Paris: Jong LJG Netzer Visits the City of Lights
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The first Reform synagogue in South Africa, Temple Israel opened in 1936 under the leadership of Rabbi Moses Chaim Weiler.
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.
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.
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.
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January 8-15, 2015 - The Roswell Seminar for Social Justice, Israel
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