Issue #505

15 January 2015 / 24 Tevet 5775


Make the Right Choices: Reflections from the Largest March in France's History

Choose Your Own Adventure: CONNECTIONS 2015 Pre and Post Conference Tours

Towards the Mainstream: 2014's Major Victories for Non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel

Strong Impression: Reform Judaism Makes a Mark on Limmud Conference 2014

Live from Israel 
Dateline: USA
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events

Make the Right Choices: Reflections from the Largest March in France's History

Stephane Beder is head of the French Progressive Jewish community. On January 11, he participated in a demonstration in Paris with about 1 million people expressing solidarity against the recent terrorist strikes. His thoughts below: 

"A few minutes ago, over a million people assembled in the streets of Paris to assert the choices they've made: to remain united and refuse to give in to fear and hate."
'We are all Charlie': Paris march, January 11, 2015.

As Progressive Jews, we too have decisions to make as a community, as a nation.

While having 50 heads of states, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, join us today  was certainly very meaningful, the messages we have received from Progressive Jews all around the world have had an even deeper and more personal impact. The amazing support has been a real source of comfort.
Hate has no chance here: Paris march, January 11, 2015.

Any new attacks will not only harm our communities in France but other kehilot as well. 

As such, Jewish people around the world must make the following choices:

Do we continue to live our lives as Jews, going to synagogues, Jewish restaurants and events?

Do we work with the authorities to develop the appropriate security measures to keep us safe?

Do we continue to express what we think even if we know some people might react with violence?

In France, we have decided to answer 'yes' to all of the above.

Hatred stems from ignorance. It is our duty as Jews to work tirelessly to build inter-faith ties and do our part to ensure there is unity within the Jewish community and understanding between people of different faiths.

A hero emerges: Lassana Bathily.

However, even in these troubling times there are sparks of hope for a more peaceful tomorrow. Lassana Bathily, a Muslim employee at Paris Kosher grocery store Hyper Cacher, saved several people by hiding them in a walk-in freezer when a gunman laid siege to his workplace on January 9. 

Lassana's heroic choice to act on behalf of his fellow man should be appropriately recognized.

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité more than ever!"

In response to these acts of exceptional barbarism, Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President of WUPJ stated: "We join our French congregations in expressing our horror at the targeted killings in Paris Wednesday morning.  This abhorrent act raises the concern of all who value free speech and religious diversity. Our future ultimately depends on the determination of governments to defend and protect pluralism, and show no tolerance for the descent into this kind of violence."

You are strongly encouraged to read 'Yes, you can laugh at God, our prophets, our sages' by Rabbi Pauline Bebe, France's first female rabbi (click top right corner of screen to translate from French to English).

Choose Your Own Adventure: CONNECTIONS 2015 Pre and Post Conference Tours

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 your opportunity to embark on journeys of discovery to Latin America and the region's colorful Jewish history. 

Pre and Post tours have been tailored for CONNECTIONS 2015 delegates. Explore Latin America with new friends. The travel itinerary is extensive, enthralling and has something for everyone.
Buenos Aires bound? A visit to the city is an opportunity to behold its Jewish Renaissance.

Go on a Mission to Argentina inspired by the Jewish renaissance in Buenos Aires, the 'Paris of South America'. The program includes a Shabbat at Argentina's grandest synagogue; a tour of Buenos Aires and much more.
Simply breathtaking: Iguaçu Falls.

Witness the exquisite spectacle of Iguaçu Falls, located on the border of Brazil (in the state of Paraná) and Argentina. Iguaçu Falls is comprised of 275 individual drops. The falls vary from 60 meters (200 feet) to 82 meters (or 269 feet) in length, making Iguaçu taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide.

Trek through the Amazon, the world's largest and densest rainforest, comprised of more diverse fauna and flora than any other jungle in the world.

Visit Brazil's first capital, Salvador. The city's population is a fascinating fusion of black, white, and Indian ethnic groups. While here, you'll discover Salvador's well-preserved traditions and rich multicultural heritage.
Color me Cuba: the Island's uniquely Caribbean charms beckon.

Enter Jewish Cuba, including the Jewish settlement on the largest island of Greater Antilles.  This action-packed tour will include visits to the island's only Orthodox synagogue, Adath Israel, in Old Havana; a meeting with the President of the Centro Sefardita in Vedado district and a Q&A at Havana's main synagogue, Casa de la Communidad Hebrea.

Got a case of wanderlust? Visit the CONNECTIONS 2015 website for complete details about the Pre and Post Conference tours.

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

Despite a few setbacks, 2014 showed signs of growing acceptance of Israel's Reform and Conservative movements. Here are a few developments of special relevance to Israel's Reform and Progressive communities:

1. State-funded rabbinical salaries: Following an eight-year legal battle, the state for the first time began paying salaries to rabbis representing the non-Orthodox movements. 
A presidential welcome: Reuven Rivlin (center) hosts movement leaders.

2. Presidential recognition: In his first few and very hectic months in office, Israel’s new president, Reuven Rivlin, took the time to meet with North American leaders of both the Conservative and Reform movements.
Young trailblazer: Sasha Lutt reads from Torah scroll at the Western Wall.

3. Tiny Torah trick: For two months in a row, Women of the Wall were able to realize a 25-year-old dream of reading from a Torah scroll at the women’s section of the Western Wall. They accomplished this feat by sneaking in a tiny Torah. The 200-year-old scroll, measuring just 28 centimeters in length but deemed perfectly kosher, was donated specifically for this purpose by a couple from London.

4. Staking a claim in the Negev: The Reform movement this year opened its first congregation in Be'er Sheva, the capital of the Negev. It’s a city where the Conservative-Masorti movement has long had a presence and one that is expected to take off in terms of population growth, as the Israel Defense Forces moves its headquarters down there. 

5. Easier recognition for overseas conversions: Under orders from the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Interior published for the first time this year a list of criteria for recognizing conversions performed abroad. 

What to look out for in 2015? Check out the complete Ha'aretz article here.

Strong Impression: Reform Judaism Makes a Mark on Limmud Conference 2014

Between December 26 2014 and January 1 2015, over 2,500 people of all ages from across the globe were exposed to the best and brightest minds of the UK's Reform movement at Limmud Conference 2014.

A pioneering cross-communal Jewish learning experience, Limmud is not affiliated with any strand of Judaism and markets itself as open to anyone interested in Jewish learning.
In the 'Arena': Reform Judaism participates in innovative QA session at Limmud 2014.

The input of the UK's Reform movement at Limmud 2014 was significant. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism (RJ) took part in a cutting edge session organized by RJ, The Arena @ Limmud 

The high-octane format featured fast-paced questions and responses between the audience and 'Arena' panelists who represented a diverse cross section of Jewish life. Topics discussed included the different UK political parties' Israel policy; the appointment of the first female bishop to the Church of England and the influence of Jewish newspapers.
Youth Contingent: RSY-Netzer impresses at the Limmud 2014 Conference.

Ben Crome an, RSY-Netzer Movement worker, also took part in the 'Arena'. Indeed, throughout the conference RSY-Netzer members were well represented, with many attendees commenting on the positive impact made by these young men and women.

Other presenters from Reform Judaism's professional staff, rabbis and cantors included Rabbi Lisa Barrett of Hendon Reform Synagogue; Libby Burkeman, Informal Education Director at the Movement for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Paul Freedman of Radlett Reform Synagogue; Rabbi Michael Hilton of Kol Chai; Rabbi Jason Holtz of Bromley Reform Synagogue; Cantor Zöe Jacobs of Finchley Reform Synagogue; Rabbi Professor Jonathan Magonet; Gavi Morris of RSY-Netzer; Adam Overlander-Kaye, Fundraising Director at the Movement for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Synagogue; Natasha Shaw of RSY-Netzer; Rabbi Benji Stanley, Young Adult Development Rabbi at the Movement for Reform Judaism; Lucy Stubbs of RSY-Netzer; Rabbi Andrea Zanardo of Brighton and Hove Reform Synagogue and Rabbi David J. Zucker of North West Surrey Synagogue.

Live from Israel

Happy Birthday! Jerusalem's Kehilat Har-El to Celebrate its 57th Year

Between January 23 and 24, Kehilat Har-El, the cornerstone of Progressive Judaism in Israel, will be celebrating its 57th year as a vibrant and active community of all ages and from all walks of life. 
Progressive Jerusalem: Kehilat Har-El building.

The festivities will include a special Kabbalat Shabbat/Arvit service accompanied by the Har-El choir and pianist Anastasia Sobolev.

On the morning of January 24, harpist Gittit Boasson will provide a musical accompaniment to the Shacharit Shabbat service.

Next, Paula Edelstein, Chair of the Israel Religious Action Center's (IRAC) Steering Committee and Co-Chair of the Aliyah and Klita Department of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) will provide the historical context behind Kehilat Har-El's big day. 

Ms. Edelstein's topic will be "Visions, Successes and Challenge: Marking 57 Years of Kehilat Har-El, the Founding Congregation of Our Movement."

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80 Years Young: Leo Baeck Education Center Celebrates Rabbi Samuels' Birthday

On the eve of the first night of Hanukkah, the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa held a heartwarming celebration in honor Rabbi Bob Samuels’ 80th birthday.

The evening opened with the unveiling of a magnificent bronze sculpture of Rabbi Samuels, crafted by his son. Next, a slide show detailing the rabbi's remarkable life, one dedicated to social change, was accompanied by anecdotes from family and friends. On stage, Bob then conducted a series of short conversations that were interspersed with musical interludes from Leo Baeck's dance and choral groups.
Mazal Tov: Rabbi Bob Samuels, his wife Annette and their grandchildren celebrate 80 amazing years.

The highlight of the evening were the performances of chamber music by Rabbi Samuels' wife Annette and their three children.

A noted teacher,dynamic leader and 2013 recipient of the prestigious WUPJ Micah Award, Rabbi Samuels has had a profound impact on Israeli society. The depth of love and gratitude felt by everyone in attendance towards him was palpable. 
It was quite an evening, a worthy tribute to a fine man.

View pictures of Rabbi Samuels' 80th birthday bash now.

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Serving Justice: IRAC and WUPJ Join Forces to Present a Seminar for Legal Professionals

Between March 22 and 25, 2015, the WUPJ's Anita Saltz International Education Center and Israel Religious Action Center are offering eligible participants an utterly unique opportunity to visit Israel and grapple with some of the pertinent legal issues being faced by Israeli society. This extraordinary seminar will bring participants into contact with inspiring Israeli attorneys, judges, leaders and activists.
Woman of the Wall: Anat Hoffman will be speaking at the Seminar for Legal Professionals.

Some of the seminar’s highlights include an Opening Dinner with Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, Anat Hoffman and a presentation by Israel Supreme Court Justice (emerita) Dalia Dorner on Israeli democracy.

Due to heightened interested in the seminar, the registration deadline has been extended.

For complete registration details about the Seminar for Legal Professionals, please visit the Saltz Center website today.

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Israel’s Russian Jews Cultivate a Budding Love Affair with Progressive Judaism

How does a religious movement that made its way from the United States end up appealing to immigrants with roots in the atheistic Soviet Union?

While appearing to be an anomaly, followers of this budding love affair argue that the Progressive movement and Russian Jewry are a natural fit, and that the timing couldn’t be more perfect. 
Faces of Israel's Reform movement: Russian-speaking Reform Jews at a Shabbat event in Ramat Gan, December 5, 2014. (Photo by David Bachar)

As Progressive Judaism in Israel is broadening its outreach efforts and seeking to tap into new segments of society, these Russian immigrants, whose religious credentials are often called into question by the Orthodox establishment, have been on the lookout for an alternative and welcoming Jewish home.

Immigrants who undergo a Reform conversion in Israel are recognized as Jewish in the Population Registry but cannot marry in the country since the Orthodox establishment controls marriage law and does not recognize them as Jews.

Another factor behind the growing popularity of Progressive Judaism for Russian-speakers in Israel is the spread of the movement in the former Soviet Union – particularly its youth movement, Netzer. According to Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), the Reform movement is second only to Chabad in terms of its reach in the old country.

“Reaching out to this community is a key strategy for us in the coming years,” says Kariv.

Read the complete article as it appears on the IMPJ website here.

For Art's Sake: New Beit Shmuel Exhibit Delves into Femininity, Language                            

Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon, the World Union for Progressive Judaism's headquarters in Jerusalem, recently premiered a fascinating new exhibit, 'Rite', which elegantly explores the themes of femininity and language. 

Among the many works presented by artist Yora Kranoth in 'Rite', the creations centered on images - some abstract and some with representations from the world of nature and humanity including hybrid images - predominate.

Rite Time: Yora Kranoth's exhibit is currently on display at Beit Shmuel.

Yora Kranoth has resided in Jerusalem since the age of 10, when she immigrated to the city with her parents. She attended high school at the Hebrew Gymnasia and after her army service studied law at the Hebrew University. Alongside her legal studies, Kranoth took evening courses at The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. 

At Bezalel, Kranoth studied under the artist Yaakov Eisznsher, who taught her the fundamentals of color, and Avraham Ofek, who taught her the fundamentals of drawing. 

For 40 years Kranoth worked in the legal department of Israel's Ministry of Health, all the while continuing to study art in the workshops of various artists, among them Allen Wolf and Eli Niago. 

Since her retirement, Kranoth has devoted herself fulltime time to painting. In addition, she conducts workshops for fellow retirees around Jerusalem.

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Dateline: USA

WZO Elections a Platform for Diaspora Influence on Israel

While Israelis will go the polls to elect the next Knesset on March 17, American Jews will also have the opportunity to vote, in the World Zionist Congress (WZO) elections from January 13 to April 30. 

The election of some 145 delegates and 300 alternates from the United States is crucial to the Israel Reform Movement since funding and the appointment of representatives to key positions at influential institutions will be determined by the results. 

The WZO, Jewish Agency (Sochnut) and Jewish National Fund (JNF) play a vital role in determining policy related to education, Jewish identity for Israelis and Jews worldwide, and issues of religious freedom and gender equality. 

ARZA, the single largest supporter of the Israel Reform Movement and IRAC, works to foster Jewish Peoplehood and a state in which the ideals of pluralism, equality and peace help to secure prosperous, fulfilling Jewish lives for all. 

Voting for “ARZA: Representing Reform Judaism" in the WZO elections will thus ensure that Israel continues to grow, thrive and remain a Jewish and democratic state.

According to ARZENU Executive Director Dalya Levy, “The future of the Reform Movement in Israel and the very character of the state will be impacted by the outcome of these elections. This is the moment to make a difference not to just dream about what could be.”

Please see the ARZA platform here.
Learn more in ARZA's video here.

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Reform Judaism’s Storied DC Lobby Gets a New Leader, Rabbi Jonah Pesner

After 40 years at the helm of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center (RAC), Rabbi David Saperstein has stepped down following his appointment as US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom.

New era begins: Rabbi Jonah Pesner, incoming RAC director.

His replacement to lead the celebrated, influential advocacy arm of Reform Judaism in North America will be Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) announced on January 7.

The founder of the Just Congregations interfaith program and the URJ’s Campaign for Youth Engagement, Pesner, 46, was named one of America’s most influential rabbis by Newsweek magazine.

“Among our top priorities to address the racial disparity all too present in our society will be pushing for action in the new Congress to protect voting rights and to end racial profiling,” the new RAC director said in a statement.

The RAC played a pivotal role in the drafting of the 1964 civil rights legislation and advocated for Soviet Jewry in the 1970s and 1980s.

Deep in the Heart of Texas: Women of Reform Judaism to Convene Conference

Women of Reform Judaism, an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism, will be holding its biennial WRJ Fried Leadership Conference (FLC) from January 30 to February 1 in Austin, Texas. 
Save the Date: Women of Reform Judaism gets ready for biennial conference.

The highly regarded gathering, made possible in part by a generous endowment from WRJ Board member Joanne B. Fried, is a weekend-long experience to hone leadership skills and deepen connections with other sisterhoods, leaders, and WRJ. 

Traditionally geared towards current and rising sisterhood presidents and board members, FLC has expanded to include opportunities for more experienced leaders to fine-tune their skills and reconnect with WRJ.

During this weekend, attendees will take advantage of workshops that teach crucial leadership skills, create connections and network with other Reform women, experience meaningful worship, learn from poignant speakers, and enjoy time with WRJ leaders. 

FLC attendees will leave feeling rejuvenated and, with the support of their WRJ sisters, be better prepared to guide their own sisterhoods and serve as leaders in their communities.

For more information about the WRJ Fried Leadership Conference,
please contact WRJ Manager of Meetings & Conventions Amanda Feldman.

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Upcoming Events

January 15-20 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

May 27-28, 2016 - Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) Conference, Israel

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