Issue #506

29 January 2015 / 9 Shevat 5775


'Six Amazing Days in January': A First Hand Account of Youth Movement Netzer Olami's Annual Conference

Allow the WUPJ to CONNECT you with the Buenos Aires Jewish Community

Meet, Learn and Pray: Over a Thousand Jewish Teens and Adults to Gather at Historic NFTY Convention

Reality Check: Our French Community's Response to Terrorist Attacks 
Community Spotlight: Brussels, Belgium
Live From Israel
Dateline: USA
News Bits
Thoughts Worth Hearing
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events

'Six Amazing Days in January': A First Hand Account of Youth Movement Netzer Olami's Annual Conference

The WUPJ's global youth movement Netzer Olami recently convened its highly anticipated annual conference in Jerusalem, from January 15 to 20, 2015. In total, 14 countries, 15 snifim (Netzer branches) and 27 delegates took part in this year's gathering. 


Program highlights included Rabbi Haim Shalom's introduction to the Netzer ideology; Maoz Haviv, Executive Director of Netzer Olami and TaMaR, leading delegates on a tour of 'Jerusalem Outside the Walls'; Mark Naveh's presentation about Kibbutz Lotan and Damian Kelman's analyses of Israel's Declaration of Independence.

Executive Director Haviv summed up the successful 2015 conference by pointing out that "Our primary focus was education. Specifically, Netzer educates its members on all facets of Tikun Olam. I am convinced that there is no more powerful tool to change the world than an educated Jewish youth."

Rebecca Sampson a participant in the current Shnat Netzer leadership-training program for young adults, was on site for many of the conference's highlights. Below, are some of her impressions."Over the past six days, I had the amazing opportunity to attend an incredible event that happens every year called Netzer Veida, a gathering of representatives from all over the world, including Brazil, France, England (RSY and LJY), Holland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, U.S.A, Canada (me!), Australia, Germany, South Africa, Israel and Barcelona. We presented our positions and advanced our understanding of our role among the Jewish youth of the world today. 
Leadership 101: Netzer Olami annual conference participants listen and learn.

During the Veida, we got to hear from each of the sniffim. Coming from NFTY, I never really had a true understanding about the other sniffim and what makes them special!

Each snif ran either a kef (fun) session, ma’amad (service) or asepha (committee meeting). NFTY had the privilege of leading a ma’amad. I taught and led songs that could potentially be spread throughout the world. 

Many of the discussions held during the asephot were heated, but in the end we were all able to agree on decisions that will help make Netzer the best possible movement it can be.
Sobering display in Sderot:  NFTY President Debbie Rabinovich explores a few of the approximately 6,000 rockets that have hit the area.

During the veida, we went on two day trips, to the Herzl Museum and Sderot - where we explored the area and spoke to the residents who live there. This experience down south was surreal, because until that moment I had never been to the place where it all happened, where some 6,000 rockets had been fired into in recent years. 

I was struck by how the residents of the local kibbutzim still paint the walls of their bomb shelters with bright colours, highlighting their hope of peace.

Those six days have made me even more excited about the upcoming four months on Machon (study period), the next part of my Shnat year!

View the 2015 Netzer Olami annual conference program.

Follow Rebecca's continuing adventures as a Canadian 'Shnattie' in Israel.

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Allow the WUPJ to CONNECT you with the Buenos Aires Jewish Community

Right now Argentina's Jewish community is coping with the shocking death of Alberto Nisman, lead prosecutor in the search for truth behind the 1994 bombing of the AMIA (Jewish Community Center) building in Buenos Aires that resulted in the death of 85 people. The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) continues to stand proudly by the brave members of our movement across Latin America who won't rest until justice is served. 
Out of tragedy, unity: Rabbi Sergio Bergman consoles a girl during a memorial for the victims of the 1994 bombing attack to 
in Buenos Aires, Argentina (file picture).

Shortly before the beginning of CONNECTIONS 2015, our worldwide celebration taking place May 13-16 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a special tour of the Buenos Aires Jewish community that is currently performing the sacred task of seeking the truth has been arranged.

At its core, CONNECTIONS 2015 is guided by our profound belief in the concept of Peoplehood. By holding this 37th international convention of our movement in Latin America for the first time, you will have the opportunity to both experience the region's thriving communities as well as express solidarity during this particularly trying period.

Today, Argentina is home to around 250,000 Jews, making it the sixth largest Jewish community in the world, and the biggest in Latin America. The number of Jewish inhabitants in Buenos Aires is equal to the combined Jewish populations of Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay. 

In particular, Buenos Aires is home to successful community centers, a strong Jewish educational system and many other facets of a vibrant and engaged Jewish community.
Center of Jewish life: Libertad Synagogue, Buenos Aires.

Between May 8 and May 10, take part in a Kabbalat Shabbat service in the oldest and grandest synagogue in Argentina, Libertad Synagogue. While here, you will experience the warmth and hospitality of the Libertad community and enjoy an intimate dinner with Rabbi Sergio Bergman. In addition, you'll also visit the innovative Arlene Fern Jewish School, tour the city's Jewish landmarks and take part in the dedication of the new Fundacion community center.

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!

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Meet, Learn and Pray: Over a Thousand Jewish Teens and Adults to Gather at Historic NFTY Convention

Teenagers from across North America will be joined by nearly 200 adult lay leaders, professionals, congregants, clergy and stakeholders at the National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) Convention and Youth Summit, to take place from February 13 to 17, 2015, in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. 
From many destinations to one common destiny: NFTY members gear up for historic convention. 

The Convention will open with an intergenerational Shabbat celebration filled with joyous music, worship and dancing. NFTY's 75th Anniversary will be celebrated throughout the weekend and the event will close with a 'birthday, featuring musical performances and distinguished guests. 

Notable attendees will include Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and Cantor Jeff Klepper

One of the most highly anticipated events will be the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the melody to Shalom Rav. To honor the importance of this song, NFTY will release a new recording that will include over 25 well-known North American Jewish musicians, with each voice singing a few lines of melody and harmony. Events from this historic gathering will be streamed on the NFTY website.

The Youth Summit will be integrated with the NFTY Convention programming, giving teens and adult participants opportunities to study, worship, learn, network and celebrate NFTY's 75th Anniversary together. Highlights will include:
  • Rabbi Jonah Pesner, newly-appointed Director of the Religious Action Center (RAC), will give a keynote address at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights
  • Other speakers will include: Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ); Rabbi Aaron Panken, President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and Rabbi Dr. Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, National Director of Recruitment and Admissions of HUC-JIR. 
  • A new targeted track for stakeholders including congregational presidents and board members; youth and education chairs and philanthropists invested in the future of Jewish youth.
  • Shared Leadership Incubator (SLI) will offer specialized programming for professionals and stakeholders from the same congregations or organizations, resulting in better synergy among delegations.
  • Inaugural Youth Summit intern program: eight college-aged students will help with planning, implementation, and evaluation of the Youth Summit.

Learn more about the historic NFTY Convention 2015 now.

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Reality Check: Our French Community's Response to Terrorist Attacks 

French Jewish Community's New Reality Discussed in WUPJ Webinar 

On January 25, 2015 nearly 100 people from around the world tuned into to a timely discussion about the state of French Jewry following the recent terrorist acts in Paris, as well the escalating anti-Semitic rhetoric being heard from extremists across France.
Boiling point: Saltz Center webinar discusses the fate of France's Jews.

Rabbi Steve Burnstein, Director of the Anita Saltz International Education Center of the WUPJ, moderated this conversation with leaders of France's Progressive Jewish community regarding the difficult issues that our brothers and sisters must now address:
  • Can France's Jews continue to live lives as Jews, going to synagogues, Jewish restaurants and events?
  • How should French Jews cooperate with the authorities to develop the appropriate security measures to keep the community safe?
  • Should the Jewish population heed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call to leave France and immigrate to Israel, or is this surrendering to terrorism?
  • Can relations between Jewish and Muslim communities in France be strengthened, despite the escalating tensions?                                                                              
Rabbi Burnstein spoke with Stéphane Beder, president of the Federation of French-Speaking Liberal Jews, vice-chairman of the European Union for Progressive Judaism, and a member of the World Union for Progressive Judaism's executive board and Rabbi Tom Cohen, from WUPJ-affiliated congregation Kehilat Gesher in Paris.

Listen to French WUPJ leaders talk about their community’s new realities now.

Stay tuned for information about the next Saltz Center
'Dateline Everywhere' webinar!

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Community Spotlight: Brussels, Belgium

Belgium's Beth Hillel Kicks Off Jubilee Celebration in Grand Style

On January 18, 2015, the Communauté Israélite Libérale de Belgique (CILB) launched its yearlong celebration of 50 years since the founding of the Progressive Jewish community in Belgium.

Representatives from the Belgian and Jewish communities, as well as local and foreign dignitaries, attended the opening ceremony.
So many reasons to smile: (left to right) Rabbi Albert Dahan, Founder of Beth Hillel; Gilbert Lederman, Chairman of the Board; current Beth Hillel Rabbi Marc Neiger.

During the inaugural, attendees were addressed by many speakers, including the Board of Beth Hillel; Chairman of the CCOJB (the umbrella organization of the Belgian Jewish community); heads of the European and French speaking Liberal Jewish associations, as well as current Beth Hillel Rabbi Marc Neiger and former Rabbi Albert Dahan.

All the presenters reiterated the need for the Jewish community to stay united while integrating various interpretations about what it means to live a Jewish life.

Musical interludes included the performance of Jewish songs as interpreted by Hazanit Aviv Weinberg and pianist Naaman Wagner. In addition, Rabbi Dahan, accompanied by pianist David Baltuch, moved the audience with their musical stylings.

Despite the hard times Jewish communities are facing, Beth Hillel has demonstrated an admirable resilience, remaining viable in a new multicultural environment.

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Live From Israel

IMPJ Journal: Updates from the Reform and Progressive Jewish Movement in Israel

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), recently reported on the latest movement developments.

"Winter in Israel can get cold, though it cannot be compared with many of the locations where this message finds you. Unfortunately, many Israelis do not have the proper clothes and equipment to fend off the cold nights. Keren B'Kavod, the IMPJ Fund for Humanitarian Assistance and Social Responsibility, has been working to ensure that those in need receive the proper clothes and equipment. To date, Keren B'Kavod has provided basic essentials to residents in Gedera, Yeruham and Be’er Sheva, as well as in the Bedouin villages of Rahat and Kaser a-Sar.

Paying it forward: Keren B'Kavod and Netzer Olami combine forces to distribute food packages (file picture).

Sifriyat Pijamot, the Pajama Library, is continuing to expand and this past Cheshvan children in 14 preschools began reading two new books that imparted Jewish values from a pluralistic lens. The IMPJ education department’s national influence is becoming more apparent every day as preschool teachers from across the country are turning to us for materials to help facilitate classroom activities.

In addition, the IMPJ held another mother-daughter seminar, encouraging more Israeli teenage girls to take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate a meaningful Bat Mitzvah ceremony. Inspired by our biblical heroines, the IMPJ continues to promote female empowerment and independence. We are excited to see more and more girls turn to us as they reach the age of mitzvot.

Wishing you a Shavuah Tov and Chodesh Tov."

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For Debbie: HUC Jerusalem and WUPJ to Hold Memorial Concert in Honor of Legendary American Jewish Musician

On Saturday night, January 31, 2015, the Jerusalem campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and World Union for Progressive Judaism will pay tribute to one of the most influential voices in American Jewish music in the last century, Debbie Friedman, Z"L

Taking place at Jerusalem's Beit-Shmuel/Mercaz Shimshon, headquarters of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the night's playlist will feature moving renditions of such classics as L'chi Lach, Miriam's Song, Aleph Bet Song and Not by Might.

The evening will be welcomed in with opening remarks by Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President of International Development for the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Her legacy lives on: Debbie Friedman, Z"L.

The evening will end with a moving recitation of Tefillat HaDerech (Traveler's Prayer). According to WUPJ President Rabbi Daniel Freelander, “No one contributed more to the impact of the Jewish youth movements and synagogue music than Debbie. She created spiritual memories that continue to inspire long into adulthood. Her melding of Hebrew and vernacular texts was a turning point in contemporary Jewish music, bringing explicit meaning to accessible melodies. Our friendship and collaboration date back to our camper days at the UAHC Kutz Camp in 1969.  Her memory blesses us today, and her lasting impact is only now becoming appreciated. Zichrona Livracha.”

Debbie Friedman released 20 albums between 1972 (Sing unto God) and 2010 (As You Go on Your Way: Shacharit – The Morning Prayers), on several record labels. She is considered by many to be the pre-eminent Jewish singer and songwriter of our time. While some Progressive congregation members might not recognize her name, everyone probably recognizes her music.  

In 2011, Rabbi David Ellenson, then President of HUC-JIR, announced that the Jewish Institute of Religion's School of Sacred Music would be renamed the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, which it subdquently was.

Listen to highlights from a previous HUC Jerusalem-WUPJ
Debbie Friedman Memorial Concert.

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Monopolity: Sheer Confusion of Upcoming Israeli Elections Inspires New Board Game

The WZO's Department of Diaspora Activities recently unveiled its 2015 version of the life-size Monopolity board game that simulates the political issues and parties surrounding the March 17 elections.

Monopolity is fast moving, interactive and enables players to explore the complexities of the country's political system.

Game On! Monopolity turns the Israeli elections into an addictive board game.

The game allows you to debate and discuss some of the major issues in Israeli society: State vs. Religion, Peace & Security, Immigration, Israel-Diaspora relations, to name a few.  

Monopolity is suitable for a wide variety of venues and groups, including Hillels, youth movements, congregations, Jewish Day Schools and other Jewish communal settings for adults as well as students.

The first version of Monopolity came out during the 2013 Israeli elections. With the recent announcement of yet another snap election, the WZO has released an updated 2015 version that simulates the ongoing process of coalition building and government formation. 

This activity will help participants understand the meaning of the election results and connect to the political negotiations that are occurring in Israel right now.

Learn how the Israeli political game is played here.

See how you can influence policy-makers in Israel.

Get enlightened: stay tuned for information about Anita Saltz International Education Center Scholar Professor Paul Lipz's webinar "Cracking the Code: Professor Paul Liptz Guides You through the Byzantine Israeli Electoral System (among other topics)."

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Dateline: USA

A Bold Vision: New WUPJ President Outlines Action Plan

The Canadian Jewish News recently interviewed Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Below, is an excerpt that presents Rabbi Freelander's vision for the future of the movement: 

"I’d like to accomplish the creation of new congregations in places where we know there are critical masses of non-Orthodox Jews, but where the latter haven’t organized yet. I was, for example, thrilled to work with new congregations in Tokyo, Shanghai, and Bangkok, where liberal Jews have been for years but are finally wanting to get organized. There’s also a new Reform congregation in Rome that has just emerged, and several in North America. Getting these new congregations on their feet is a very high priority.
Man with the plan: WUPJ President Rabbi Daniel Freelander.

The second area is the former Soviet Union. There, Jews commonly become associated with synagogues through their children, which is the reverse of what we have in North America. In the former Soviet Union, young people will go to Jewish summer camp on scholarships, which are really about indoctrination in Judaism. The kids will come home very excited, and the parents won’t know what they’re talking about. We offer family camps so that the whole family can experience the joy of intensive Jewish living, 24/7. These kids will become the leaders of the new congregations.

In Belarus and Ukraine, congregational leadership tend to be in their 30s or 40s, so it’s very different from the typically older lay leadership in North American and even Israel, where parents try to convince their kids to get involved [in synagogue life]. In Belarus and Ukraine, it’s the reverse, and I find that very exciting. That’s where we’re investing a lot of resources, to youth access. "

Read Rabbi Freelander's complete interview here.

Why Vote ARZA? The Democratic Nature of Israel May Depend On it

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, 2015.

Jonathan Edelman, a member of Jacksonville, Florida's Congregation Ahavath Chesed, is on the ARZA slate. ARZA is the single largest supporter of the Israel Reform Movement and IRAC, working 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.

Edelman was partly motivated to become involved in the political process following a 10-day Birthright trip, where he came face to face with the darker side of Israeli society:

"At the Western Wall, I saw a women’s section that was far from equal to the men’s section; in Tel Aviv, I saw open disdain for Reform Jews. Elsewhere, I read about Orthodox radio stations refusing to hire women, tensions and violence between Arabs and Jews, and “modesty signs” around an Israeli city.

I believe in an Israel that can be welcoming to all peoples, whether they be men or women, religious or secular, Reform or Orthodox, Jewish or Arab. With a vote for ARZA, we will work for an Israel that we can believe in, one that is welcoming and just and prosperous. With everyone’s support, we can help to shape an Israel as peaceful as the winding roads outside Tiberias."

Please see the ARZA platform here.

Learn more in ARZA's video here.

Vibrant Jewish Learning Starts Here: National Association of Temple Educators to Meet at Annual Gathering

The National Association of Temple Educators (NATE), an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism, will be convening its annual gathering between February 1 and 4 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. 

At the meeting, participants will explore the art of communication both inside and outside the sphere of Jewish education. Attendees will examine innovative practices and consider new ideas leading to more effective communication within educational institutions. 

Jewish educators will come away from this gathering with powerful new approaches, practical applications, and the renewed energy gained from connecting with one another.

NATE is the professional organization of Jewish educators of the Reform movement.
Through members working in partnership across the United States as well as in Canada, Great Britain, Israel, Australia and South Africa, NATE serves a wide variety of Jewish organizations by working to strengthen Reform Jewish religious education.

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News Bits

Mazal Tov! New Progressive Jewish Congregation Established in Moscow

A new Progressive congregation in Moscow, Or Chadash, recently registered with the Russian Ministry of Religious Affairs. Professor Michael Chlenov, a well-known and respected figure in Russia in Jewish, academic and social circles, is the chairman of the congregation. 

Prof. Chlenov is also the Vice President of the World Jewish Congress and General Secretary of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, President of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Congregations of Russia. In addition, Chlenov is the Academic Chair of Sefer Academic Center, and Deacon of Maimonides Academy of the Faculty of Philology.
In charge: Professor Michael Chlenov, Chairman of Congregation Or Chadash.

According of Irina Scherban, Chair of the Russian Progressive Communities and board member of Or Chadash: "This new congregation will be the true home of the academic, cultural and creative Jewish intelligentsia of Moscow." 

Alex Kagan, Director of FSU Programs said that "This congregation can serve as an example of the Reform movement's success in the FSU, when people of such a high caliber as the community chair, board members and others can find a common home. I truly hope that through this congregation, our movement will be exposed to a new population, including new local donors and that this will create new opportunities."

Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky Becomes First Geiger Kolleg Graduate to Lead UK Congregation

Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky, who was ordained last June by Abraham Geiger Kolleg, will be the rabbi for Menorah Synagogue in Manchester, UK. Rabbi Sborovsky is the first Geiger graduate to be appointed to the pulpit of a British congregation. 

Making history: Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky.

As a student rabbi and after ordination, Sborovsky was very active in serving developing Progressive communities in Spain and Italy, working under the auspices of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ).

Rabbi Sborovsky reacted to the news: "I am very excited and very much looking forward to beginning my tenure. I was fortunate to have several offers to consider lately and am delighted to have found a great community that felt right and was a good fit from the very start."

House of Jewish Learning: Leo Baeck Presents its Adult Learning Program for 2015

There is still some time to sign up for Leo Baeck College Lehrhaus 2015.

Looking to feed your enthusiasm for Progressive Jewish learning? Do you have an unquenchable desire to discover yourself in Judaism and Judaism in yourself?

If so, then you should consider studying at the Leo Baeck College Lehrhaus.

All the courses are taught by Leo Baeck College's faculty: teachers who are both passionate about their subject and deeply knowledgeable.


2015 course offerings include:

  • Biblical Hebrew with Dr Alinda Damsma: Tuesday evenings from January 27 to March 24 2015
  • Spinoza's Jewish Philosophy with Rabbi Mark L. Solomon: Tuesday evenings from February 3 to February 24 2015
  • Jewish Sacred Music (Nusach, melodies and text) with Dr Annette Boeckler: Wednesday evenings from February 4 to March 25 2015
  • Why did God Laugh? Introductions to Midrash with Rabbi Colin Eimer: Tuesday evenings from March 3 to March 24 2015.

Questions? You are encouraged to contact Jarek Lodzinski

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Klau Conference to Bring Together Netzer/TaMaR Members from Across the FSU

Between February 20 and 22, 2015, the Klau Conference will attract dozens of Netzer and TaMaR (the Reform movement's organization tailored to young adults) members to Minsk, Belarus for a series of seminars aimed at young Jewish leaders.

It is estimated that 35 young men and women from across the Former Soviet Union (FSU) will attend Klau Conference 2015.
Analyze this: The FSU Summer Camps program will be studied at the Klau Conference.

The program will feature an in depth analysis of the Reform movement's ideological framework. Specifically, discussions will focus on ways to enhance cooperation among the various Reform communities as it pertains to youth outreach.

In addition, the conference will delve into a renewed educational project, the development of a school for Reform madrichim (youth counsellors). The gathering in Minsk will also study the recent successes of and challenges to the FSU Summer Camps program.

The Klau Conference will be led by four coordinators, three from Netzer and one from the WUPJ's FSU department. The team will be supported and guided by Rabbi Gregory Abramovich and Rabbi Julia Gris.

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Thoughts Worth Hearing

Echoes of History: UK's Rabbi Janner-Klausner Speaks on BBC Radio about Holocaust Memorial Day

On January 23, 2015, Movement for Reform Judaism (RJ) Senior Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner took to the airwaves and explained on BBC Radio the heightened importance of this year's Holocaust Memorial Day.

Words to ponder: Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner.

According to Rabbi Janner-Klausner: "With the shooting at the kosher grocers in Paris still fresh in our minds, British Jews are currently engaged in feisty and very public debate about anti-Semitism. There are real concerns: real fears. We know the situation for Jews is a benchmark for freedom across the whole of society, and that reports of anti-Semitic hate crime have been up in the last year. Yet, anti-Semitism in Britain remains the lowest in Europe - and I believe this country is generally a safe and wonderful place for Jews.

By hearing and retelling stories of Righteous among the Nations, and other rescuers, we become active witnesses to those events - and help ensure their memory echoes from Warsaw to Whitehall, across history and across nations."

Listen to Rabbi Janner-Klausner's thought provoking interview now.

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Upcoming Events

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

April 15-17, 2016 - European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), Biennial Conference, London, UK

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

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