12 February 2015 / 23 Shevat 5775
'Mifgash' in Rio: Initiative Will Encourage Young Latin American Jews to Develop Social Action Skills during CONNECTIONS 2015
- ARZENU Annual Meeting Will Discuss Potential Ramifications of WZO Elections
- Berlin Bound: LJG Netherlands Netzer Explores City's Jewish History and Connects with Local Community
On Monday, February 2, German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a short visit to Budapest that included a historic meeting with representatives of all the Jewish denominations in Hungary.
Merkel’s visit was a milestone in the Progressive movement's ongoing struggle for official recognition in Hungary.
Bet Orim was represented by the president of the congregation, Gabor Kalman.
Chancellor Merkel was briefed on the latest developments in Hungarian church law. Currently, the Hungarian government does not recognize the legal status of all religious institutions. It is the country's parliament that must afford official, legal acceptance of a religious community by way of a two-thirds vote.
As a result of this process, several worthy religious communities, including the two Progressive congregations, have been denied recognition - even though they have fulfilled all the legal prerequisites.
Currently, Bet Orim and Sim Shalom do not enjoy equal status with other Jewish denominations. At the joint meeting with Chancellor Merkel, Gabor Kalman spoke about the subsequent lawsuit that was won against Hungary at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Chancellor Merkel expressed surprise and dismay that the recognition of religious communities is political and subject to parliamentary approval. The topic of the Hungarian church law occupied a significant portion of the discussions.
Other topics addressed at the joint meeting included anti-Semitism; the burden of the past on contemporary Hungarian society; German support of Holocaust survivors; education; research cooperation; the Jewish renaissance in Budapest and, most importantly, the current legislative developments in Hungary related to the recognition of religious institutions.
During her visit with the Jewish communities of Budapest, Merkel also took the time to pay her respects by laying a stone on the Tree of Life Memorial that commemorates the 5,000 victims of the Holocaust buried nearby and met with two Holocaust survivors prior.
During CONNECTIONS 2015, the Progressive movement's worldwide celebration taking place May 13-16 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 'Mifgash' - an initiative of Netzer's TaMaR youth movement - will bring together approximately 50 Jewish men and women ages 20 to 35 years old from across Latin America and the rest of the world.
By exploring various facets of living life as a young Jewish person in today's world, Mifgash aims to strengthen connections between young Jewish people and their communities.
For two days, Mifgash participants from across the Latin American region as well as Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic and the United States will take part in a variety of innovative activities that will focus on various aspects of 'Tikkun Olam'.
Participants will have the opportunity to visit Rio de Janeiro's Dona Marta favela. Once there, Mifgash attendees will learn valuable lessons about the universal nature of the Jewish value of 'repairing the world'. In addition, these young Jewish men and women will acquire practical knowledge about social action that they will then take back to their home communities.
However, Mifgash members won't only be observing. Indeed, participants will also be taking an active role at CONNECTIONS 2015. Inspired by this global gathering of Progressive Jews, the young men and women of Mifgash will sit in on panel discussions, weigh in during workshops and share their ideas and experiences throughout a series of highly anticipated lectures.
According to Executive Director of Netzer Olami and TaMaR Maoz Haviv, the Mifgash in Rio will "significantly raise our organization's visibility. By telling our story at CONNECTIONS 2015, we believe that our ability to operate in the Americas will be enhanced."
Currently, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany are meeting in Belarus to negotiate a cease-fire in Ukraine. The WUPJ's FSU Director Alex Kagan is "hopeful that these high level talks will defuse the escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine."
Every year, the Bergman Seminar turns Israel into a giant classroom for Progressive Jewish Educators from across the globe. This 10-day professional development seminar, based in Jerusalem, is carefully crafted to provide maximum impact on the work of formal and informal Jewish educators.
Watch Us Grow! Netzer Youth Group's Gap Year Program Tallies an Amazing February
Netzer Olami's Shnat 10-month leadership training program for young adults in Israel have been racking up impressive registration number of late, indicating that the gap year initiative is responding well to the feedback of former participants.
In October, 'Shnatties' from Europe and North America arrived as part of the Northern Shnat program. That, combined with the early February arrival of the Southern Shnat group from the southern hemisphere, has helped establish several milestones:
- 43 current participants (26 in Shnat North, 17 in Shnat South): highest combined total since 2011.
- A 'Shnattie' participant from South Africa, the first since 2012 (Southern Shnat program).
- First time in recent memory that there's a 'Shnattie' from Canada (Northern Shnat program).
These latest successes are a direct result of a concerted effort to make Shnat programming more flexible and responsive to the needs of potential participants.
According to Shnat Director Michael Vainberg, the program has benefited from "us listening and incorporating the feedback of former shnatties. By doing so, Shnat has become more attractive and relevant to today's 18-year-olds."
Lights, Camera, Action! Beit Shmuel Officially Open Jerusalem's Newest Movie Theater
On January 29, Mercaz Shimshon / Beit Shmuel, headquarters of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, opened the doors of its Hirsch Theater to the high quality films of Orlando Cinema.
The gala reception at Blaustein Hall was attended by 250 leading figures of Jerusalem's cultural scene. As is always the case at Beit Shmuel, the breathtaking view of the Old City overwhelmed even native Jerusalemites. Next, the critically acclaimed Chinese movie 'Dearest' was screened to rave reviews.
Not just another Jerusalem movie house, Orlando Cinema screens critically acclaimed foreign films, with English-language substyles.
Suited to locals as well as tourists, this cultural offering by Beit Shmuel is enhancing Jerusalem's cultural landscape by delivering the timeless mystique of a night at the movies to residents who do not have time during the workweek to indulge in such charming distractions.
Indeed, Beit Shmuel is one of the few Jerusalem-based cultural centers to be open on Shabbat.
Grounded in and guided by such Progressive values as pluralism and inclusion, Beit Shmuel has long offered a variety of weekend activities, including 'Children Create Shabbat', Friday evening performances, walking tours and much more.
Next, Cantor Tamar Havilio and Cantor Evan Kent conducted the night's musical performance, introducing new arrangements of some of Friedman's most beloved tunes.
Singapore Community Unites to Support and Strengthen French Jews
In order to demonstrate their solidarity with the Jews of France in the aftermath of the terrible attacks of January 2015 ,members of the United Hebrew Congregation Singapore (UHC) raised approximately $2200 USD for the MJLF Surmelin Synagogue in Paris. Both the UHC and MJLF are affiliated with the World Union of Progressive Judaism.
UHC President Stefanie Green explains: "Although we are many miles away from the recent incidents in Paris, it has shaken us all to the core. We are a community made up of many nationalities and are naturally in solidarity with all Jews globally. The United Hebrew Congregation Singapore is reaching out to MJLF community to let them know we are here, half way across the world, supporting them with our donations, thoughts and continued solidarity.”
Newly installed spiritual leader of UCH, Rabbi Nathan Alfred, added "We may be far away, but our members come from around the world, and we are with the Parisian Jewish community in thought and in deed. As Jews, we are responsible for one another, from Asia to Europe, in Israel and throughout the world."
From February 15 to February 17, ARZENU will be meeting in Israel to address many of the most pertinent issues in the Progressive Zionist world. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to visit innovative Progressive communities around the country.
The ongoing elections to the World Zionist Congress (WZO) and their importance to Israel's Progressive Jewish communities will also be an important topic of discussion.
American Jews began voting in the WZO elections on January 13. Ballots close on 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.
ARZENU leads the largest faction at the WZO Congress and has important connections with Israeli political parties.
According to ARZENU Chair Rabbi Larry Englander, "While in Israel, we will certainly address the importance of the WZO elections. In addition, we will study recent developments, both within Israel and in the Diaspora that are forcing us to answer this question: 'what does it mean to be a Progressive Jewish Zionist in the 21st century?' While here, we will also visit dynamic Israeli Progressive congregations, such as a new community in Gadera."
By Yuval Ben-Horin, Netherlands Youth Leader/Shaliach Jewish Agency
"From January 29 to February 1, 21 members of the liberal community in the Netherlands, ages 18-23 years old, spent a weekend learning about the Jewish history of Berlin and connecting with one another.
I, along with Hadassah Schrijver, were the trip's leaders.
During our time in the German capital, we visited the city's Jewish museum and then embarked on a three-hour tour of Berlin's Jewish landmarks.
We also had the opportunity to meet some young Jewish Berliners, who invited us to a festive Shabbat dinner. It was an amazing evening: 50 people from the Netherlands and Berlin, sharing and learning about each other. I was moved by how each person expressed a unique and compelling connection to Judaism and the Jewish community.
On Saturday, we had a service in the morning about Tu B'Shvat, followed by Havdalah. On our last evening, we were enthralled by the view of the entire city that standing on top of a TV tower afforded us!
The trip was very successful. The students enjoyed their time and the group definitely bonded."
Orit Shoshani, Netzer Olami's Education and International Relations Coordinator
We are pleased to welcome Orit Shoshani, who joins WUPJ as Netzer Olami's Education and International Relations Coordinator.
Orit is proud of her ongoing connection to the Progressive movement, stating, "I believe that youth-related activities and outreach to communities around the world are crucial as these young people represent the future of the movement and the perpetuation of its values."
Happy New Year Trees: Tu b'Shvat in Israel
Tu B'Shvat or the "New Year of the Trees" was observed on the 15th (tu) of the Hebrew month of Sh'vat. Scholars believe that originally Tu B'Shvat was an agricultural festival, marking the emergence of spring. In the 17th century, Kabbalists created a ritual for Tu B'Shvat that is similar to a Passover Seder. Today, many Jews hold a modern version of the Tu B'Shvat Seder each year. The holiday also has become a tree-planting festival in Israel, in which Israelis and Jews around the world plant trees in honor or in memory of loved ones and friends.
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Upcoming EventsMay 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