Issue #509

12 March 2015 / 21 Adar 5775


50 Shades of Purim: Snapshots from Our Holiday Celebrations

March 20 is Deadline to Register for CCAR/WUPJ Joint Solidarity Trip to Brussels and Paris

Breaking Out in Rio: CONNECTIONS 2015 Program to Explore Progressive Judaism's Hot Button Issues

Jewish Leadership Starts Here: Klau Conference Brings Together Netzer/TaMaR Members from Across the FSU

Congregation Spotlight
Project: Tikkun Olam
Live From Israel
Dateline USA
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events

50 Shades of Purim: Snapshots from Our Holiday Celebrations

Our congregations in approximately fifty countries celebrated Purim in style this year, with elaborate and creative carnivals, Purimshpiels, performances and of course – wine, delicious meals and hamentaschen

In spite of the tenuous political situation for Jews in Europe and elsewhere, kehilot around the world celebrated the holiday of Purim by reading Megillat Esther, sharing sweets and fruit, dressing up in fancy costumes, and exchanging Mishloach Manot

Following is a short scroll of Purim 5775 celebrations worldwide.

Carnival, 5775: Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, New York, USA.

Queens for a Day: Kehilat Har El, Jerusalem.

Sacred Story: Rabbi Grisha Abramovich leads Minsk's Beit Simcha in the reading of Megillat Esther.

Rabbinic College Class Clowns: Leo Baeck College faculty and students celebrate Purim 5775.

Jewish Freedom, The Puppet Show: Kiev's Hatikva congregation brings the Purim characters to life in a most delightful way.

Power Couple: NFTY-EIE High School in Israel's Purim bash included Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus!

L'Chaim from St. Petersburg: Congregation Shaarei Shalom knows how to party!

'You know it's Purim when…' Or Chadash Congregation, Haifa.

'And the winner is…' Kehilat Le Dor va Dor, Moscow.

Mishloach Manot: 150 Liberal Jewish students across 30 UK campuses, as well as each university’s Jewish Society, received Purim packs from the Liberal Judaism community.

Scroll Reading with PowerPoint: Congregation Emanu El, Odessa, Ukraine

Of course, there were many other costume parties, scroll readings and noise making extravaganzas across the Progressive Jewish world this year. 

In grand Purim tradition, our communities had a rollicking good time, from Kehilat Shanghai's Purim bash under the sea  to Beth Hillel Roma's Purim Theatre Fund Raising Event, where actors, singers, dancers, choristers put on a show that's still being talked about.

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March 20 is Deadline to Register for CCAR/WUPJ Joint Solidarity Trip to Brussels and Paris

There is little more than a week to sign up for a highly anticipated mission to Europe, a compelling collaboration between the WUPJ and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).

From April 19 to 24, the Solidarity Trip to Brussels and Paris will explore the impact of anti-Semitism on Western European Jewry and Progressive/Reform congregations.


Join Rabbi Rick Block CCAR's President and Rabbi Dan Freelander, WUPJ's President, for meetings with political, journalistic and Jewish communal leaders.

After departing from the United States on April 19, the program begins on April 20 in Brussels. Participants will visit some of the city's Muslim neighborhoods and meet with members of the two Progressive congregations in Brussels, Beth Hillel and the International Jewish Center, among other scheduled activities.

Between April 21 and 23, the Solidarity Trip will be in Paris. 

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The itinerary for April 21 includes a tour through Tour Le Marais, the old Jewish neighborhood; a lecture about the challenges facing French Jewry today, to be presented by Roger Cukierman, President of the Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF) and Ariel Goldman, President of Fonds Social Juif Unifié  (FSJU) and a visit to the Memorial de la Shoah.  In addition, participants will have the opportunity to meet with Rabbi Pauline Bebe from Communaute Juive Liberale and Rabbi Tom Cohen from Kehilat Gesher, both congregations affiliated with our European Union for Progressive Judaism.

On April 22, participants will, among many other scheduled stops, visit the mixed neighborhoods of Sarcelles and Creteil, the Parisian suburbs where Jews and Muslims live side by side and where anti-Israel and anti-Semitic protests occurred over the summer. The day's itinerary will also include a meeting with Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur, one of the few women Rabbis in Paris. Rabbi Horvilleur is the rabbi at MJLF, a Jewish liberal cultural and religious association affiliated with the European Union for ProgressiveJudaism.

On April 23, the mission will visit Hyper Cacher, the kosher supermarket recently attacked by terrorists. 

During the Paris leg of the trip, participants will gain a comprehensive insight into the current state of French Jewry from Stéphane Beder, Vice Chairman of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ). 
Local Progressive synagogue leaders and rabbis will meet group members over dinner at the ULIF Copernic Synagogue (Union Libérale Israélite de France).

The departure flight back to the United States will be on April 24. 

This well planned trip will provide you with a thorough understanding of how the local Jewish communities are responding to the recent acts of terror.  
Shabbat options with local congregations can be arranged upon request.  

Complete program and registration information available here.

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Breaking Out in Rio: CONNECTIONS 2015 Program to Explore Progressive Judaism's Hot Button Issues

CONNECTIONS 2015, the World Union for Progressive Judaism's worldwide celebration of our movement taking place May 13-16 in Rio de Janeiro, will feature a compelling and challenging series of Breakout Sessions that will analyze virtually every aspect of contemporary Progressive Judaism.


On May 14, the first group of sessions will explore such pertinent themes as anti-Semitism, Klal Yisrael, interfaith relationships, conversion and ways to open the doors of our worldwide family to 'millennials' via Facebook and other social networks.

In the early evening, the Breakout Sessions resume with powerful presentations related to engaging with Israel and key issues that affect Diaspora Jewry. This session will attempt to provide answers to questions of growing urgency. How does one support or criticize Israel? When? In What forums? 

House of Progressive Jewish Learning: The CONNECTIONS 2015 Breakout Sessions will be held at the Sofitel Rio de Janeiro hotel.

Next, a session of special relevance to our Latin American communities will spotlight the challenges of Jewish Education in the region. Educators from the Arlene Fern,Eliezer Max, and Liessen Jewish schools wills discuss education for the 21st century. 

Other Breakout Sessions will explore the models and options for smaller communities; ways of teaching about Israel through the lens of the WUPJ's Saltz International Education Center as well as the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism's (IMPJ) educational projects. 

Last, but certainly not least, for May 14, the 'Hinenni: 25 Years Strong, Lessons of a Miracle' session will inspire everyone in attendance by teaching the lessons to be learned from the development of the reborn communities in the Former Soviet Union (FSU). In addition, this session will explore the possibilities of implementing the FSU's recipe for success in Latin America.

On May 15, the scheduled Breakout Sessions will include a study of the challenges to and opportunities for Progressive Judaism in Latin America; practical ways to influence the future of the Jewish people through hands on Reform Zionism and hands-on ways to harness the timeless Jewish value of Tikkun Olam. 

So much to learn. So little time. CONNECTIONS 2015 will provide many gateways to a deeper understanding of Progressive Judaism.

Full CONNECTIONS 2015 program details available here.
Ready for Rio? Online registration for CONNECTIONS 2015 is now available!

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Jewish Leadership Starts Here: Klau Conference Brings Together Netzer/TaMaR Members from Across the FSU 

Thirty-six members of the Netzer Olami and TaMaR youth movements attended the Klau Conference between February 20 and February 22 in Minsk, Belarus for a series of seminars aimed at young Jewish leaders.
Future Leaders of the Former Soviet Union: Klau Conference,
held in Minsk, Belarus.

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

An additional goal of the conference was to continue the training of future Netzer and TaMaR madrichim to work in local clubs as well as the FSU Summer Camps program. 

Embracing Judaism: Klau Conference 2015.

Netzer coordinators at the conference were Rita Fruman, FSU; Artur Raisky, Belarus, Masha Gutovskaya, Russia and Yuliya Orlova. Rabbi Gregory Abramovich and Rabbi Julia Gris assisted these young leaders. 

One of the highlights of the conference was the choosing of a new rabbi to oversee Netzer and provide spiritual and practical advice to the group. This year, Rabbi Julia Gris was selected for this important role. Netzer is positive that Rabbi Gris will inject a variety of new ideas and promote effective initiatives during her tenure.

More highlights here! Read the FSU Department's complete report now.

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Congregation Spotlight

United Hebrew Congregation Singapore Inducts First Ever Resident Rabbi

On February 27, the United Hebrew Congregation Singapore commemorated a momentous occasion with the induction of its first resident rabbi: Rabbi Nathan Alfred.

In January, Rabbi Alfred arrived in South East Asia from Brussels and is now formally recognized as spiritual leader of the UHC Singapore community. 
New Era Begins: Rabbi Nathan Alfred (r) is UHC's first resident rabbi.

200 UHC members came together to celebrate this significant event. Rabbi Lennard Thal, who has served the UHC as visiting rabbi for nearly 20 years, came all the way from New York to officially hand over the community to its new rabbi. 

Both Rabbis Alfred and Thal spoke eloquently about the kehila in Singapore, and the significance of this greatly anticipated moment in the annals of UHC history.

Special guests also included Carole Sterling, WUPJ Senior Vice Chair and Miriam Kramer, European Union for Progressive Judaism Chair as well as Alexander Dembitz, President of Geneva’s Liberal Congregation (and whose son is a UHC member).
Witnesses to History: (left to right) Alexander Dembitz, Stefanie Green, Rabbi Lennard Thal, Miriam Kramer, Rabbi Nathan Alfred and Carole Sterling.

The induction of Rabbi Alfred was a proud moment for the UHC, especially for all those members whose generosity over the past several years has ensured that this momentous day arrived. 

The UHC is a vibrant community of 140 families, which for 22 years was primarily led by Rabbi Lennard Thal as its visiting rabbi. As a growing community, and with the retirement of Rabbi Thal, UHC recognized that there was a need for a resident Rabbi.

Therefore, the search began and was concluded with the appointment of Rabbi Nathan Alfred. Since January, he has brought great momentum to the community, meeting all members, preparing for life cycle events, initiating more prayer services and community events, and overseeing the opening of a weekly UHC religious school that is already being attended by 50 students.

In Rabbi Nathan Alfred’s words: “I am delighted to have begun my work in Singapore with such a vibrant community, and hope to serve as a pioneer for Progressive Judaism across South East Asia.”

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Project: Tikkun Olam

Netzer South Africa Youth Group Joins Forces with Local Progressive Communities to Clean Up Jewish Cemetery

Netzer South Africa recently organized, in collaboration with the Bet David, Sandton and Beit Emanuel, Johannesburg Progressive synagogues, a cemetery clean up at Johannesburg’s Jewish Westpark Cemetery.

The initiative was inspired by the central idea of Terumah Torah portion: an offering that comes from the heart both creates and sustains a Jewish community's infrastructure.
Wall of Remembrance: Netzer South Africa Madrich and young volunteer perform a mitzvah at Johannesburg’s Jewish Westpark Cemetery.

Held on February 22, this marks the first Netzer South Africa Mitzvah Day. “The idea behind the day is to connect the learning of mitzvot with concrete action”, explained Rabbi Adrian Michael Schell of the Bet David community. “We wanted to be an example of giving that doesn’t require a lot of money or materials. Time is one of the most precious things we can offer: we can change more in this world than many of us can imagine.”

Steven Adler, President of the Chevrah Kadisha, who welcomed the group at the cemetery, thanked Netzer and all the participants for developing this wonderful idea and implementing it. 
Tikkun Olam's Youngest Advocates: Volunteers at Johannesburg’s Jewish Westpark Cemetery.

At the Wall of Remembrance, Simon Hochschild gave a short introduction about the cemetery, before the assembled youth learned more about the origin of mitzvot and the idea of Tikkun Olam

As part of the day's program, all participants cleaned the memorial plaques and the area around of the Wall of Remembrance. 

Rabbi Margolis of Bet David, Rabbi Shaked of Beit Emanuel and Rabbi Schell were visibly moved by the engagement of the Netzer Madrichim and the rest of the group.

The contribution the youth movement is making to the Jewish community in Johannesburg inspired one and all.

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Live from Israel

Battling Racism is Children's Play: Tel Aviv's Daniel Centers to Premier Exhibit Promoting Tolerance, Openness and Mutual Respect

The Daniel Centers for Progressive Judaism in the Tel Aviv – Jaffa area will soon be opening a new exhibit, "Different Together," that will feature hundreds of childrens’ drawings from twenty different schools that took part in the project, which was sponsored by a sister community in Sarasota, Florida, USA.

"Different Together" will display portrayals of tolerance, openness and respect for others, as seen through the eyes of children.

The Daniel Centers consider the artwork to be but a modest contribution towards the ongoing battles against racism and ignorance.

The exhibition will be on display for approximately one month at the Old Jaffa Port. It's estimated that tens of thousands of people will visit the children's creations. 

Reuven Rivlin, the President of Israel, is even expected to stop by and view "Different Together."

Daniel Centers representatives are confident that "Different Together" will ultimately evolve into an annual event. There are already plans in development to enhance the displays of art with a variety of educational programs.

This Daniel Centers initiative was made possible by the cooperation and support of the Tel Aviv municipality, which among other things will be advertising the upcoming "Different Together" premier on fifty bus stations around the city.

For more information, please send an e-mail to Dina.

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Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion President Responds to Greek Orthodox Seminary Bombing 

On February 25, a room in a dormitory of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem was firebombed. Fortunately, no one was hurt, though the results could easily have been much worse.

Solidarity Meeting: Rabbi Aaron Panken (third from left) meets with the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.

In response, Sarah Bernstein, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish - Christian Relations arranged for a solidarity visit between the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem and Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).

The Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem is considered the “Mother Church” of the Holy Land. The biggest single group of Holy Land Christians belongs to this Church and many Christians who belong today to other Churches have their origins in the Greek Orthodox Church.

According to Rabbi Panken, "His Beatitude Theophilos III received us warmly and thanked us for our expression of sympathy and support, following this despicable act. We agreed that religion ought to be a force that unites people in holy acts, and helps make the world a better, more tolerant and safer place. And we forged a link that will allow us to work together to ensure that our faiths do not divide us, but, rather, bring us together in sacred purpose."

Read the complete article about Rabbi Panken's solidarity visit here.

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Spend Pesach at Beit Shmuel, the WUPJ's Worldwide Headquarters

Passover is rapidly approaching! Beit Shmuel, the worldwide headquarters of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, would like to be your gateway to the ultimate Jerusalem experience.

By spending the holiday season at the Beit Shmuel Hotel and Guest House, every aspect of Jerusalem culture will be but a few feet away from you. 

Room with a View: Beit Shmuel, the WUPJ's headquarters, Jerusalem.

Events in Jerusalem include learning about ancient customs at the Museum of Italian Jewish Art; discovering the wonders of the world around us at the Bloomfield Science Museum; creating arts and crafts at the Museum of Islamic Art and much more. 

For people looking to get out and embrace the great outdoors, none of the hotels in Jerusalem come close to Beit Shmuel in providing either private or group tours of the city. Beit Shmuel is a cultural landmark, located just a short walk away from Jaffa Gate, that specializes in organizing a variety of tours covering different areas of interest including religion, archaeology and history.

Are you simply looking to spend quiet, intimate nights with family and loved ones? By staying in Beit Shmuel's cool, casual rooms, you will have the option of organizing and reserving space for your own private Passover Seder, on site with traditional festive courses.

With spring in the air, it's time to plan for Passover. Jerusalem's favorite guesthouse is an ideal setting to celebrate the way you always wanted to celebrate the holiday of freedom: in Jerusalem.
Beit Shmuel is looking forward to hearing from you! 
Contact the hotel today for full details about spending Passover in Jerusalem.

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Dateline USA

A Matter of Conscience: Reform Judaism's Flagship Social Justice Event Set to Convene in April

Between April 26 and 28, policy experts and activists from across the United States will meet at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's (RAC) Consultation on Conscience.

The RAC’s work is mandated by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), whose 900+ congregations across North America include 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. 

Learn to Fight for Justice: RAC's Consultation on Conscience, April 2015.

Consultation on Conscience will feature high-level briefings with public policy decision makers and social action leaders of the CCAR, URJ and affiliates.

This event is tailored to anyone with a passion for Jewish values and social justice. Activists, social action chairs, agitators for tikkun olam, rabbis, and cantors are invited to hear about the most critical issues of our time.

Topics to be covered at the Consultation will include economic justice and poverty issues, LGBT rights, environmental and sustainability issues, reproductive choice, immigration, health care, Israel, church-state and first amendment issues.

A wide range of elected officials as well as advocacy and activist leaders, journalists, diplomats, and other community leaders will be speaking at this year's Consultation on Conscience. 

Please note that Early Bird Registration for the 2015 Consultation is open until March 31 (discount code: EarlyBird2015).

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Changing of the Guard: Jerry Tanenbaum to Step Down as Yad B'Yad Chair, Rabbi Roberto Graetz to Become Next Task Force Leader

All of us connected with the World Union for Progressive Judaism in 50 countries and 1200 communities around the world join in joyful songs of praise for:

Jerry Tanenbaum, Chairman of the WUPJ"s Yad B'Yad Task Force, will step down in May at the WUPJ’s CONNECTIONS 2015 conference. Rabbi Roberto Graetz, a native of Argentina and the rabbi of Temple Isaiah of Lafayette, California will become the new Chairman of Yad B’Yad.
Making His Mark: Under Jerry Tanenbaum' s chairmanship of Yad B'Yad, the Latin American Progressive community thrived.

A decade ago, there were just a few Progressive / Reform congregations in Latin America.  Today, there are so many more.  This growth has occurred as a result of the tenacity of the WUPJ's leadership in the region, as well as the dedication of a North America-based WUPJ support team, Yad B’Yad (Hand -in-Hand) that was created by Steve and Sandy z”l Breslauer and Jerry and Pat z”l Tanenbaum

During the Tanenbaum era, Yad B’Yad has facilitated the flowering of the Latin American community through missions, fundraising and strategic planning.  

With the help of Yad B’Yad, the WUPJ-Latin America region has been able to send emerging leaders to the Saltz Center in Jerusalem for training.

In addition, Yad B'Yad has provided the means for cantors to establish the La Shir B’Nefesh cantorial chorale, which travels throughout Latin America, performing Judaic music.

Other highlights of Jerry Tanenbaum's tenure include the beginning of the translation of the Plaut Torah Commentary into Portuguese; the hiring a full-time executive director and working with Fundacion Judaica in Argentina to expand the WUPJ's impact in the community.

Jerry Tanenbaum has chaired Yad B’Yad since its inception, and has supported, sustained and led the task force with verve and dynamism. Jerry Tanenbaum, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, also served as the Chair of the North American Board of the World Union.

He will be honored for his leadership and vision at a festive program on May 14.  At that time, the Yad B’Yad Fund will officially be changed to the Jerry and Pat (z”l) Tanenbaum Yad B’Yad Fund for Latin America. 

The celebration will include tributes from long-time friends and associates, musical performances by Latin American performers and by Jerry’s grandson, a noted musician.
The Face of Progressive Jewish Latin America's Future:
Rabbi Roberto Graetz.

Regarding Rabbi Graetz, he served as rabbi in Bueno Aires and Rio de Janeiro and was the WUPJ’s first Director for Latin America, prior to arriving at Temple Isaiah 1991. 

As one who is intimately involved in Progressive Jewish life in Latin America, Rabbi Graetz is uniquely positioned to take the reins of Yad B’Yad and lead it to an even greater impact in the region.

The World Union and its leadership expresses profound gratitude for the selfless work of Jerry Tanenbaum and sends hearty congratulations to Rabbi Roberto Graetz. 

We know that our Latin American congregations will benefit and prosper from the continued contributions of Yad B’Yad.

Mazal Tov: Abraham Geiger College's Rabbi Walter Homolka Honored by German President

All of us connected with the World Union for Progressive Judaism in 50 countries and 1200 communities around the world, join in joyful songs of praise for:

Rabbi Walter Homolka, rector of the WUPJ-affiliated Abraham Geiger College for the training of rabbis and a professor of Jewish Studies at Potsdam University in Germany, who was honored by Joachim Gauck, President of the Federal Republic of Germany, with the Officers Cross of the Federal Merit Order. 

Man of the Hour: Rabbi Walter Homolka receives prestigious award from Prime Minister of the State of Brandenburg Dr. 
Dietmar Woidke at the state chancellery in Potsdam.

It's worth noting that the conferral of this honor upon Rabbi Homolka had been successfully blocked by the Central Council of Jews in Germany for 14 consecutive years. 

"Overcoming this veto means that Progressive Judaism is now perceived as an independent entity. We now have a marker of where we are in German society: the power of the Central Council to stop us or make things difficult for us has been diminished," Rabbi Homolka stated.

On February 27, Dr. Dietmar Woidke, Prime Minister of the State of Brandenburg, handed over the insignia in the state chancellery in Potsdam. 

Woidke thanked Rabbi Homolka for the establishment of the Abraham Geiger College in 1999, the first rabbinical school in continental Europe after the Holocaust. 

Homolka’ s initiative also led to the founding in 2013 of the School of Jewish Theology of the University of Potsdam. Rabbi Homolka is professor of Modern Jewish Thought at this Jewish Divinity School. 

Rabbi Richard Hirsch, Honoray Life President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, noted that "Our world movement has for many years now recognized Rabbi Homolka for his countless creative initiatives in revivifying German Jewry.  It is good to see that the government considers his work to be of such merit that it enhances German society as a whole.  To honor Rabbi Homolka is also to honor our movement and the role of the larger Jewish community in a new Germany."

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Upcoming Events

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 EducatorsIsrael

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

July 15-17, 2016SAUPJ 2016 Biennial ConferenceSouth Africa

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