Issue #510

26 March 2015 / 6 Nisan 5775


Powerful Prelude: Rabbinic Kallah in Rio to Gather Before CONNECTIONS 2015

Klal Yisrael in Practice: Rosh Pina Reform Congregation Receives First Torah Scroll from California's Shir Hadash

When David Married Judith: Reform Wedding of Historic Proportions Takes Place in Prague

Streaming Spanish Conversions: How a Family Vacation Turned into an Opportunity to Serve

Dateline USA
Congregation Spotlight
Live from Israel
Progressive on Campus
News Bits
The WUPJ Family Mourns…
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Upcoming Events

Powerful Prelude: Rabbinic Kallah in Rio to Gather Before CONNECTIONS 2015

A provocative and pertinent Rabbinic Kallah will convene right before CONNECTIONS 2015, the World Union for Progressive Judaism's (WUPJ) worldwide celebration of our movement taking place May 13-16 in Rio de Janeiro, begins. 

The Kallah will take place May 12-13 in Rio and provide WUPJ delegates from around the world a golden opportunity to join together in study and worship.

The WUPJ is delighted to announce that the Scholar in Residence at the Rabbinic Kallah will be Rabbi Aaron Panken, PhD., President of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and a noted authority on the Talmud.

Rabbi Panken will be conducting a number of outstanding sessions, including "The Courage to Change: Talmudic Roots of Progressive Judaism"; "Leading Personalities in the Bavli" and "Ohev Shalom V'Rodeph Shalom: Seeking Peace in a World of Strife."

The stellar Kallah line up will also feature Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Rabbi Freelander is regarded as one of the foremost leaders of Progressive Judaism in North America, having served the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) for over 35 years. 

Rabbi Freelander will be leading the highly anticipated study session: "Ani Ma'amin of Progressive Judaism."

Rabbinic Kallah in Porto Alegre, Brazil, August 2014.

Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President, International Development World Union for Progressive Judaism, coordinated the Rabbinic Kallah. Rabbi Sergio Margulies and Rabbi Dario Bialer, leaders of Rio's Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI), will be hosting the Kallah.

Rabbi Oseran notes, "The Latin American Council for Progressive Rabbis was established this past August in Porto Alegre and our meeting in Rio will give us another opportunity to meet as a regional rabbinic body to discuss critical issues on our collective agenda." 

Rabbi Oseran will moderate a panel discussion with rabbinic colleagues from the WUPJ's seven regions: "Challenges Facing Progressive Rabbis Worldwide."

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

Spaces are still available: register for the Rabbinic Kallah today.

Full CONNECTIONS 2015 program details available here.

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

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Klal Yisrael in Practice: Rosh Pina Reform Congregation Receives First Torah Scroll from California's Shir Hadash

A powerful example of Jewish solidarity took place on March 20 when the Rosh Pina Reform Congregation (RPRC) unveiled its first Torah Scroll, donated by California's Congregation Shir Hadash.

RPRC's Rabbi Golan Ben-Chorin recollected that his congregation was "introduced to Shir Hadash and its spiritual leader Rabbi Melanie Aron through the WUPJ. Inspired by our intention to use the scroll in schools and other educational settings, ceremonial occasions and study sessions, and thanks to the generosity of the Shir Hadash community, the two congregations are now building bridges through Torah."

Specifically, the WUPJ's Shomrei Torah program facilitated the connection between the Rosh Pina Reform Congregation and Congregation Shir Hadash. Since 1984, this initiative has ensured that Progressive Jewish communities around the world have access to the most basic of Jewish spiritual objects – a Torah scroll. 

To date, the Shomrei Torah project has succeeded in sending over 100 Torah scrolls to congregations around the world.

The gift that keeps on giving: Congregation Shir Hadash's Rabbi Melanie Aron.

The Hachnasat Sefer Torah ceremony took place in the 130-year-old courtyard of the building that RPRC is temporarily calling home. Musicians played as congregation members brought the Torah Scroll into the synagogue.

Portions of the scroll were then read aloud, including the opening verses of the Torah, the middle verses instructing congregants to love the re'a, and finally the concluding verses of the Torah. 

Banner day: Rosh Pina Reform Congregation's Rabbi Golan Ben-Chorin (right), Anna Kislanski (left),
Director of Community Development, Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism,
and the WUPJ's Phyllis Dorey (proudly holding the Torah).

The local family that built RPRC's firs Ark then attached the Parochet, the ritual curtain that adorns the Ark. The Parochet was hand made by one of RPRC's founding members two years ago. Six other community families had earlier chosen verses and embroidered them onto material prepared by yet another family. The belt was then wrapped around the Torah, forever binding tradition, innovation and the Rosh Pina community together.

Jewish solidarity: Rabbi Melanie Aron and Rabbi Golan Ben-Chorin.

According to Phyllis Dorey, who represented the WUPJ at the Hachnasat Sefer Torah ceremony "It was an honour and privilege to be part of this exciting event, which is an important next step in the growth of this wonderful community.  Under the inspirational leadership of Rabbi Ben Chorin and the enthusiastic and committed lay leaders and members, together with the support of their WUPJ friends and family, I have no doubt  that they will go from strength to strength. I look forward to calling RPRC my home congregation when I'm in Israel."

The entire WUPJ family would like to thank all the members of Shir Hadash for their gracious sharing of Torah with the Rosh Pina community.

Learn more about the WUPJ's Shomrei Torah program.

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When David Married Judith: Reform Wedding of Historic Proportions Takes Place in Prague

On March 8, history was made when a Reform Jewish wedding took place inside the illustrious Spanish Synagogue in Prague.

Beth Shalom Synagogue's (Munich) Rabbi Tom Kucera, a Czech national who was in Abraham Geiger College's first graduating class, officiated the wedding of David Maxa, first year rabbinic student at the Abraham Geiger College
and Judith Bergman: a wonderful example of the expression 'from generation to generation'.

Mazal Tov from the movement! 
Rabbi Joel Oseran (right) at the historic Maxa-Bergman wedding.

Both David and Judith are Prague natives. 

Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President, International Development, for the World Union for Progressive Judaism, was invited by David and Judith to officiate at the Shabbat morning service and Aufruf, as well as take part in the wedding ceremony.

One of the other remarkable features of the Maxa-Bergman wedding was the fact that for the first time in the history of the Prague Jewish community, the Town Hall auditorium was used for a Reform Jewish event. 

Rabbi Oseran blesses David and Judith at their Aufruf, as Andrew H.
Schapiro, United States Ambassador to the Czech Republic (holding Torah) and Jonathan Wootliff look on.

Speaking at the post wedding dinner, Sylvie Wittmann, former Chair of Beit Simcha commented, “It would have been impossible to imagine years ago that our town hall auditorium would be the scene of a Reform Movement wedding celebration. This is true progress for our movement."

Progressive Judaism in Prague has been supported for over a decade by the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) and WUPJ. A multi-year grant from
Jim and Liz Breslauer enabled the WUPJ to facilitate a number of important educational projects in Prague and throughout the country.

Moreover, the annual Shabbaton Seminar that brings together Progressive Jews from throughout the country was initially funded by the Breslauer grant, as was support to the Czech language Jewish Magazine, Maskil. 

Today, the EUPJ continues to support many of these projects thanks to the generosity of the Roswell Fund for Central and Eastern Europe.

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Streaming Spanish Conversions: How a Family Vacation Turned into an Opportunity to Serve

Since Rabbi Alona Lisitsa, the first female rabbi in Israel to join a religious council, went on family trip to Europe in 2011, she has become increasingly involved in providing online guidance and support to community members in Portugal and Spain.

In 2011, she visited and conducted services at Lisbon's Ohel Yaakov synagogue, having been contacted on Facebook by Adriana Souza, the congregation's treasurer.

Online conversions start here: Rabbi Alona Lisitsa.

During this initial meeting with Lisbon's non-Orthodox Jewish community, Rabbi Lisitsa became aware of the congregants' deep desire for a local rabbi. This visit resulted in a handful of kehila members connecting with Rabbi Lisitsa on Facebook, where she was peppered with questions on marriage, divorce and conversion.

Then, at the suggestion of Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President, International Development World Union for Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Lisitsa attended High Holiday services at Barcelona's Atid community in 2013, where she met more people interested in her growing online conversion course.

At home in Lisbon: Rabbi Lisitsa (fifth from left) visits Ohel Yaakov synagogue.

The success of the Rabbi Lisitsa's online twice-monthly conversion course eventually reached the ears of other Progressive Catalonian congregations. 

Since 2014, Rabbi Lisitsa's compelling, inclusive and effective online program has just been attracting new participants. Oviedo's Beit Emunah kehila and Rota's Bet Januka community reached out to Rabbi Lisitsa following her High Holiday appearances at these congregations. 

The growing workload was becoming too much for one volunteer, even one as gifted as Rabbi Lisitsa, to handle. As such, the congregations in Rota, Lisbon and Oviedo submitted a proposal to the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) that the rabbi's relationship with these communities be formalized. 

According to Miriam Kramer, Chairman of the European Union for Progressive Judaism, "We at the EUPJ are delighted about Rabbi Alona Lisitsa's work in Spain. She is a vital part of bringing Judaism back to that country after more than 500 years."

To date, Rabbi Lisitsa has helped three people convert, with another four conversions scheduled to take place in May. Currently, a total of 50 people are participating in the online course, now being conducted on a weekly basis. Half of the participants are Jewish while the other half are conversion candidates.

Rabbi Lisitsa continues to make great efforts on behalf of people considering conversion. In February, she returned to Lisbon to interview 13 conversion candidates. Next, she plans to travel to Rota to meet with an additional eight people considering conversion to Judaism.

During these visits to Europe, Rabbi Lisitsa also leads Kabbalat Shabbat services, Shacharit with Torah reading, study sessions and Havdalah. 
While local rabbinic supervision would be ideal, Rabbi Lisitsa's important work is turning the idea of conversion into a real possibility for a growing amount of people. 

Aron Hirt-Manheimer is the Union for Reform Judaism's (URJ's) editor-at-large. Below is a summary of his thoughts regarding the importance of the WZO elections, currently being held across the United States. 

"I am voting in this election because doing so gives me a voice in world Jewish affairs. It is the only opportunity I have, as a Diaspora Jew, to exercise my democratic right to weigh in on Israeli issues and policies that affect Jews everywhere. I will cast my vote for the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA).

Here is why:
  1. ARZA’s platform advocates religious pluralism and gender equality in Israel and a two state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
  2. The Reform movement’s showing in the last elections brought Reform Jews into key positions in the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and in the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which helps determine what lands will be made available for settlement and plays a key ecological role in Israel.
  3. If American Reform Jews don’t vote for ARZA in large numbers, it will send a message that our movement does not care enough about the future of Israel.
  4. At a time when anti-Zionist propaganda seeks to draw a distinction between the Jewish people and the State of Israel, I want to declare the centrality of Israel to my identity as a Jew."
Read Aron's complete essay here.

Please see the ARZA platform here.

Learn more in ARZA's video here.

Congregation Spotlight

Munich's Beth Shalom Celebrates 20 Years

On March 22, Beth Shalom Synagogue in Munich, Germany celebrate its 20th anniversary with a festive event at the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Munich

Together with the congregation’s friends, government representatives, delegates from other religious communities and other leading citizens, Beth Shalom looked back on how it has brought Progressive Judaism back to the center of Munich life. 

Mazal Tov! Abraham Geiger College's Rabbi Walter Homolka (left) and Dr. Leo Hepner, a long-time supporter of Progressive Jewish communities in Germany and former chair of the EUPJ, celebrate Beth Shalom's 20th anniversary.

The fact that the joyous occasion took place in the heart of Munich's Orthodox Jewish community is testament to the growth of the local Progressive movement.

With a current membership of around 400, Beth Shalom continues to grow. Rabbi Tom Kucera and Cantor Nikola David have greatly enhanced the congregation's religious life, helping it attract many new members and guests. 

The board and other volunteers continue to do much of the sacred work of organizing and running Beth Shalom’s active schedule. They, along with the EUPJ's support, are ensuring that Beth Shalom's future will go from strength to strength, success to success. 

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Live from Israel

WUPJ Representative to Head New JNF Gender Equality Committee

Lesley Sachs, a member of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) board representing the WUPJ, has been appointed chair of the newly formed Directorial Committee for Gender Equality.

Sachs, a former senior staff member of the WUPJ, has been leading the campaign to form a committee focused on gender discrepancy issues since the WUPJ appointed her to represent the organization on the Board of Directors of the JNF two years ago.

Eyes on equality: Lesley Sachs.

The new committee's mandate is to study the state of gender equality inside the JNF, document the barriers women are facing, and propose solutions to bring about needed changes.

The Directorial Committee for Gender Equality will also hone in on gender discrepancy in JNF publications, educational materials and other facets of the organization's internal and external communications.

According to Sachs, the new committee will "invite men and women from the Board of Directors to join. I am hopeful that this committee will continue to function and make a positive difference after the upcoming elections."

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Dayenu: IMPJ'S Keren B’chavod to Distribute Food Parcels across Israel during Passover

Keren B’chavod, the humanitarian arm of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), will hold its annual Kimcha D’fischa ("Flour for Passover") campaign.

The financial hardships faced by many Israeli families tend to become exacerbated during the holiday season. Keren B'chavod attempts to alleviate the strain just a bit. As in previous years, volunteers at stations across Israel will pack thousands of family food parcels. 

It is estimated that over 1,000 needy families will receive the holiday packages. 

The Giving Season: Kimcha D’fischa ("Flour for Passover") campaign.

Keren B'chavod staffers and volunteers will distribute food parcels to needy Israeli families and collect contributions aimed at supporting the fund’s ongoing activities. 

Beit Shmuel, the worldwide headquarters of the World Union for Progressive Judaism will, like every year, be hosting the Kimcha D'fischa project and be fully supported by the WUPJ.

While all donations will be gratefully be accepted, each food parcel costs NIS 150 NIS.  

For more details, please call 1-700-50-1919 or click here.  

You may also make a donation via Jerusalem's Kehilat Har-El office, with either cash or check, made out to "Keren B'chavod".

Progressive on Campus

Jerusalem's HUC-JIR Now Accepting Applicants for February Hebrew-Language Course

The Jerusalem campus of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) is currently accepting applicants for its well-regarded Hebrew Ulpan. 

Anyone interested in learning Hebrew should consider registering for this course. Founded in 1990, Hebrew Ulpan at HUC-JIR offers four levels, from beginner to advanced. The Ulpan instructors are highly trained professional Hebrew teachers dedicated to teaching Hebrew with an emphasis on Hebrew culture.

Hebrew at your fingertips: Jerusalem's HUC-JIR Ulpan is open for registration.

According to one previous participant: 

"HUC-JIR’s Ulpan provided smooth educational and vocational exercises that facilitated teaching Hebrew to foreign students from diversity of international backgrounds, which added value to the process and procedure of learning."

Full details about HUC-JIR's upcoming Hebrew-language course available here.

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Leo Baeck College Rabbinic Student Discovers 'Israeli Time' and Much More

Nathan Godleman, a rabbinic student at the UK's Leo Baeck College, takes a break from his busy itinerary to reflect on the uniquely Israeli concept of time. 

"I am beginning to feel that there is a kind of 'Israeli time', in which more things seem to happen over the same period than elsewhere. This is certainly the case for me, a rabbinic student from England in the middle of his Israel semester. 

A recent weekend spent in Jerusalem is a case in point. My brief but stimulating time in Israel's capital began with a series of Cantorial workshops at Hebrew Union College that felt like a home away from home.

Jerusalem state of mind: LBC's Nathan Godleman

Next, I experienced a nontraditional, yet highly effective, Kabbalat Shabbat service for secular Israelis. So secular were my companions that even the wearing of a kippah or use of liturgy proved to be problematic.

Then, I embarked on a nature walk with a small group of people united by a desire to explore some of the deeper questions of life. 

Probing even more deeply brought me to Jerusalem's Hartman Institute, for a lecture about Franz Rosenzweig and his attempts to understand the divine. 

My most memorable Jerusalem moment, however, was when a Progressive rabbi intervened in a confrontation between a brash ticket inspector and an Arab women who had been reduced to tears in front of her daughter. 

'What is your connection to her?' the rabbi was asked. 'Ani ben Adam,' he replied, perhaps revealing the key to a conflict that has marred a place of such richness and potential for far too long."

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News Bits

Vatican Secretary of State Meets Progressive Jewish Religious Leaders in Belarus

On March 13-15, Secretary of State of His Holiness the Pope Cardinal Pietro Parolin paid an official visit to Minsk, Belarus during which he met with Rabbi Grisha Abramovich, and Michael Kemerov, Director of the Religious Union for Progressive Judaism in the Republic of Belarus (RUPJ).

Clergy coming together: Rabbi Grisha Abramovich (second from right) meet with Pope Cardinal Pietro Parolin (second from left).

While in Minsk, the Vatican Secretary of State noted, "It was here that the talks were held that led to the signing of the agreement, which will hopefully lead to a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian crisis.”

In his meetings with various leaders of the Jewish community, Cardinal Parolin discussed issues of common interest between the Roman Catholic Church and Jewish community in Belarus.

The Catholic – Jewish dialogue in Minsk dates back to 2007. During this period, Anne Molloy, Chair of the WUPJ's FSU Division and Alex Kagan, Director of the WUPJ's FSU Division, accepted official Vatican invitations to visit Minsk's famous Catholic Church, Krasny Kostel.

In return, three members of the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See (Vatican City) in Minsk accepted Rabbi Abramovich's invitation to join in celebrating Hanukkah and Jerusalem Day at the Sandra Breslauer Beit Simcha Center.

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The 21st annual Purimshpiel recently took place in Vitebsk, Belarus. 

Every year, Jewish youth groups from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, the Baltics and Israel take part in a 3-day competition that determines the best interpretation of the Purim story.

Purimshpiel is sponsored and supported by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI).

Since the very first Purimshpiel, the Reform movement's Netzer Olami youth group has had a very strong presence at the festival. 

In addition to Netzer performances, Reform Rabbis every year lead prayers and conduct services in memory of those killed in the Holocaust.  This year, two Netzer groups competed at Purimshpiel.

Yet again, Netzer impressed!

Netzer Moscow won the prize for best costume. 

Netzer Minsk took home first place and audience favorite awards.  The group's play was based on the foundational points of Reform ideology: justice, faith and truth. 

Netzer Minsk told the story of USSR refuseniks who dreamed of living in a free society and were willing to fight for it. The parallel to the Purim story and Esther and Mordechai's fight to save the Jewish People without assimilating is very strong.

Members from Ukraine came to support their peers from Minsk and Moscow. During these difficult times in the FSU, and despite the conflict between countries, Netzer has managed to rise above all the disagreements and continues to be one big, warm Jewish family.

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:

Hong Kong's United Jewish Congregation, On 25 Incredible Years

On March 14, the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong (UJC) celebrated its Silver Anniversary. Since its establishment, the UJC has grown rapidly from a few dedicated souls to become a large and thriving Jewish community, with about 200 family and single memberships. 

Hong Kong meets Hollywood: UJC celebrated 25 years in a most glamourous style.

Since its inception, the UJC has been proudly affiliated with the World Union for Progressive Judaism and is now a key congregation in the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ).

"Blessed with a new generation of wise leaders, the spirit of this congregation has never been more vibrant," says Rabbi Stanton Zamek, spiritual leader of the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong since 2009.

Guided and supported by a group of gifted lay and professional leaders, UJC's modern, egalitarian and value-centered Jewish approach will undoubtedly continue to strengthen the Jewish community in Hong Kong for generations to come.

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The leadership and staff of the World Union offer their sincerest condolences to the family of Maria Schlesinger De Kahn, who recently passed away in San Salvador. Maria was the wife of Claudio Kahn, former president of the Union of Jewish Congregations of Latin America and the Caribbean (UJCL), and mother of Alfredo and Luis.

May Maria Schlesinger De Kahn's memory be for a blessing and may Claudio and his entire family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.

In Memoriam: Herbert Orkand

The leadership and staff of the World Union offer their sincerest condolences to the family of Herbert Orkand, who recently passed away at the age of 95 in Los Angeles, California, USA. Herbert was the father of Rabbi Bob Orkand, immediate past president of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA). Herbert had seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

May Herbert Orkand memory be for a blessing and may Bob and his entire family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.
WUPJ's Employment Corner

The following position is available at a WUPJ-affiliated congregation:

Rabbi(s): The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, UK

Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS), the largest Liberal congregation in the UK, is seeking to appoint a Rabbi to join the team working with
Senior Rabbi Alexandra Wright.

This is an exciting time to join the LJS, which has more than 2000 members and has recently celebrated its centenary year. LJS welcomes candidates who have a passion for the principles of Liberal Judaism and want to play a full role in all day-to-day rabbinic responsibilities.
The appointed rabbi(s) will be expected to engage comfortably with younger members in particular, whilst also providing intellectual stimulation for the whole congregation. As a member of our Senior Professional Team, there will be opportunities to introduce new ideas and to work in specific areas of interest, including education, social action and interfaith developments.

This is a full-time position, which might be filled either by one rabbi working full-time or by more than one rabbi on a part-time basis in order to secure the necessary blend of rabbinic skills and experience.

For a job description and further information about this rewarding opportunity, you can find the recruitment pack on the synagogue's website or contact

You are also welcome to discuss the role informally with Rabbi Wright.  
Communication will be treated as confidential.

Closing date for applications: March 30.

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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

July 15-17, 2016 - SAUPJ 2016 Biennial Conference, South Africa

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