Issue #511

17 March 2015 / 28 Nisan 5775


Celebrating Freedom: WUPJ Communities Rejoice, Reflect during Passover

Passover, FSU Style: Thousands Prevail Over Myriad of Challenges to Come Together 

Pesach Snapshots: Movement Members' Colorful Takes on Holiday Season

Progressive Beats: CONNECTIONS 2015 Will Show How to Incorporate Music into Communal Life 

Happening in Geneva: WUPJ President Attends EUPJ's General Assembly, Rabbinic Kallah

Tomorrow's Jewish Leaders Converge in Budapest: Notes from the Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellowship

News Bits
Dateline USA
Congregation Spotlight
Live from Israel
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events

Celebrating Freedom: WUPJ Communities Rejoice, Reflect during Passover 

The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) rejoiced in the blessings of freedom by celebrating the rebirth and growth of Progressive Judaism around the world.

In South Africa, the Bet David Progressive Jewish congregation in Sandton, Johannesburg attracted over 100 members and guests. Rabbi Adrian Schell and Rabbi Julia Margolis were delighted to have been joined by such a large, enthusiastic audience for the Festival Evening and Shabbat service. Most of the attendees even stayed on for the Family Seder!
Chag Sameach from Sandton: Rabbi Adrian Schell and Rabbi Julia Margolis.

Arthur Lenk, Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, was the guest of honor and opened the Seder by remembering the strong connection of the festival with the Land of Israel, not only in the past, but also today, and how important it is to maintain such connections. 

In her sermon, Rabbi Margolis pointed out the important role of women in the Exodus narrative, while Rabbi Schell focused on the personal responsibility everyone has to protect the freedom Jews enjoy today and to take part in the process of expanding this freedom to every human being.

In Israel, hundreds of people participated in this year’s Pesach siyurim (educational tours) held by Mercaz Shimshon-Beit Shmuel, the worldwide headquarters of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

The program included walking tours aimed at adults and families with children, and offered a broad range of topics related to Pesach and Jerusalem, reflecting the city's history, traditions and architecture.

The Pesach tours were guided by leaders in the field and focused mainly on the Old City and center of town.

In addition, Beit Shmuel collaborated with the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and Orlando Cinema to present a program called 'Pesach: Movie and Midrash'. The first part of the day was Professor Ruhamma Weiss's lecture connecting the exodus story to the struggle for internal liberation. A screening of the highly acclaimed Chinese film 'The Nightingale' followed the lecture.  

On April 11, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) hosted its first ever Mimouna celebration. Mimouna is one of five national holidays created after the founding of Israel in 1948. This traditional Moroccan Jewish celebration marks the return to eating chametz after nightfall, on the last day of Passover. 

Originally, the Mimouna was a holiday that marked the good relations between the Jews and their Muslim neighbors in Morocco. At the end of the Passover holiday, the Jews would welcome all visitors back into their homes and their Muslim neighbors would bring presents and flour to prepare moflettas.

Post Passover Parade of Pastries: Mimouna in action
(photo from the US Embassy Tel Aviv on Flckr.)

IRAC organized Mimouna festivities in Jerusalem and Jaffa, where Jews and Arabs were able to join in eating moflettas together.

Over many centuries, the Passover Seder has become the seminal family experience in Jewish tradition. Throughout the generations we, as a family, have told and retold the narrative of leaving Egypt. For the WUPJ, Pessach 5775 was filled with many moments of joy, along with powerful reflections on the true meaning of freedom and the collective responsibility that comes with its blessing.

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Passover, FSU Style: Thousands Prevail Over Myriad of Challenges to Come Together

In 2015/5775, nearly 4,500 members of our congregations and Jews all over the FSU were exposed to Passover activities organized by our Progressive Movement. With the financial difficulties and political instability that continue to characterize the region, this family-oriented holiday came just in time. 

The Seders and Passover-related activities were a big success because of a hardworking staff and dedicated volunteers who prepared the traditional dishes and brought a festive spirit to all our holiday tables.

Joining our kehilot for the 12th straight year were Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) students from the Jerusalem campus. The WUPJ-HUC Pesach Project for this year was comprised of a group of 10, led by Leah Sternberg. Project participants travelled to congregations in Belarus, Russia and Crimea.

The words of the new edition of the Pesach Haggadah that speak of freedom had a special meaning and were most inspiring this year. This Haggadah was donated by Henry Posner III in honor of his wife Anne Molloy and published by Abraham Geiger College. In total, the Haggadah was distributed to nearly all of our FSU communities

Below, are some highlights of Passover 2015/5775, FSU style!

Russia: Over 900 People Attend Sedarim 

Le Dor va Dor held two communal Sederim (70 people) and five more
(80 people) took place at the Moscow Center for Progressive Judaism.

"Shaarei Shalom", St. Petersburg: 200 People Participate in a Variety of Events

Rabbi Helena Rubinstein and some of the Seder's younger participants, with gifts.

Lipetsk: Community Hosts Two Well Attended Passover Sederim

Congregants open their eyes, hearts and souls to feel that the Almighty is engaged with them.

"Makor", Krasnodar: Communal Seder Attracts Over 40 People 

Community Chair George Gonick welcomed guests and spiritual leader Adolf Goltsberg led the traditional Seder.

"Hava Nagila", Chelyabinsk: Very Active Congregations Hold Three Sedarim

In total, 200 people attended Hava Nagila's Sederim.

"Madregot", Tyumen: Nearly 200 People Observe Passover

The community in Tyumen came together over three Sedarim.

Ukraine: Over 1300 kilos of Matzoth Boxes Sent to Progressive Movement Members

"HaTikvah", Kiev: Seder for 100 Participants Includes Workshops, Songs and Games

Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny leads the Passover Seder at HaTikvah. 

"Emanu-El", Odessa: Communal Seder for 70 people Broadcast on Regional TV

Rabbi Julia Gris (right), Victor Zonis, President of the Emanu-El Odessa Progressive congregation, professionals and lay-leaders led four local Sederim.

Belarus: Over 1,500 People in 10 Cities Attend Sedarim

Rabbi Grisha Abramovich (right) and six HUC students.

Crimea: Over 150 People Take Part in Passover Celebrations
Rabbi Leonid Bimbat from Moscow led an incredible week of celebrations that included HUC students and Netzer members.

There's so much more! Read the complete FSU Passover Report here.

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Pesach Snapshots: Movement Members' Colorful Takes on Holiday Season

Four Reform: Haifa's Or Chadash congregation was the setting for a holiday concert that brought together four northern communities. 

From Panama with Love: Seder at Kol Shearith Israel in Panama City.

Wish You Were Here: On April 9, the Israel Movement for
Reform and Progressive Judaism
organized a one-of-kind service at Jaffa Port
during Passover.

London Calling: Leo Baeck College rabbinic student Daniel Lichman prepares for a Passover service.

Mangiamo! 110 guests attended Beth Hillel Roma's Sedarim.
Plans are already in the works to find a bigger gathering place for 5776.

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Progressive Beats: CONNECTIONS 2015 Will Show How to Incorporate Music into Communal Life

The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2015 (Yom HaShoa) that takes place in Israel on Thursday, April 16 will be especially meaningful to the members of Rio de Janeiro's Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI). The beginning of Progressive Judaism in the region dates from the generations that were fleeing from Nazi Europe

Indeed, the spiritual leader of the German-Jewish congregation, Rabbi Dr. Henrique Lemle, came to Rio de Janeiro during World War II and founded the ARI.

Rabbi Dr. Lemle was actually rescued from the Buchenwald concentration camp by Lady Lilly Montagu, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and came to Brazil through London.

The WUPJ's CONNECTIONS 2015 international convention, taking place May 13-16 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will celebrate this historic bond between the World Union and Latin American Jewry with well-known musical performers and energetic performances. 

Hosted by the ARI community, CONNECTIONS 2015 will highlight the Latin American Jewish music that can provide an inspirational path to fusing melody with services and activities. 

Jewish Music's Dream Team: Neshama Carlebach and Josh Nelson will headline in Rio.

Guiding the musicians at the conference will be the prince and princess of contemporary Jewish music, Josh Nelson and Neshama Carlebach.

At CONNECTIONS 2015, this dynamic duo will serve as scholars in residence, providing the moving musical backdrop for the entire event. Carlebach and Nelson will also be conducting a workshop called 'Music for the Soul' that will explore the most stirring elements of traditional Jewish music. 

In addition, Nelson and Carlebach will take part in the highly anticipated Lashir Benefesh seminar, tailored for cantors and musicians from the Latin American region. For two days, seminar participants will learn, work, share, create and inspire each other, focusing on enhancing their repertoire and skillset.

  Andre Nudelman, ARI Chazzan.     Oren Boljover, ARI Chazzan.

Participants will include cantors, lay people involved in leading prayers in their communities, and Jewish professional musicians. Topics such as the history of Chazanut, the role of the cantor, Jewish and Israeli music will be studied.

The first Lashir Benefesh conference was held in 2008 in Rio de Janeiro and has subsequently been hosted by different congregations affiliated with the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Latin America (WUPJ-LA). 

Full CONNECTIONS 2015 program details available here.

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

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Happening in Geneva: WUPJ President Attends EUPJ's General Assembly, Rabbinic Kallah

On March 22, Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President of WUPJ, attended the highly successful annual General Assembly of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), convened at Geneva's liberal Jewish congregation (GIL).

Led by GIL's Rabbi François Garaï and President Alex Dembitz, delegates were made to feel at home, with many participants having arrived in Geneva before the Assembly kicked off in order to spend Shabbat with the host community.

Reasons to Smile: EUPJ General Assembly, March 2015.

Assembly highlights included the admission of Beth Hillel Roma as a full member of the EUPJ, an organization comprised of over three-million members. In addition, Bet Januká in Andalucia was admitted as an associate member. Representatives of both congregations gave presentations that introduced their communities to the assembled delegates. 

A two-day gathering of 22 EUPJ rabbis from 12 countries followed the Assembly. Rabbi Freelander attended the Rabbinic Kallah, where he studied with delegates and discussed his plans for the future of the movement. 

The gathering approved the establishment of the first European Assembly of Progressive Rabbis that will hopefully be associated with the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).   

Dr Jeremy Schonfield from London's Leo Baeck College led the study sessions, along with Professor Admiel Kosman from Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam.  

Moreover, a discussion on whether Jews are safe in Europe was led by Maître Alain Bruno Levy, President of CICAD, a Swiss-based non-profit organization whose mission is to combat anti-Semitism.

Similar to the General Assembly, the Rabbinic Kallah was hosted by GIL's Rabbi Garai and President Dembitz.

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Tomorrow's Jewish Leaders Converge in Budapest: Notes from the Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellowship

The Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellowship, a collaboration between the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the WUPJ held its second of three seminars in Budapest, Hungary from March 23-29. The WZO’s Israeli Cultural Institute also lent their space and time to make this seminar a success! 

Talking Jewish Peoplehood: Klal Yisrael fellows strolling through Heroes' Square, Budapest.

The aim of the Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellowships is to nurture and inspire young leaders from North America, Israel, and Central and Eastern Europe as they continue to serve their camps and home communities as active change agents who are committed to global Progressive Judaism, Jewish peoplehood, and Israel.

The fellowship includes educational webinars throughout the year as well as three week-long in-person gatherings. The first seminar, in Israel, took place at the end of December, and the third seminar in the United States will take place this coming fall.

The fellows gathered in Budapest for an enriching week of reconnecting, learning, meeting with local leaders, and getting to know Budapest through its Jewish community and stories. Some highlights included:
  • Sessions with Sarah Mali, Director of the Global Leadership Project at the Jewish Agency for Israel, about the importance of diversity in developing the characteristics of leadership.
  • Discovering Hungary’s Jews in the streets of Budapest with Zsolt Csepregi, coordinator of the Herzl Center at the Israeli Cultural Institute, via visits to the Dohany Synagogue and other local Jewish landmarks.
  • Discussion with Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President of the WUPJ, about the opportunities and challenges facing the World Union.
  • Inspiring conversations with local leaders such as Zsuzsa Fritz, Director of the Balint Haz, and Sasha Friedman, Director of Szarvas Camp.
  • Visit to the Holocaust Shoe Memorial on the banks of the Danube River, followed by a fellow-led memorial service.
  • Spending time with Budapest’s two Progressive congregations, Bet Orim and Sim Shalom, for Kabbalat Shabbat and Havdallah, respectively.
Tomorrow's Jewish Pillars of Strength: Klal Yisrael fellows at Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest.

As the seminar closed, the fellows looked forward to completing their final projects, through which they will implement or improve upon models of Jewish and Israel engagement in their home communities. 

The WUPJ would like to take this opportunity to thank Rabbi Steve Burnstein, Director of the Anita Saltz International Education Center, who has been intimately involved with every aspect of the fellowship, from conception to implementation.

For more information about the Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellowships, please feel free to contact Rachael Brill, Roswell Project Manager at the URJ.

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News Bits

Pesach Project: Jerusalem's HUC-JIR Collaborates with WUPJ on Service Trip to FSU 

For the 12th straight year, World Union staff in Jerusalem, Moscow, Kiev and Minsk coordinated visits by Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) rabbinic, cantorial and education students to Jewish communities that were once under the realm of Soviet oppression.
Party Like its 5775: Participants at an "after-Purim" bash in Minsk, Belarus, sponsored by the Israeli government.

With the help of a translator, Pessach Project participants experienced the breadth and scope of one country and its culture for the first time. As they made their way through Belarus, Russia, and Crimea, students had the opportunity to both impact and learn from these revitalized Jewish communities.  

While experiencing Jewish life and Jewish peoplehood in the Former Soviet Union, Pesach Project participants also had the opportunity to lead Sederim and educational programs.  

As future leaders of Progressive Judaism, it is HUC-JIR students' responsibility to understand the Progressive Jewish world outside of their own communities.

Meet the 2015 Pesach Project participants now!

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25 Under 25: Progressive Communities Well Represented on List of Young People Making a Difference in UK

Recently, the Jewish News, Britain's biggest Jewish newspaper, in association with the Jewish Leadership Council, announced positions 25 to 11 in its list of 25 young movers and shakers under the age of 25 who are set to define Anglo-Jewry in the decades to come.


For both the Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ) and Liberal Judaism (LJ) communities, the results of the vote were most impressive. Several people on the list are members of these two leading Progressive Jewish communities.
Now, after hundreds of nominations and months of intense debate, the intriguing top 10 has finally been voted on! Once again, MRJ and LJ members have much to be proud of.

Who is #1? View the Triumphant Ten now.

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Dateline USA

WZO Elections: You Don't Have to be Israeli to Influence Israel's Policy Decisions 

Diaspora Jews can vote on Israel's future. The World Zionist Congress (WZO) elections let Jews worldwide influence Israeli policy decisions. The WZO Congress meets every five years to discuss issues of importance to Jews around the world, including Jewish identity, anti-Semitism, peace and Israel's future.

As such, the WZO is the mechanism for Jewish participation in Israeli policy decisions. Eligible voters are Jews over the age of 18 who believe that the Jewish state is a place with which every Jew in the world is entitled to engage.

Learn why you should vote for ARZA from Rabbi Denise L. Eger, President of the
Central Council of American Rabbis (CCAR).

Now more than ever, many Diaspora Jews feel that lobbying Congress or donating to an organization simply isn't enough to address several serious challenges to the democratic character of Israel. 

Voting in the WZO elections is an opportunity for American Jews to help elect the party that best epitomizes the Zionism they support. 

Please see the ARZA platform here.

Learn more in ARZA's video here.

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Congregation Spotlight

Honey, We're Growing the Shul: Lyon's Keren Or Synagogue Experiencing Major Expansion 

One could say that the Keren Or, the Liberal synagogue in Lyon, has become a victim of its success. Within 30 years, the community has grown from a few local families to not having enough seats for members during festivals or when a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is celebrated. On occasion, even a standard Shabbat service is standing room only!

Those founding families were pioneers in their commitment to a form of Judaism that seeks to set Jewish tradition in the modern world.  For many years, these movement members strove within the CJL and UJLL congregations to provide Lyon’s Jews with an opportunity to practice their religion in a different way: respecting tradition while remaining open to the outside world and modern life.

In 2013, with Rabbi René Pfertzel as religious leader, the two synagogues decided to unite to found Keren Or. 

Since the present location, on the ground floor of a residential building, no longer corresponds to the needs of the community, Keren Or signed for the purchase of new premises in Villeurbanne, near the Charpennes metro station in September 2014.

Home Sweet Home: Keren Or's new location will accommodate the community's growth.

The WUPJ is pleased to report that the Kehila is currently in the advanced stages of relocating from the rental property to the bigger, better space it purchased. It is estimated that the move will be completed by July.   

The sizeable premises are for a sizeable project: rooting Liberal Judaism in Lyon and the surrounding regions and then developing it. An ambitious undertaking to be sure, but a costly one as well.

Keren Or invites WUPJ members to visit a website dedicated to recording every aspect of the transition to a new home. At a time when Judaism in France is asserting its right to exist freely, Keren Or's expansion is more than encouraging, it's inspirational.

Learn more about Keren Or's big move now.

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Live from Israel

Intensely Natural: New Beit Shmuel Exhibit Explores the Great Outdoors

On April 17, Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon, the World Union for Progressive Judaism's headquarters in Jerusalem, will premiere a fascinating new exhibit, 'Eye Blink' that expresses the artist's immediate reaction to nature's creations.

In her exhibition, Judith Anis conveys a sense of urgency that is the outcome of spontaneous brush strokes, diluted, watery painting and a de-emphasis on details. The exhibition includes two sets of works, made in mixed technique. 

Mother Nature at the Speed of Life: 'Eye Blink' will be on display at Beit Shmuel from
April 17 to May 25.

The first set consists of figures from the vegetal world that appear on what seems to be just plain paper, like a leaf, a flower, a branch, a tree or a dew-dripping shrub.

In the second set of works, images of desert landscape arise as though reflected in the artist’s eyes while traveling. The sense of open space and the flowing motion that emanates from these landscapes is enhanced by the horizontal, tight structure of the canvas, similar to that used sometimes in paintings of marine landscapes.

Judith Anis, a resident of Kochav Yaakov, was born in Marseille, France, and she immigrated to Israel with her family when she was five. Judith enrolled at Jerusalem's Emunah College, where she studied visual communications, after completing her National Service stint.

For several years, Anis has been a regular participant in drawing workshops held by the artist Sasha Okun, who had been her teacher at Emunah College and whose had a critical role in shaping Anis's artistic career.

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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:

Long Time Progressive Jewish Activist Reeva Forman Nominated to be Honorary Life President of South African Zionist Federation

Reeva Forman, who was recently nominated for the position of Honorary Life President of the South African Zionist Federation. Forman's tremendous efforts within and on behalf of the South African Jewish community include a productive two decades tenure as chairperson of Temple Israel Hillbrow, the mother Synagogue of Progressive Judaism in South Africa.
Mazal Tov: Reeva Forman.

Everyone affiliated with the World Union hopes that Reeva will long continue her work and only see increasing success in all her endeavours.  

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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 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

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

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