April 30 2015 / 11 Iyyar 5775
site of the CONNECTIONS 2015 Opening Ceremony.
Welcome to Reform Rio! The ARI's beautiful exterior invites you in.
WN: How far back is your family's connection to Rio?
RG: On my father's side, my great grandparent came to Brazil in the second half of the 19th century (1860-1870), attracted to the coffee trade.
WN: Which aspect of ARI life do you find particularly inspiring?
RG: I would not call it “inspiring”. I would say ARI is a necessity. I feel it is mandatory to have a religious place that is inclusive, equalitarian, democratic, non-superstitious and rational. The ARI and the WUPJ fill that role. We need to take possession of the Jewish tradition and ARI is the place to do that.
the ARI in action.
WN: What would you like WUPJ members to know about Rio's Jewish community before they arrive?
RG: The Jewish community feels comfortable in Brazil. The level of anti-Semitism is low, but far from irrelevant. The community was outraged by the official Brazilian diplomatic position on Operation Protective Edge.
WN: What would you like to know about a particular progressive Jewish community around the world?
RG: How is the Movement progressing in Israel? What are the Movement's strategies to increase the amount of rabbis in Latin America?
WN: Thank you for speaking with the WUPJ.
RG: See you in Rio!
On the afternoon of May 14, CONNECTIONS 2015 will introduce a new and exciting format to the conference – 'Free Your Mind' - aimed at creating a more flexible and direct engagement model.
This round robin session will allow participants the option of holding intimate discussions, fiercely debating issues, taking away a small but great idea, discovering a brand new activity, or just “kvetching” with likeminded friends.
The sessions are planned as rounds of discussions, where each speaker will talk on their selected topic for fifteen minutes, for four rounds. Participants will move between speakers at the end of each 15-minute block so that they will wind up hearing four different speakers. The innovative concept is similar to that of “speed dating”.
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?
Breakout and Free your Mind Sessions will be held at the
Sofitel Rio de Janeiro hotel.
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 provides many gateways to a deeper understanding of Progressive Judaism.
This vital relationship dates back to the dark days of World War II when the spiritual leader of the German-Jewish ARI congregation, Rabbi Dr. Henrique Lemle, came to Rio de Janeiro and founded the community.
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.
Hosted by the ARI community, CONNECTIONS 2015 highlights the Latin American Jewish music that can provide an inspirational path to fusing melody with services and activities.
Nelson will headline in Rio.
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.
Similar to Rio's other slums, the origin of Vigario Geral is linked to the marginalization of large numbers of workers in the late nineteenth century. By the early twentieth century, state practices had evicted and pushed many poor Brazilians to the hills, into what became known as favelas.
In the heart of the Vigario Geral favela stands the Waly Solomon cultural center, the headquarters of the Afro Reggae Cultural Group - an organization fighting for social change and, through culture and art, offering hope to local residents.
by way of music and art.
Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, is a core concept of Progressive Judaism, reflecting the responsibility of every member to promote and implement social action and social justice.
At CONNECTIONS 2015, participants will experience cutting-edge examples of Tikkun Olam that are empowering local residents on a daily basis.
Pre and Post tours are tailored for CONNECTIONS 2015 delegates. Convention participants can explore Latin America with new friends. The travel itinerary is extensive, enthralling and has something for everyone.
behold its Jewish Renaissance.
CONNECTIONS 2015 attendees may choose to go on a Mission to Argentina, inspired by the Jewish renaissance in Buenos Aires - the 'Paris of South America'. The program includes a Shabbat at Argentina's grandest synagogue; a tour of Buenos Aires and much more.
A trek through the Amazon, the world's largest and densest rainforest, comprised of more diverse fauna and flora than any other jungle in the world, is another amazing tour available to CONNECTIONS 2015 participants.
In addition, participants at WUPJ's international gathering may want to consider visiting Brazil's first capital, Salvador. The city's population is a fascinating fusion of black, white, and Indian ethnic groups. While here, tourists will discover Salvador's well-preserved traditions and rich multicultural heritage.
For the first time in its history, the WUPJ international convention is being held in a Latin American country. CONNECTIONS 2015 is being hosted by Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's Associação Religiosa Israelita(ARI).
Established in 1942 by a small group of German Jewish immigrants that fled Nazi persecution, the ARI is today Rio de Janeiro’s largest Jewish congregation with a membership of more than 900 families. A progressive Reform community, it is one of the most important centers of Jewish life in the city catering not only to spiritual needs but to cultural and intellectual pursuits as well.
Despite its German roots, today's ARI is a melting pot, with a refreshing mix of Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Jews-by-Choice contributing their unique backgrounds.
More inspirational is the prominent presence of young people around the ARI. Every Friday night, approximately 45 kids stand on the bima for Kiddush.
Before the service, almost every worshiper joins in a festive meeting called hora do cafezinho (“little coffee time”), talking about the week and enjoying the company of friends.
Go on a Jewish musical journey in Rio: Andre Nudelman (left),
and Oren Boljover (right), ARI's chazzanim.
The community is guided by Rabbi Sergio R. Margulies, a Brazilian who belonged to ARI as a child, and Rabbi Dario E. Bialer of Argentina. These gifted leaders are teaching the next generation of Rio's Reform community about the main questions and concerns of contemporary Jews.
And the rest of the Reform world is blessed with a profound source of pride.
Learn more about the ARI here.
The Kallah takes place May 12-13 in Rio and will provide WUPJ rabbis from around the world a golden opportunity to join together in study and worship.
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 also features 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 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."
'Mifgash' in Rio: Initiative Encourages Young Latin American Jews to Develop Social Action Skills during CONNECTIONS 2015
During CONNECTIONS 2015, 'Mifgash' - an initiative of Netzer'sTaMaR youth movement - is bringing together approximately 30 young men and women ages 20 to 35 years old from across Latin America and the rest of the world.
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 Maoz Haviv, Executive Director of Netzer Olami and TaMaR, 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."
The CONNECTIONS 2015 website is your ticket to a virtual tour of the global celebration that's in store: unique hands-on Tikkun Olam activities in the Favellas of Rio, inspiring keynote addresses, workshops, discussions, Beit Midrash study opportunities and more!
CONNECTIONS 2015 is your gateway to an exciting Latin American adventure, with options available for pre and post conference tours. Or, you may want choose to join our group mission to Argentina and get to know the unique Fundacion Judaica family of Buenos Aires, the legendary 'Paris of South America'.
Or, you may mix and match as you so desire.
Latin American textures will infuse CONNECTIONS 2015 with a look, feel and sound that is simultaneously familiar and refreshingly exotic. How does Havdalah on Copacabana Beach sound? How about Ivrit at the Sugarloaf?
Tune in to the unique rhythms of the Latin American Reform Jewish community by visiting the CONNECTIONS 2015 website today.