Issue #512

April 30 2015 / 11 Iyyar 5775


Countdown to Rio! CONNECTIONS 2015 Readies for Reform Celebration

WUPJ-LA President Raul Cesar Gottlieb Talks about Community's Roots, Challenges and Promising Future

CONNECTIONS 2015 Program Explores Progressive Judaism's Hot Button Issues

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

Repairing the World Starts in Rio: CONNECTIONS 2015 Focuses on Tikkun Olam

Choosing Your Own Adventure: CONNECTIONS 2015 Pre and Post Conference Tours

Congregation Spotlight
Pre-CONNECTIONS 2015 Highlight: Rabbinic Kallah in Rio
Netzer Notes
News Bits
Dear Reader

UpComing Events

Countdown to Rio! CONNECTIONS 2015 Readies for Reform Celebration

The countdown has officially begun! CONNECTIONS 2015, the WUPJ's 37th biennial convention, is kicking off in less than two weeks, with a moving Opening Ceremony at the breathtaking Grande Templo Israelita in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 13.

History in the Making: Rio de Janeiro's Grande Templo Israelita,
site of the 
CONNECTIONS 2015 Opening Ceremony.

Keeping to tradition, the festivities will begin with a stirring flag procession ceremony. This event is a celebration of everything and everyone in the World Union. Delegates will hear from current and future leaders of our movement, get a taste of what the activity-filled days ahead entail and enjoy some musical and visual interludes that will help everyone get into a festive mood.

Then, a special reception will take place, allowing delegates to connect with colleagues from near and far, connections that will strengthen throughout the conference and last long into the future. 
CONNECTIONS 2015 is being held in exciting Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 13-16, 2015. The 'Marvelous City' is legendary for its football, Samba and the hospitality of the host Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI) Reform Congregation. 


Indeed, the convention will spotlight the rapidly growing Reform presence in Latin America as a key component in the future growth of the Movement.

According to Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President of the WUPJ, "The value of the World Union will be on display in Rio next month. Congregational leaders from dozens of countries will learn how much they have in common – and how our communities differ.  When we escape the “bubble” of our own synagogues, we gain insight and perspective from the experiences of others.  The vibrancy of Brazilian Jewish life will be our inspiration, and the wisdom of the 300 delegates will be our gift. I look forward to greeting you personally in Brazil and to celebrating our CONNECTIONS with one another and the entire Jewish people."

At its core, CONNECTIONS 2015 is guided by a profound belief in the concept of Peoplehood. By holding this 37th international convention of our movement in Latin America for the first time, delegates will have the opportunity to both experience the region's thriving communities as well as express solidarity.

Members of ARI will be opening their homes and kitchens during the convention. The ARI will host delegates for a special Kabbalat Shabbat evening on May 15, which will include Kabbalat Shabbat services and dinner with host families.

In short, the ARI family is looking forward to meeting new WUPJ friends from around the world during what promises to be a convention like no other!

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WUPJ-LA President Raul Cesar Gottlieb Talks about Community's Roots, Challenges and Promising Future

Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI) community leader Raul Cesar Gottlieb is the President of WUPJ Latin America, board member of the ARI and Director of Devarim Magazine. In a recent interview with the WUPJ Newsletter, Gottlieb spoke about Rio's Reform roots, today's thriving community and tomorrow's challenges.

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.
On my mother's side, two brothers of my grandfather came to Rio from Rome after WWI – around 1920 – searching for work. My grandfather was able to join the rest of the family only in 1939.

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.

Out of Many Congregants, One Vibrant Community:
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!

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CONNECTIONS 2015 Program Explores Progressive Judaism's Hot Button Issues

CONNECTIONS 2015, features a compelling and challenging series of Breakout and Free Your Mind 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.

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?

Learning under Sugarloaf Mountain: The CONNECTIONS 2015
Breakout and Free your Mind 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 provides many gateways to a deeper understanding of Progressive Judaism.

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

CONNECTIONS 2015 is a celebration of the historic bond between the World Union and Latin American Jewry. This special relationship will be highlighted at the international convention by way of energetic performances to be delivered by well-known musicians.

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. 

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). 

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Repairing the World Starts in Rio: CONNECTIONS 2015 Focuses on Tikkun Olam

Participants in CONNECTIONS 2015 will gain firsthand knowledge of the inspiring social action initiatives being implemented in the Vigario Geral favela.

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.

Sparks of hope: Afro Reggae puts on a show for Vigario Geral.

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.

Afro Reggae works in poor, violent neighborhoods that are frequently controlled by drug traffickers. Opening its doors in 2010, the center offers intensive and effective activities tailored to the artistic, cultural, and educational background of people living in Vigario Geral and the surrounding communities.
This is Tikkun Olam: Afro Reggae educates favela 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.

One local example of a highly effective Tikkun Olam program is the important work being done by CONNECTIONS 2015 host community Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI).

Among the many exciting projects developed by ARI's Social Action Committee over the years, the inter-religious outreach programs have successfully promoted timeless pluralistic values – Progressive values - both within the local Jewish community and outside of it.

This is Tikkun Olam: ARI's sense of social justice knows no boundaries.

In addition, CONNECTIONS 2015 attendees will have the opportunity to visit Colegios Liessen and Colégio Eliezer Max Nordau. Jewish education in Latin America is thriving: CONNECTIONS 2015 will show exactly how.

At CONNECTIONS 2015, participants will experience cutting-edge examples of Tikkun Olam that are empowering local residents on a daily basis.

In addition, convention attendees will have the opportunity to teach and impart some of their values and skills in joint workshops. Delegates will also assist in the building of a children’s library by delivering books and educational tools.

Most of all, CONNECTIONS 2015 participants will experience tikun olam in an utterly unique way. 

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Choosing Your Own Adventure: CONNECTIONS 2015 Pre and Post Conference Tours

CONNECTIONS 2015 is a unique opportunity to embark on journeys of discovery to Latin America and the region's colorful Jewish history. 

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.
Buenos Aires bound? A visit to the city is an opportunity to
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.
Simply breathtaking: Iguaçu Falls.

While in Latin America, convention goers can witness the exquisite spectacle of Iguaçu Falls, located on the border of Brazil (in the state of Paraná) and Argentina. Iguaçu Falls is comprised of 275 individual drops. The falls vary from 60 meters (200 feet) to 82 meters (or 269 feet) in length, making Iguaçu taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide.

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.
Color me Cuba: the Island's uniquely Caribbean charms beckon.

Jewish Cuba is yet another memorable tour to consider. The visit includes the Jewish settlement on the largest island of Greater Antilles.  This action-packed tour also takes participants to the island's only Orthodox synagogue, Adath Israel, in Old Havana; a meeting with the President of the Centro Sefardita in Vedado district and a Q&A at Havana's main synagogue, Casa de la Communidad Hebrea.

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Congregation Spotlight

Rio's ARI Community: Empowering Latin America, Inspiring the World

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.
Kabbalat Shabbat at Associação Religiosa Israelita.

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.

The ARI's main sanctuary is built in the shape of a desert tent, with two large stained glass lateral walls representing the openness of Judaism. Most Friday nights, the space is filled with around 500 people, members and non-members alike.

Go on a Jewish musical journey in Rio: Andre Nudelman (left),
and Oren Boljover (right), ARI's chazzanim.

Religious services are almost all in Hebrew, with very little Portuguese. The ARI uses a homemade siddur in Hebrew and Portuguese for Kabbalat Shabbat.

The ARI has two full-time chazzanim (cantors): Oren Boljover of Argentina and Andre Nudelman, who has been a member of the community since his youth. The music at Shabbat services includes many compositions by 19th-century German composers, along with more contemporary interludes, including jazz and just a touch of Brazilian and South American beats.
Game On! The ARI's youngest members are serious
about sports.

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.

Putting on a Show: André Nudelman, one of the ARI's chazzanim.

With the ARI, Progressive communities across Latin America have a shining example to model their own congregations after.

And the rest of the Reform world is blessed with a profound source of pride. 

Learn more about the ARI here.

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Pre-CONNECTIONS 2015 Highlight: Rabbinic Kallah in Rio

Leading Progressive Jewish Thinkers to Gather Before International Convention

A provocative and pertinent Rabbinic Kallah will convene right before CONNECTIONS 2015.

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.

HUC-JIR President Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D.

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 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 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.

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Netzer Notes

'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.

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.

Bonding over pasta: Mifgash participants eat, drink and connect.

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. 

Tikkun Olam's generation next: At CONNECTIONS 2015,
Mifgash participants will be taught the tools of effective
social action.

To help defray the cost of attending CONNECTIONS 2015, the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) has generously contributed to the Mifgash initiative by donating to the travel and accommodation costs of some European participants. 

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."

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News Bits

CONNECTIONS 2015 Website: Click here for Reform Rio!

With one click, you can discover much of what the WUPJ has planned for its 37th biennial international convention, taking place in the 'Marvelous City' of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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!

Time to Celebrate: CONNECTIONS 2015, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 2015.

The CONNECTIONS 2015 website is your portal to discovering the best of Rio. Learn about our programmed Rio city tours; fall in love with ARI, the leading Reform congregation in Rio; enjoy first class Latin American entertainment, and the most uplifting international Shabbat celebration observed anywhere in the world.

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.

Simcha, Soul and Solidarity have never been closer!

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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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