Issue #513

May 7 2015 / 18 Iyyar 5775


Klal Israel in Rio: CONNECTIONS 2015 to Feature Torah Donation from ARI to Kehillat Shanghai

Brazilian Pop Star Monique Kessous to Perform at CONNECTIONS 2015 Closing Ceremony

Bringing Torah to the FSU: Klau Conference Unites Netzer/TaMaR Members from Across Region

Magic and Bowling in Budapest: Notes from a Successful Young Leadership Program

Central Conference of American Rabbis Responds to Attack on Jews in Paris

Community Spotlight: South Africa
Live from Israel
Netzer Notes
News Bits
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events

Klal Israel in Rio: CONNECTIONS 2015 to Feature Torah Donation from ARI to Kehillat Shanghai

During CONNECTIONS 2015, the World Union for Progressive Judaism's (WUPJ) 37th international convention in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a powerful example of Jewish solidarity will take place when Kehillat Shanghai receives its first Torah Scroll, to be donated by CONNECTIONS 2015 host congregation Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI).

It's been a busy few months for Kehillat Shanghai. In December at the UPJ biennial conference, the community became an official member of Australasia's Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ). 

The WUPJ's Shomrei Torah program facilitated the connection between Kehillat Shanghai and the ARI. 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.

According to Arie Schreier, Kehillat Shanghai President, "Having a Torah is a major step forward and provides us with both the means and responsibility to make Kehillat Shanghai an active community in every respect."

For Kehillat Shanghai, receiving its first Torah is a big step on the long road towards ensuring the future. For this fledgling community, many issues still need to be addressed. Where is the Torah to be kept? Where to find a synagogue to house the Torah? How to go about locating a permanent rabbi for the community?

Mazal Tov! Kehillat Shanghai will receive a very special
gift from Rio's ARI during CONNECTIONS 2015.

Still, with all the challenges that are part and parcel of every new community, Kehillat Shanghai will undoubtedly continue to display an impressive ability to do what is needed to ensure its continued growth as an organization of Liberal, Reform, Reconstructionist, and unaffiliated Jews that is creating communal spaces for the celebration of Judaism and Jewish and Israeli culture.  

The entire WUPJ family would like to thank all the members of the ARI for their gracious sharing of Torah with the Kehillat Shanghai community.

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Brazilian Pop Star Monique Kessous to Perform at CONNECTIONS 2015 Closing Ceremony

Up and coming Brazilian singer Monique Kessous has confirmed her appearance at the Gala Closing Dinner of CONNECTIONS 2015 on May 16. Kessous, a member of the ARI congregation, will bring convention delegates to their feet with her unique blending of pop, folk and diverse elements of Brazilian music.

Ending on a High Note: Monique Kessous will bring the
WUPJ's 37th international convention to a close.

Besides being blessed with a powerful voice, Kessous is a gifted musician who composed 10 of the 12 songs that appear on her 2008 debut album, 'With this Color'. 

Her follow up album, 'Monique Kessous', released in 2010, established the Rio native as a formidable musical force.  'Monique Kessous' was both a critical success and a commercial smash, establishing the singer as one of the leading voices of her generation. In 2011, Kessous won the prestigious 'New Artist Award'.

Currently, all of Brazil is anxiously awaiting the release of Kessous's third album.

View the final CONNECTIONS 2015 schedule now.

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Bringing Torah to the FSU: Klau Conference Unites Netzer/TaMaR Members from Across Region

From April 10-12, thirty-six members of the Netzer Olami youth group and TaMaR young adults organization attended the Klau Conference in Minsk, Belarus. The gathering was the second of three seminars aimed at young Jewish leaders.

The program built on the successful seminar that had taken place in late 2014 and focused on ways to teach Torah to young Jewish men and women. 
April's Klau Conference had two main goals: 1) assemble  the staff for the summer camps, 2) begin the process of developing a curriculum for the camp sessions. 

Faces of FSU's Jewish Future: Klau Conference,
Mink, Belarus.

This camp program for 2015 will be based on the Books of Prophets and Judges. The Book of Prophets is one of the foundations of Reform Jewish ideology that emphasizes social justice and Tikun Olam. 

For the first time in camp history, original texts will be used to learn in depth about these timeless Jewish values. After many years of preparation, FSU leaders believe that the local youth movement is now ready for this leap forward. 

Conference highlights included:
  • Participants getting to know one another on a deeper level, not only personally but professionally as well.
  • A lecture by Rabbi Gregory Abramovich on key aspects of the Book of Prophets.
Everyone involved in developing and running the conference is deeply appreciative of Jimmy and Sue Klau's continued support of Reform Jews in the FSU. 

Netzer Coordinators for the conference were: Rita Fruman, FSU; Artur Raisky, Belarus and Yuliya Orlova, Ukraine. The conference organizers were ably assisted by Rabbi Gregory Abramovich.

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Magic and Bowling in Budapest: Notes from a Successful Young Leadership Program

From April 17-19, Rabbi Steve Burnstein, Director of the Anita Saltz International Education Center, facilitated a young leadership seminar that is part of an ongoing  collaborative project with the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ). The initiative is designed to help strengthen Progressive Judaism with an eye toward the future and focus on young adults.

More than twenty young adults worked together at exploring ideas for creative, meaningful programming as presented with the cooperation of local WUPJ-affiliated Progressive communities Szim Shalom and Beit Orim.

Tuning into Torah: Youth Leadership Seminar,
Budapest, Hungary.

Three Hungarian rabbinic students from Abraham Geiger College, Anita Kantor, Armin Langer and Ariel Pollak were among the participants. Katarina Leithof, a leader from TaMaR Germany, also participated in the seminar. 

In addition, all participants helped lead pieces of the program throughout the seminar.

Besides a spirited Shabbat worship, participants explored Progressive Judaism, studied Jewish texts, had lively discussions, sang, bowled, renewed their bond to Progressive Judaism, and strengthened their relationships with one another.

Most importantly, participants spent time discussing their need to be engaged with other young adults who share their Progressive Jewish values. 

Progressive Rocks: Rabbi Steve Burnstein.

Together, they developed a list of programs for the next 6-12 months. Activities include a young adult multi-faith encounter, kosher wine tasting, day-trip to engage with Hungarian Jews living in smaller villages somewhat isolated from the larger Jewish community, a Yiddish chug (class), and much more.

The amazing energy and enthusiasm of these thoughtful, intelligent young adults will certainly encourage and inspire others to join them. This initiative is another building block securing a bright future for Progressive Jews in Hungary, Europe, and throughout the communities of our World Union.

The project is funded in part through the generosity of the Roswell Fund for Central Europe.

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Central Conference of American Rabbis Responds to Attack on Jews in Paris

Following the latest anti-Semitic assault in Paris, which occurred on May 3, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) issued a statement of condemnation.

"The Central Conference of American Rabbis condemns the attack on two Jewish men in Paris last week by a gang estimated at 40 people, identified as members of Gaza Firm, a pro-Palestinian group that is involved in the BDS movement.
Targeting Paris: Anti-Semitic acts across France have
skyrocketed over the last year. 

This heinous, morally repugnant assault took place in an area that is home to many Jewish-owned businesses. It occurred on Voltaire Boulevard, the site of the infamous 2006 kidnapping of Ilan Halimi, a 23 year old French Jewish phone salesman, who was tortured and starved for three weeks before being left to die, naked and handcuffed, with burns over 80 percent of his body, in a Paris suburb..."

Members of the Jewish community volunteered to protect the Jewish-owned businesses in the wake of the attack, according to France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA.

Police sent officers to the scene to prevent an escalation, and have opened an investigation into the attack.

The CCAR statement also applauded "the actions of the French government, belated though they may be, to protect Jews and Jewish community institutions throughout the nation…"

Some 851 anti-Semitic acts were registered in 2014, compared with 423 the previous year, with acts of physical violence jumping to 241 from 105, according to the SPCJ security unit of French Jewish communities.

Read the CCAR's complete statement here.

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Community Spotlight: South Africa

Get a Glimpse at the Local Progressive Jewish Community's Activity Filled Itinerary

The South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) is comprised of 10 communities that are involved in a wide range of programs that emphasize Tikun Olam, the belief that through social or environmental action, we are partners with God in creating the world as it should be.
Below, is a summary of recent events in which SAUPJ kehillot participated.

Catholic Outreach: Public Lecture at St. Augustine College of South Africa

Rabbi Sa'ar Shaked of the Beit Emanuel Progressive Jewish Synagogue delivered a public lecture at St Augustine College of South Africa, one of the country's prominent Catholic institutions of higher education.
One God, Different Holidays: Rabbi Sa'ar Shaked.

Viewing the 'Pascal Lamb of God' as a shared theological concept, Rabbi Shaked discussed a number of parallels between Jewish Pesach and Christian Easter, and how the two traditions have influenced one another throughout the ages.

Rabbi Shaked's presentation attracted almost 80 people, including some friends from his popular 'Jews by Choice' class. 

Two Jews, Three Opinions: Rabbinic Kallah Convened in Durbin

How many different points of view can a roomful of rabbis produce?  From April 26-27, Progressive rabbis from across South Africa gathered in Durban to discuss issues of mutual concern. 

Topics included how to more effectively reach out to intermarried couples, young families and members of the GLBT communities and choosing a new High Holy Day Machzor. The two days were spent in study, pray, discussion and debate.

The Durban Progressive Jewish Congregation (DPJC) generously hosted the Kallah.

Sisterhood: Women's Prayer Services Organized in Durban, Pretoria

Annual women’s prayer services were organized by the Sisterhood of Temple David and Bet Menorah, the Progressive Jewish congregation in Pretoria.  

At Durban's Temple David, the theme for the 2015 International Women's World Day of Prayer was from Micah 6:8, “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God”.  

The service at Temple David was conducted entirely by women and the speaker this year was Lorna Harris, co-president of the Durban Progressive Jewish Congregation. Lorna’s speech focused on the great strides women have made in the Western World to achieve equality and recognition.  

However, she cautioned, "We cannot claim to be acting justly or with mercy if we do not act on behalf of women who do not share these rights."

The service was attended by women from the broader Durban Jewish community as well as women from other faiths.  
Celebrating Independence: Beit Emanuel Raises a Toast to Israel's 67th Birthday

The Beit Emanuel Progressive Jewish Synagogue ushered in Israeli Independence Day in grand style.

Rabbi Sa'ar Shaked opened the proceedings with a prayer. Then, Professor Merle Williams, Chair of Beit Emanuel, introduced Israeli Deputy Ambassador to South Africa Michael Freedman to the congregation.  

Showing Israel Some Love: (left to right) Deputy Israeli
Ambassador to South Africa Michael Freedman,
Rabbi Sa'ar Shaked and Professor Merle Williams.

Guest of honor Freedman then addressed the crowd, focusing on all Israel has to offer South Africa by way of the Jewish State's technological advancements. 

Aviad Sela, Director of the Jewish Agency's Israel Center in South Africa, then described what Diaspora Jewry meant to him as an Israeli, and what services the Israel Center can offer interested members of the Jewish community.

Other guests at Beit Emanuel's celebration included Uri Lazer, Betar Community South Africa Shaliach and Reeva Forman, Chair of Temple Israel Hillbrow and Honorary Life Vice Chair of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF).

Stop the Hatred: South African Progressive Jewish Community Reacts to University President's Profession of Love for Hitler 

The South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) joined the rest of the country's Jewish community in condemning an online statement made by the Chairman of the SRC of the University of Witwatersrand Mcebo Dlamini, who recently commented on Facebook that he loved German dictator Adolf Hitler.

Alvin Kushner, National Chairman, SAUPJ.

Alvin Kushner, National Chairman of the SAUPJ stated, "The South African Union for Progressive Judaism joins people of all religions and creeds in condemning the abhorrent statement made by the Chairman of the SRC of the University of Witwatersrand. This person has not only expressed his support to the biggest mass murderer of all time but has also attempted to taint all efforts towards racial harmony in South Africa.

Our concern is compounded by the fact that this person was voted into the position he holds by a majority of students.  We can only hope and trust that those who had voted him into his leadership position will cease to give this person support and join the voices of the masses of rational stable members of society."

Zero Tolerance for Racism: University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. 

Besides the SAUPJ, the South African Union of Jewish Students rejected Dlamini's contention that he decided to "look at the good Hitler stood for. He rebuilt the country, the economy, the infrastructure, he uplifted the spirit of Germany."

Mcebo Dlamini (image by Elizabeth Sejake, City Press).

Natan Pollack, SAUJS National Chairperson responded, "It's absolutely disgusting that in light of the recent xenophobic attacks... he [Dlamini] turns around and starts marginalising certain groups which is counter to what our government is pushing and Africans [as a whole]."

In response to the Jewish community's backlash, Wits University SRC President Dlamini was removed from his position.

The entire World Union family supports the stance taken by SAUPJ against this particularly noxious form of anti-Semitism, emanating from the highest ranks of South Africa's university system, and commends the University of Witwatersrand for acting swiftly and decisively.

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Live from Israel

Roving House of Learning: Beit Shmuel Leads Fascinating New Tour of Jerusalem's Old City

On Friday May 1, approximately two dozen people took part in the first 'Project 929' tour of the Old City, organized by Mercaz Shimshon-Beit Shmuel in cooperation with the Jerusalem campus of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).

Fresh perspectives on an ancient city: Beit Shmuel's new walking tour is the talk of Jerusalem.

The entire tour was based on passages from the Bible, Midrash, selected commentaries and excerpts from texts inspired by the Books of Numbers and Leviticus.

The field trip included visits to the Western Wall tunnels and the Kidron Valley Tombs, located on the Mount of Olives.

The unique tour was very well received by participants and is just the latest example of how Beit Shmuel, the worldwide headquarters of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, leads the field. 

Beit Shmuel's experienced tour guides offer a choice of historical and archaeological tours that emphasize traditions, local legends, culture, art, religious holidays, and the rituals of the various religious denominations that have for centuries been part of the social fabric of Jerusalem. 

Learn more about Beit Shmuel's Tour Department now.

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Netzer Notes

Getting Educated, Mate: Netzer Australia Seminar Brings Graduates of Youth Movement Together

From April 9 - 12, 25 Australian graduates of the Netzer Olami youth movement attended a seminar that explored the textual origins of the organization's ideology and discussed the practical application of Reform Zionism. 

Netzer, the Musical: Graduates of the youth movement
celebrate good times!

Highlights included an evening of laughing, bouncing around a giant inflatable castle and discussing the ramifications of the upcoming legislative forum that serves as the primary of decision-making body of Netzer Australia and where each madrich (counsellor) has a vote. 

In addition, seminar participants addressed many issues related to the history of Progressive Judaism and the correct usage of the term Tikun Olam. Pesach was also on everyone's mind and such educational detours as the creation of a menu featuring only matza-based meals was a delicious highlight.

Overall, the seminar was very successful, with the activities that were organized being of the highest educational caliber. Bogrim (graduates) left the program feeling fulfilled and inspired about helping implement Netzer's ideology in the years to come.

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News Bits

Jewish History Made in Grodno: First March for Peace Held on Holocaust Memorial Day

On April 15, Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Memorial Day) was marked in the Belarussian city of Grodno with a march that was organized by the local Progressive community and attended by over 100 participants. 

Never Again: Rabbi Grisha Abramovich (left) at Grodno's
Grand Synagogue.

Both Progressive leaders and representatives from Chabad took part in the commemoration of over 29,000 Jews who perished during the Holocaust.

The peace march was joined by local leaders of the Russian Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran religious communities.

The commemoration then moved inside, to Grodno's Grand Synagogue, where all participants read from the 'Avoda she ba'lev' prayer book. 
Time to Reflect: Residents of Grodno observe Holocaust
Memorial Day.

This emotionally heart wrenching day concluded with Progressive leaders presenting a new Haggadah to the Jewish Museum, located inside the synagogue.

The Yom HaShoa commemoration was supported city authorities and organized by Rabbi Grisha Abramovich; Michael Korzh, chair of the Jewish community in Grodno; directors of the Religious Union for Progressive Judaism in Belarus and Russia; Netzer activists and leaders of Grodno's Progressive Jewish community. 

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Remembering Gallipoli: Local Australian Jewish Communities Observe ANZAC Day

In addition to Yom Ha'zikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) events, Australian Jewish communities also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing. 

ANZAC day is one of Australia's most important national occasions, originally meant to marks the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

Observed every April 25, the national holiday has expanded to broadly commemorate all Australians and New Zealanders "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served." 

Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) communities observed the holiday in a variety of ways. At North Shore Temple Emanuel, over 80 people joined the kehilla to commemorate ANZAC Day and Yom Ha'zikaron as well as celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut on April 24.

Meanwhile at Temple David, the Progressive Synagogue of Perth, Western Australia, remembered those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.  

Perth's Jewish community was well represented at various memorial events. Among the most moving was the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia's ANZAC Commemorative Service that included the Lieutenant Governor of Western Australia, leaders of various religious groups in Perth and dignitaries from around the world.

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Fabulous Five: German Language Chumash to be Published

Abraham Geiger College, the School of Jewish Theology of the University of Potsdam and the General Rabbinical Conference announced they will be launching a new Hebrew-German Chumash for German-speaking Jewish communities on June 16.

To be published by Herder, the hardcover Five Books of Moses with Haftarot will be 1,100 pages long and sell for EUR 38. 


For a donation of EUR 15, Congregations will be eligible to receive sets of 30 or more copies from Abraham Geiger College.

This project has been successfully realized in co-operatio n with Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, David H. Aaron and Lawrence Hoffmann of the HUC-JIR, Alan Cooper of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTSA), Ziony Zevit of the Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies, Bernard M. Levinson of the University of Minnesota and Jacob L. Wright of Emory University.

The publication launch party will be hosted by the Secretary General of the Standing Conference of Education Ministers of the German States in Berlin.

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CONNECTIONS 2015 to Honor 2015 Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch International Social Action Award Finalists

The World Union for Progressive Judaism will honor the stellar group of nominees for the 2015 Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch International Social Action Award, created with the aim of recognizing exemplary work taking place in communities around the world, outside of North America.

The entire World Union family extends a hearty 'Mazal Tov!' to Ganei Haim, whose Reform Movement kindergartens for children ages 4-6 are located on the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) campus in Jerusalem. Ganei Haim's work over the last four years to develop a class for children of asylum seekers and foreign workers earned it the first annual Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch International Action Award, announced on April 27 at the Religious Action Center's (RAC) 'Consultation on Conscience'.

Ganei Haim was established by the WUPJ in 1987, with cooperation from HUC-JIR. 

A number of years ago, the ganim became an integral part of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism's (IMPJ) educational network.

Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President, International Development World Union for Progressive Judaism, was the Chair of the Steering Committee of the kindergartens and the early classes of the elementary school. 

“The success of Ganei Haim must be measured, not only by the thousands of youngsters who over the past nearly 30 years have experienced a creative liberal Jewish education, but also by the many thousands of families who have come to appreciate that there is more than one way to live a Jewish life in the State of Israel. We at the WUPJ salute the outstanding success of Ganei Haim over these decades and acknowledge the commitment of Ganim Director Udi Cohen to integrate Tikkun Olam values into the daily life of this amazing educational project,” Rabbi Oseran stated in response to the news of Ganei Haim receiving the Hirsch Award.

Read more about Ganei Haim's award-winning work now.

Making news: Ganei Haim's program is the talk of Jerusalem.

We are proud of the outstanding work being done by WUPJ members around the world. Social action is an essential component of Progressive Judaism. To be a Progressive Jew is to be engaged in the ongoing work of tikkun olam; to strive to improve the world in which we live; to be God's partners in standing up for the voiceless and fixing what is broken in our society.

The award is named in honor of Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch, a tireless advocate for social justice who is the founding director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and honorary life president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

The Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch award is inspired by the high standard established by the Religious Action Center's (RAC) Irwin J. Fain Award, which has been spotlighting exceptional tikkun olam programs in North America for over 30 years. 

In a world where the news we hear is often sad or even tragic, the Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch International Social Action Award promotes Progressive Judaism's belief in the essential goodness of humankind.

Click here to be inspired by our communities' leading examples of Tikkun Olam put into practice.

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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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