June 4, 2015 // 17 Sivan 5775
Rabbi Daniel Freelander, WUPJ president commented, “For two generations, Dick Hirsch has been the public voice leading us to act on our progressive Jewish values in the real world. This award will bring his legacy to new generations of worldwide Jewish community leaders."
The award honors the life work of Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch, who served as Executive Director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism for over 30 years. Rabbi Hirsch, a lifelong international leader in the field of social justice, was the spiritual architect of both the Religious Action Center in Washington DC, and the WUPJ world headquarters in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Richard Hirsch, Honorary Life President of the World Union, said, "The work of Ganei Haim with the children of refugees fulfills the mandate of the Judaic moral code, as reflected in the Passover Haggadah. 'In every generation every person should look upon oneself as if he or she had come forth from Egyptian slavery.' Heartfelt congratulations to Udi Cohen and the staff for their inspiring work with the children of refugees."
Making Our Movement Proud: Ganei Haim Director Udi Cohen
(left) and Rabbi Richard Hirsch, Honorary Life President
of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President, International Development World Union for Progressive Judaism, was the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Ganei Haim back in the late 1980’s when the World Union and Hebrew Union College established the kindergartens and later the first classes of the elementary school.
“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.
Class Act: The Reform movement established Jerusalem's
first preschool for children of foreign workers and refugees.
Gan Nitzanim was established with the support of IMPJ Executive Director Rabbi Gilad Kariv and the entire Reform movement.
According to Ganei Haim Director Udi Cohen, Gan Nitzanim raises a perplexing issue for anyone with a passion for the Progressive Jewish values of pluralism and inclusivity. "This Gan Nitzanim class reflects the complicated situation of children of asylum seekers and foreign workers. Here we are, members of the Reform movement, opening a separate class for foreign children. Yet, we are today considered pioneers in the field and have been asked by the Jerusalem municipality to be responsible for all such children residing in the city."
By creating a better future for these children, Ganei Haim is a shining example of tikkun olam put to practice.
The WUPJ's 37th biennial convention, which was held in Rio de Janiero Brazil from May 13-16, featured many memorable moments. The 300 delegates from over 20 countries and 90 cities who attended CONNECTIONS 2015 were especially moved by a couple of powerful addresses. Below, are highlights from WUPJ President Rabbi Daniel Freelander's Shabbat sermon and incoming WUPJ Chair Carole Sterling's installation speech.
WUPJ CONNECTIONS 2015 Conference Associascao Religiosa Israelita (ARI) Congregation Rio de Janeiro, Brazil May 16, 2015 - Shabbat B’har/B’chukotai Rabbi Daniel Freelander, WUPJ President’s Sermon
Words of Wisdom: WUPJ President Rabbi Daniel Freelander
at CONNECTIONS 2015.
"I am grateful for the opportunity of serving this World Union of congregations. I look forward to imparting a sense of connectedness and responsibility to Klal Yisrael – a significant challenge in many of our Jewish communities."
"We hope the new Machon Rabbinic Training Institute, scheduled to open this coming September in Moscow, will allow us – in about six years – to begin ordaining up to three or four Russian-speaking rabbis each and every year, and thus grow the professional leadership of all our congregations in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia."
"I see the Jewish world in a unique way: two large Jewish communities anchor the Jewish population today -- 6 million in North America, and 6 million in Israel. Either one of the large communities can become (and often is) an isolated Jewish world unto itself. But without the remaining 2 million Jews of the world, that supportive bar of Klal Yisrael that holds us together, we would forget that there are not two Jewish realities, but dozens of Jewish realities."
"In too many places, still today in 2015, Progressive Jews are denied their rightful role in the larger Jewish community. We resent being represented in public by Orthodox chief rabbis and gemeines and consistories. We want – and will receive - our rightful place at the table."
"Our magic potion for dynamic growth is the implementation of our stated values. Sometimes, those values do not seem to be advanced by decades-old congregational traditions. But in this sabbatical year, it is time to proclaim freedom – to allow our congregations to grow and evolve in new ways."
"This is our systemic WUPJ challenge: We can only be as good as our rabbinic leadership."
Read Rabbi Freelander's complete sermon here.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Carole Sterling, Incoming WUPJ Chair
A New Era Begins: Incoming WUPJ Chair
"As Jews, we innately understand these moments of connection and a sense of belonging is crucial to us. Opening our homes and our hearts and welcoming the stranger is what we do."
"This evening, I find myself here in Rio de Janeiro, surrounded by so many dedicated, talented people who are here, too, because of their deep concern for and love of the Jewish people and our beloved Israel. We are in the “together” business, collectively committing ourselves to our shared purpose. We see our potential for impact as a gift, a challenge, and an opportunity."
"As my own rabbi, Rabbi Yael Splansky of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, recently noted: It takes chutzpah to step into a leadership role, but for those who anchor their leadership in Jewish values, it’s never about “me”. It’s about the task, the need and the mitzvah at hand”.
"The lesson of Jewish history is that people like you and me CAN make a difference. So thank you…for all that you have done and for all that we will do…together."
"My own leadership path and indeed my life has been paved with exceptional role models, teachers, friends and individuals who have nurtured, inspired and transformed me."
Read Carole Sterling's complete installation speech here.
Hundreds of Liberal Jews from 40 communities across the United Kingdom are expected to gather for the movement's biggest event of the year.
Much to Celebrate: IRAC Executive Director Anat Hoffman.
Hoffman will be joining an exciting line-up of speakers that includes Rabbi Miri Gold - the first non-Orthodox rabbi in Israel to have her salary paid by the government – and Reut Michaeli, Executive Director of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants in Israel. In addition, Rabbi Ofek Meir, newly appointed Director of the HUC-JIR Israeli Rabbinic Program in Jerusalem, as well as many rabbis and leaders of the UK's Liberal movement will attend.
Hoffman is an Israeli civil rights activist who has also been at the forefront of Women at the Wall. Regarding her Day of Celebration appearance, Hoffman noted, "It is time for all of us who refuse to divest ourselves of hope for Israel to unite."
Anat Hoffman will lead two sessions at the Day of Celebration. Both presentations will discuss "What we don't talk about when we focus on Israel's security," according to Ms Hoffman. In addition, IRAC's Executive Director will share the organization's successes in the fields of women's rights, religious pluralism and freedom of conscience.
The wide ranging Day of Celebration program includes such topics as the history of the state of Israel; Israeli political landscape; Hebrew poetry; Israeli film; the Israeli conflict in the media and Jewish community; the anti-Zionism of early Liberal Jews; the Liberal Jewish values of the Hebrew prophets; Israeli food and dance and liturgical music.
The Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) in St. John’s Wood, Liberal Judaism’s oldest and largest community, will host the Day of Celebration.
Jewish Leadership, Defined: HUC-JIR
President Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D.
Rabbi Panken's address, "Seven Continents, Five Oceans, Three Principles, One Movement: Imagining the Global Future of Progressive Judaism," focused on the future of global Progressive Judaism and the centrality of Jewish leadership in ensuring that future.
During his innovative text-based session, Rabbi Panken discussed what makes us uniquely equipped to engage global Jewry going into the future and of the crucial role Progressive Judaism can play in advancing Jewish life in Latin America.
Rabbi Panken began his tenure as president of HUC–JIR in early 2014, making his mark almost immediately as a teacher among teachers.
Trained as an electrical engineer and an amateur pilot, Rabbi Panken brings a tech savvy approach to his new position, saying in a recent interview, "there are major changes going on in the way people relate to one another — social media, small-group gatherings, the use of technology for Bible study, for instance. We’re currently teaching in a cross-campus way with dedicated video rooms. We’ve got a Jewish studies portal online. Lots of alumni are continuing their Torah studies with one another by Skype. We’ll continue to expand on these kinds of things. [at HUC-JIR]"
Watch Rabbi Panken's CONNECTIONS 2015 keynote address now.
Just as I was overcome with awe as I looked from the hotel at Copacabana Beach, Sugar Loaf, and Corcovado Mountain, so was I equally overjoyed by the gracious hospitality of the local community of Rio de Janeiro. The rich culture of the region fused into the conference - from the musical breaks,
tours of landmarks in the area, and the opportunity to engage in tikkun olam, repair of the world.
Perhaps the most meaningful experience, for me, was spending Shabbat at the home of members of Associação Religiosa Israelita, our host congregation. Jews from Brazil, the United States, Belarus, Russia, and Argentina sat down as strangers, with no common language, and left hours later as friends.
CONNECTING in Rio: Andrew Keene.
We learn from the Talmud, “Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh,” all Israel is responsible for one another. While I knew that Jewish communities around the world are different from my home congregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I left Rio with both a deepened understanding of the challenges that face “Kol Yisrael” and our ability to affect significant change in global communities.
It was an honor to be part of the convening of Progressive Jews from every corner of the globe and a blessing to be amongst friends both old and new, each deeply committed to each other, our communities, and the Jewish people."
Read Andrew's complete blog about his CONNECTIONS 2015 experience here.
Since 1990, when the Jewish population of Germany numbered around 30,000, some 220,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union have moved to the country. Approximately 100,000 people in Germany today are active in Jewish congregations.
The sharp increase has brought Germany's Jewish population to about half of what it was before the Holocaust. A census conducted in 1933, the year Adolf Hitler came to power, put it at 500,000.
There's just one problem: There aren't enough rabbis.
Liberal Jewish Renaissance in Germany: (left to right) Abraham
Geiger College students Natalya Verzhebovska, Max Feldhake,
Anita Kantor, Amnon Selig, and Maciej Kirschenbaum.
After World War II, no rabbis were trained in Germany: there were no seminaries. That changed in 1999, when the liberal Abraham Geiger College became continental Europe's first new rabbinical and cantorial seminary since the Holocaust. It has since graduated 31 rabbis.
This academic year, Abraham Geiger College was joined by the conservative Zacharias Frankel College. Both seminaries, part of the University of Potsdam just outside Berlin, also offer academic degree courses.
"It's great to be able to get my training here," says Sonja Pilz, an Abraham Geiger College rabbinical student. "Twenty years ago, I'd have had to go abroad." Pilz, one of the college's few German students, is also about to complete her PhD in Jewish studies there.
People are coming here from all over the world. The student body at the Abraham Geiger College includes Russians, Hungarians, Poles, Americans, and Israelis, among others.
"German Jewish culture was very vibrant," says Amnon Selig, a fifth-year Israeli cantor student here. "Their cantors composed music and adapted music to the synagogue. Right now, there aren't many jobs for cantors, but everything is being built up. I've made the conscious decision to move here and stay."
WATCH: Abraham Geiger cantorial student Amnon Selig sings
in the college's synagogue, accompanied by Russian student
Finances add to the German seminaries’ attractiveness. The German government underwrites the Abraham Geiger and Zacharias Frankel colleges.
"There aren't that many seminaries, and there are even fewer ones for women, so Germany is a good opportunity", says Natalya Verzhebovska, a Muscovite who's studying for the rabbinate at Abraham Geiger College. "And liberal Judaism originated in Germany."
Read the complete article as it appears in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty here.
A Night at the Crossroads: Beit Shmuel's Shavuot
events included walking tours to the Kotel.
Tamir Nir, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and rabbi of Achva B'Kerem community, and acclaimed singer-songwriter Daniela Spector took part in what has rapidly become a Jerusalem tradition.
As in previous years, the Beit Shmuel Tikkun Leil Shavuot fused traditional texts and modern interpretations with musical interludes. Most other Tikkun Leil Shavuot events in Jerusalem are presented without music. This year's theme was 'crossroads'.
The Tikkun was followed by Beit Shmuel's highly regarded Tikkun Leil Shavuot walking tours to the Old City and the Kotel for early morning worship services. This year, the two tours attracted over 50 people.
Later in the night, sessions and lectures focusing on change, improvement, reform, and our relationship with community and society took place.
On May 29, Beit Shmuel/Mercaz Shimshon opened a new art exhibit, Blue Seas.
Artist Shlomo Yehudayan combines beauty and harmony in a collection of works whose theme is sites by water in Israel and around the world.
Seeing Blue: Beit Shmuel's new exhibit explores many
aspects of maritime art.
Shlomo Yehudayan, a resident of Jerusalem, was born in 1937 in Isfahan, Iran and moved to Israel at the age of 13 as part of a Jewish youth immigration movement, Aliyat Ha’noar.
Yehudayan studied graphic design at Jerusalem's Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. For many years, Yehudayan worked as a graphic designer in publishing houses in Israel and abroad. Yehudayan was also the curator of the Museum of Print in the city of Safed and has lectured at various colleges.
Blue Seas runs until August 1 2015.
Lior Argaman has rejoined the Netzer Olami youth organization as Director of Shnat gap-year course, our international 10-month training program for young adults in Israel that develops the skills and knowledge necessary to become Progressive movement leaders.
Netzer's New Face: Lior Argaman,
Incoming Shnat Netzer Director.
This is Ms Argaman's second tenure as Shnat Netzer Director, having held the same position from 2008-2011.
Argaman brings a wealth of experience to Netzer. For over 15 years, she has worked in various educational endeavors, including being a Shlicha (emissary) to several countries around the world.
Her most recent Shlichut was to the Progressive movement in Melbourne, Australia, where she served as the Netzer and Progressive Community Emissary.
Lior Argaman, 36, is married to Didi and mother to Adam, Yarden and Eden.
Argaman's favorite quote: "Nilmad Ve'Na'aseh!" ("We will learn and we will do!")
Ms Argaman is thrilled to have literally and figuratively returned home to the Netzer Family.
Lior is replacing Michael Vainberg, who began his tenure as Shnat Director in 2011 when she was sent on Shlichut. Michael and his family are moving to the USA.
A Job Well Done: Michael Vainberg,
Outgoing Shnat Netzer Director.
According to Netzer Olami and TaMaR Executive Director Maoz Haviv: "Michael performed his many duties with the highest degree of professionalism, dedication and patience. His sensitivity, strategic mind and attention to detail has helped propel the Shnat program from strength to strength, much to the great satisfaction of parents around the world."
On May 25, Netzer celebrated with Jessica Harrison and Nicki Brown, both from Australia, who had their twin B'not- Mitzva ceremonies at Beit- Shmuel/Mercaz Shimshon, the worldwide headquarters of the WUPJ.
Beit Shmuel B'not Mitzvah Bash: Jessica Harrison and Nicki
Brown's entire Netzer group showed up for this
very special occasion.
Rabbi Steve Burnstein conducted the service that was led by Nicki and Jess. The young women's entire Netzer group was present, along with Jessica's father and other guests.
After the service, guests enjoyed a festive meal on the roof of Beit- Shmuel, which provided a brilliant ending to a remarkable celebration.
This 10-day professional development seminar, based in Jerusalem, is carefully crafted to provide maximum impact on the work of formal and informal Jewish educators.
Not Your Typical Classroom: Bergman Seminar is currently
open for registration.
This year's Bergman Seminar, being held from July 2 to 12, will incorporate art, culture, spirituality, liturgy, Hebrew, history, politics, text study, Jewish values, pedagogy and more. New programs this year include a hands-on art workshop, session about the use of drama and storytelling in education, and a visit to an Arab-Jewish summer camp.
Together, the various components of the seminar will address the critical challenges facing the Jewish people, encounter creative projects addressing these challenges and encourage participants to develop their own initiatives.
Designing and implementing the Bergman Seminar is the Saltz International Education Center's faculty, which includes some of the most accomplished scholars and educators in the world.
Sign up for the Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators today!
Tell educators in your community about this unique opportunity.
On May 30, Holland's Liberaal Joodse Gemeente (LJG) Gelderland synagogue celebrated 50 years as a community. Approximately 180 members of kehillot across the Netherlands attended LJG's golden jubilee bash.
Fifty Years Young: Liberaal Joodse Gemeente (LJG)
Small but strong, LJG's 120 members live all over the province of Gelderland. Every fortnight, there is a Shabbat morning service, attended by 40-50 people.
At one point, the kehillah had to rent rooms where services could take place. In 2001, there was an opportunity to buy and renovate a former synagogue that was sold after WWII.
Since 2010, the community has had its own beautifully renovated Shul for services and other activities.
Following the May 30 Shabbat service, guests enjoyed a hearty lunch and program comprised of a variety of workshops.
This very special day ended with the blowing of the shofar and a triumphant Shabbat walk.
This was the first event held under SACRED’s new Chair Rabbi Julia Margolis and was very well attended. SACRED Geometry was the first in a series of monthly ‘evenings of interest’ planned by SACRED to deepen Progressive Jewry’s knowledge of the organization's work in furthering interfaith co-operation and Progressive religious ideas.
SACRED Geometry: Greg Margolis speaks
at organization's monthly talk.
Motivational speaker Greg Margolis delivered the 'SACRED geometry' presentation, during which where he analyzed the links between the sacred geometry of many religions, both ancient and modern.
The next SACRED gathering is planned for the end of June and will be given by a representative of the Open Mosque, South Africa’s progressive Islamic place of worship.
Talking Jewish Peoplehood: Klal Yisrael fellows
strolling through Heroes' Square, Budapest.
Alon Weismann, a 2014-2015 Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellow, recently shared his profound insights about global leadership, the current state of Jews in Europe and gaining perspective about Israel while travelling through Hungary. The entire piece appears in the Union for Reform Judaism's (URJ) Ten Minutes of Torah page. Below, an excerpt:
"...In that moment, though I was saddened by the struggles of the other participants, I felt my Israeli pride in all its glory…I've learned that there's nothing too intimidating about global leadership. The leadership is local; it's those little bridges we build along the way with those around us that eventually make it global."
Read Alon Weismann's full article here.
The leadership and staff of the World Union offer their sincerest condolences to the family of Helen MacMurdo Posner, of Longwood at Oakmont, Pennsylvania, who passed away on May 31 2015 at the age of 88.
Helen was the mother of Henry Posner III and mother-in-law of WUPJ Executive Board member Anne Molloy. She was born on August 21, 1926 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Posner Family Foundation, through Anne and Henry's advocacy, was among the most important supporters of the WUPJ's efforts to rebuild Jewish life in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
Helen is survived by her sons Henry Posner III (Anne M. Molloy) of Pittsburgh; James T. Posner of Kamuela, Hawaii; and Paul M. Posner of Austin, TX; her grandchildren Eva, Matthew, Hannah, Ida, Agustin, and Victoria Posner; and great-grandson Jackson Lusher.
May Helen MacMurdo Posner's memory and good works be for a blessing and may her entire family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.
The leadership and staff of the World Union offer their sincerest condolences to the family of Lucia Ventura, who passed away on June 1.
Lucy was the mother and mother-in-law of Marina Ventura and Raul Gottlieb, Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI) community leader and President of WUPJ Latin America. Raul and Marina co-chaired the recent CONNECTIONS 2015 in Rio, and hosted over 40 guests at their home for Shabbat dinner.
Although Lucia had been unwell for a long time, her passing is nonetheless a shock to her own family as well as her extended ARI family.
May Lucia Ventura's memory be for a blessing and may her entire family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.
In case you may have missed it, WUPJ's 37th International Convention lived up to the hype, and then some. Like all good things, this celebration of simcha, soul and solidarity eventually had to come to an end!
View the CONNECTIONS 2015 photo gallery here. Share your convention memories by sending your video clips and images to CONNECTIONS 2015. Thank you.
See you at CONNECTIONS 2017...in Jerusalem!
What do you think about our newsletter?