Issue #517

July 2, 2015 // 15 Tammuz 5775


Abraham Geiger College and WUPJ Join Forces: University Training Program for Russian Rabbis to Start in September

The Progressive Jewish World in Tel Aviv: ARZENU, WUPJ, ARZA, URJ and IMPJ Leaders Convene at JAFI's Assembly and Board of Governors 

Facing Fault Lines: Reform Affiliated Israeli Kibbutz Developing Ways to Deal with Earthquakes

Community Spotlight: Progressive Poland
Dateline USA
News Bits
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events


Abraham Geiger College and WUPJ Join Forces: University Training Program for Russian Rabbis to Start in September

On June 28, after a year and a half of intense negotiations, a delegation from the Moscow University of Humanities signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Union of Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), Abraham Geiger College and the School of Jewish Theology of the University of Potsdam to launch the university-based Machon Rabbinic Leadership Institute in Moscow.

Next Stop, Machon: Delegates come together at the University of Potsdam.

The curriculum will include extensive fieldwork opportunities both at Moscow State University, in the students' communities between semesters, and in Israel during the MASA semester internship.

Students will have a chance to gain a BA in Jewish Studies that is facilitated by the Abraham Geiger College. Then, for those interested in continuing their studies towards rabbinic ordination from the Abraham Geiger College, there will be the option of pursuing a Master of Jewish Theology degree at the University of Potsdam. 

During the four-year program in Moscow, the WUPJ will provide financial assistance for housing, tuition and other program expenditures. Meanwhile, incoming students will be required to invest in their own future by paying for approximately one third of the costs. Such an approach is a significant example of the WUPJ's emphasis on self-sufficiency.    

The Machon Rabbinic Leadership Institute is scheduled to open in September 2015.

Nine candidates are applying for seven or possibly more spaces. The admissions process will be completed by the end of August. 

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: (l to r) Dr. Alex Kagan, Rabbi
Professor Walter Homolka, Dr. Anne-Margarete Brenker 
Professor Leonid Katzis of the Moscow University of Humanities.

WUPJ President Rabbi Daniel Freelander said:

"Only six Russian-speaking rabbis serve our entire FSU population. We need so many more, and some are approaching retirement age. The Machon Rabbinic Training Institute in Moscow will develop both the lay and professional leaders required to implement change and ensure a Jewish future in the Former Soviet Union. We hope this initiative 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."

Rector of the Abraham Geiger College Rabbi Professor Walter Homolka PhD, PhD DHL noted, "This joint academic program with the WUPJ builds an exciting bridge between Russia and Germany for a new generation of Jewish leaders."

"With educators and indigenous rabbis, we can reach out to these people. This is why we have joined forces with a top caliber partner - the Abraham Geiger College Germany," says World Union for Progressive Judaism's FSU Department Director Dr. Alex Kagan.

The new Machon will be open to everyone, not only members of the Progressive movement. The goal is to enable a new generation of dedicated men and women to return to their home communities and assume their rightful places as Jewish educators, leaders and spiritual guides.

According to Dr. Kagan, "What makes this project unique are the key players involved. Geiger, Potsdam, Moscow State University of Humanities, the WUPJ, along with the Russian and German governments have turned this vision into a reality."

Eyes on the Future of FSU Jewry: (l to r) Rabbi Leonid
Bimbat and Professor Leonid Katzis

"My passion for the Moscow Rabbinic Leadership Institute in Moscow is but a manifestation of my passion, the WUPJ's passion, for promoting the value of pluralism and top caliber Progressive Jewish education on a grand scale," Dr. Kagan said at the Memorandum of Understanding signing. 

According to Rabbi Homolka, "This gem of a program will teach a Judaism that is rooted in and focused on democratic and egalitarian values. We see the Machon as being the catalyst for the next, great Jewish renaissance."

Back to Featuring

The Progressive Jewish World in Tel Aviv: ARZENU, WUPJ, ARZA, URJ and IMPJ Leaders Convene at JAFI's Assembly and Board of Governors 

Progressive Jewish leaders from around the world gathered in Tel Aviv from June 21 to June 23 for the Jewish Agency for Israel's (JAFI) 2015 Assembly, the organization's largest annual gathering and decision-making forum.

In addition, The Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors (BOG) gathered for two days upon the Assembly’s conclusion.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, and Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky addressed the delegates.

The Progressive movement in particular made a strong showing at the Assembly and BOG. WUPJ President Rabbi Daniel Freelander, newly installed WUPJ Chair Carole Sterling, Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) President Rabbi Rick Jacobs and International Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists (ARZENU) Executive Director Dalya Levy and Chair Rabbi Larry Englander were among the many leaders who represented the changing face of our movement.

The Jewish Agency Assembly focused on the most pressing issues facing Israel and the Jewish world such as the assault on Israel’s legitimacy, rising Aliyah (immigration to Israel) from around the world, programs to strengthen Jewish identity amongst young Jews, and projects aimed at strengthening all segments of Israeli society.


At this year's Board of Governors meeting, for the first time ever, JAFI decided to take a proactive role in conversions in Diaspora communities. 

The board voted to establish an independent rabbinical court that would perform conversions in all religious streams. While the conversions would be acceptable for qualifying as an immigrant under the Law of Return, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate will not necessarily recognize them when it comes to marriage. The Jewish Agency will cooperate with the special conversion courts by sending rabbis to assist local rabbis. 

JAFI will also accompany the converts through the process of preparing for Aliyah, for those who choose that option.

WUPJ President Freelander noted, "The Jewish Agency plays a critical role in facilitating Aliyah for those who choose to live in Israel, and strengthening Jewish identity throughout the Diaspora.  As Reform Zionists, we are proud to participate in the re-imaging of the global Jewish community, and strengthening commitment to Israel in each and every community. By doing so, we are building the Jewish future in Israel and the diaspora."

Back to Featuring

Facing Fault Lines: Reform Affiliated Israeli Kibbutz Developing Ways to Deal with Earthquakes

Nepalese villagers now faced with massive rebuilding projects following the April 25 earthquake could benefit from the lessons learned by eco-minded builders in Israel’s Arava desert.

Sitting atop the seismically active Great Syria-African Rift, these southern Israeli builders have developed an earthquake-proof housing system that can be manufactured and constructed quickly by people without building experience.

 A Sustainable Future in the Here and Now:
Kibbutz Lotan would love to hear from you!

Alex Cicelsky of Reform-affiliated Kibbutz Lotan recently spoke at a sustainable engineering course at Northwestern University about the development work of the kibbutz’s Center for Creative Ecology (CfCE).

Cicelsky told students about the CfCE’s no-water composting toilets, biogas-fuelled stoves and organic agro-ecology in the desert. All of these are low-tech systems that bring high-impact results.

When Cicelsky and his building partner Mike Kaplin designed the student housing for the campus of the CfCE, they recognized they had two potentially contradictory design criteria — to be earthquake-proof and to have an extremely low environmental footprint.
A Progressive Approach to Sustainability: Kibbutz
Lotan Ecological Quarter, Arava, Israel.

Cicelsky and Kaplin found their solution in combining ancient Hebrew-Egyptian mud-and-straw construction with carbon-sequestering straw-bale construction and geodesic domes made famous by 20th century American architect Buckminster Fuller.

Cicelsky and Kaplin have plans for the kibbutz’s new student “EcoCampus” that may be more appropriate to Nepal and other places where poor people need safe and comfortable houses.

Spreading the word, the Kibbutz Lotan designers have posted free tutorials on their construction methods on YouTube and hope to network with relief agencies in Nepal.

Learn more about Kibbutz Lotan's sustainable engineering projects now.

Back to Featuring

Community Spotlight: Progressive Poland

Gratulacje! Beit Polin Siddur Published

Polish Jews are celebrating the publication of Siddur Beit Polin - the first new Progressive Hebrew-Polish prayer book since 1932. This is a milestone in the renewal of Polish Jewry. The communities in Beit Polska, the National Association of Progressive Jewish Congregations in Poland, are rightfully proud of their accomplishment.

Next Chapter in the Polish Jewish Renaissance: Siddur Beit Polin

Siddur Beit Polin is a comprehensive 308-page prayer book meant to be used on weekdays, the Sabbath and Jewish holidays (except for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). 

The prayer book is gender sensitive, which is a new idea in Polish religious life. Siddur Beit Polin features a contemporary Polish translation with Hebrew facing and transliteration. 

A unique feature of this prayer book are the internet links to essays in Polish about the history and development of the Siddur

Siddur Beit Polin was edited by Rabbis Gil Nativ and Burt Schuman

On June 19, Beit Polska and Beit Warszawa inaugurated the new prayer book during a special Shabbat service.
Siddur Beit Polin is being published through the generosity of several organizations, most notably the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), and individuals.

The first edition of the new prayer book has had a printing run of 1100 copies.

Back to Featuring

Galloping Gourmet: Famous Jewish Chef Picks up a Few New Recipes in Poland and other European Countries

Tina Wasserman, the Jewish culinary historian, cookbook author and food writer for the Progressive movement in North America, recently visited with EUPJ congregants in London, Munich, Warsaw, Copenhagen and Rome.

Congregants from Beit Warszawa in Warsaw were introduced to Wasserman's famous pareve apple kugel, potato latkes, Sephardi dulce de manzana, a sweet apple conserve laced with rosewater that is traditionally served at Rosh Hashanah. 

Documenting Jewish Delicacies:
Tina Wasserman.

In addition, participants learned how to create a six strand braided challah. 

Meanwhile, congregant Wojslaw Mrozowski showed Ms Wassermann how to make traditional mushroom and sauerkraut filled pierogi. 
Perfectly, Deliciously, Pareve: Tina
Wasserman's famous apple kugel.

Tina Wasserman returned home to Dallas, Texas, USA - thrilled with her experiences and challenged to recreate recipes in a format to share with the worldwide Jewish community. 

Each of the participating synagogues was given copies of her cookbooks to advance the congregations’ understanding and connection to Jewish culinary traditions.

Back to Featuring

Dateline USA

WRJ Awards More Than $350,000 in Grants to WUPJ and Other Progressive Organizations

Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), through its Youth, Education, & Special Projects Fund, has given $370,200 in grants to 19 programs that will strengthen the Reform Movement and provide the tools necessary for religious, social, and educational growth in North America, in Israel, and around the world. 

The Correct Answer is YES: WRJ has been supporting and
strengthening Reform Jewry for over a century.

These grants to Reform Jewish institutions worldwide will help train future leaders of Reform Judaism by providing scholarships for youth programs around the world, including for girls to attend a science and technology summer camp, and funding the training of Jewish professionals in Reform seminaries and other special programs.

Since 1913, the YES Fund has raised millions of dollars through campaigns and product sales for numerous projects including: building the dormitory at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Cincinnati and the former Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) headquarters in New York City; establishing the Jewish Braille Institute (now JBI International), founding NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth), and helping to create the first URJ camp.

The WUPJ was the beneficiary of the following 2015 WRJ YES Fund grants:

Youth Programs: This grant supports camps in the FSU, youth programs in South America, and travel to Israel for South African youth. 

Machon Program: Part of a multi-year grant to train rabbis and other Jewish professionals from the FSU who will serve their home communities upon ordination. 

The Torah: A Modern Commentary Translation into Portuguese: Nearly 35 years after the publication of the first English language liberal Torah commentary, this grant will help translate The Torah for the growing Reform community in Brazil.

Learn more about WRJ's YES Fund now.

Back to Featuring

News Bits

Moses in Deutsch: New German-Language Chumash Launched

On June 16, the Abraham Geiger College, the School of Jewish Theology of the University of Potsdam and the General Rabbinical Conference launched a new Hebrew-German Chumash for German-speaking Jewish communities.

Published by Herder, the revised version of Philippson's translation of the Five Books of Moses with Haftarot was unveiled by Geiger College Rector Rabbi Professor Walter Homolka, Hanna Liss and Rüdiger Liwak.

The Eternal Language of Torah: (r to l) Rabbi Henry G.
Brandt with Abraham Lehrer, Vice President of
the Central Council of Jews in Germany

The new hardback Hebrew-German Chumash is 1,100 pages long and costs EURO 38 in bookshops*. 
The Philippson Torah edition project was in co-operation with Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, David H. Aaron and Lawrence Hoffmann of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), Alan Cooper of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTSA), Ziony Zevit of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Bernard M. Levinson of the University of Minnesota and Jacob L. Wright of Emory University.

The book launch was hosted by the Secretary General of the Standing Conference of Education Ministers of the German States in Berlin. Among the guests of honor were the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Eterovic and Parliamentary State Secretary for Education and Research Thomas Rachel, who praised the new Chumash as a masterful blend of scholarly research and today's living Judaism.

*Congregations are eligible for discounts. Please contact Tobias Baniske for further information.

Back to Featuring

IRAC Executive Director Speaks to Dutch Progressive Jewish Communities

Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and founder of Women of the Wall organization Anat Hoffman visited Holland between June 14 and 16. 

She delivered three very well received presentations. Hoffman spoke on June 14 at the first David Lilienthal Lecture; on June 15 at The Hague and on June 16 in Utrecht.

Bringing Israel to The Hague: Anat Hoffman provides a
comprehensive update to Dutch congregants (photo by Ido Menco).

The lecture series was established in honor of Rabbi David Lilienthal, who stepped down as dean of the Levisson Institute rabbinical seminary in Amsterdam in 2013, when he went on aliyah. 
David and Gun Lilienthal came all the way from Israel to attend Hoffman's addresses.

All of Hoffman's engagements were hosted by Dutch Progressive Jewish communities. In addition, the IRAC Executive Director met with local politicians and gave interviews to the local media outlets.

Back to Featuring 

Visit Israel for Free: UK's Leading Communities to Join Birthright on Special Trip Tailored to Progressive Jews 

Progressive Jews have the chance to visit Israel for free as part of UJIA Birthright, in partnership with the United Kingdom's Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism communities.

The Birthright trip is open to any Progressive Jew aged 20-26 who has not already been on an organized educational visit to Israel. It will take place from August 15-25, 2015.

Your Adventure Awaits! LJ and RJ look
forward to helping you visit Israel this summer

Participants will explore ancient sites and modern cities, encounter Israel’s diverse population and experience Israeli Progressive Judaism.

Liberal Judaism’s Student and Young Adult Chaplain Rabbi Leah Jordan said that "Participants will be able see and consider Israel through Progressive eyes so the trip will include experiences and visits that you just wouldn't find on any other Birthright trip, as well as taking a fresh look at all the things you'd expect on an Israel tour.

Reform Judaism's Young Adult Development Rabbi Benji Stanley added: “We are delighted to be doing a UJIA Birthright trip in partnership with Liberal Judaism for the first time. This is a great chance for a group of young adults to come on an inspiring trip to Israel for free and to connect to their Jewish identity, and explore the exciting work of the Progressive and secular movements in Israel.”

For more details, e-mail Rabbi Leah Jordon today!

Back to Featuring 

For Zion's Sake: WUPJ Honorary Life President's Powerful Description of the Development of Reform Judaism in Israel

Founding director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) and honorary life president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch has been called the architect of Reform Zionism and the worldwide movement for Progressive Judaism. In 2011, Rabbi Hirsch wrote For the Sake of Zion – Reform Zionism: A Personal Mission, a seminal work that traces his efforts to build and support Progressive Judaism in Israel and to integrate Reform Judaism into the institutions of the Zionist Movement. For the Sake of Zion is fascinating and instructive reading for anyone seeking a better understanding of the Reform Movement outside North America. 

Recently, the American Jewish Archives Journal included a new, extensive and insightful review of For the Sake of Zion. Excerpt below:

"When a new generation came along in the midsixties, at the time of the Six Day War, the Reform-Zionist world was shifting measurably. Still, the lingering message to young Reform rabbis in congregations was clear: What really matters to our people are the values of “prophetic Judaism,” not Jewish peoplehood and certainly not narrow Jewish nationalism. Of course, in due time we came to understand that there need not be a distinction. Some of us found exactly the support we had been searching for in the voice of Dick Hirsch…"

Click Here to read the complete review of Rabbi Hirsch's For the Sake of Zion.

Back to Featuring 


In Memoriam: Olga Zamatina

The leadership and staff of the World Union offer their sincerest condolences to the family of Olga Zamatina, chair of the Progressive community in Lipetsk, Russia, who passed away on June 23 2015 after a prolonged battle with cancer.

Olga Zamatina, Z"L.

Olga was a very special person. She established and ran the Reform community in Lipetsk for over 25 years, dedicating much time and love to this endeavor. 

Although there were many challenges along the way, such as a lack of funds and conflicts with other Jewish streams in the city, Olga never let these obstacles stop her. 

She had a vision. As a result, Olga Zamatina not only built one of the strongest Reform communities in Russia, she also became one of the leading figures for interfaith dialogue in the Lipetsk. 

Olga will be missed not only by her community, but by everyone who had the honor of getting to know her and becoming inspired by her vision and energy.

May Olga Zamatina's memory and good works be for a blessing and may her entire family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion.

Back to Featuring 

Dear Reader

Stay current with newsletters from our regions. Click here for more details.

What do you think about our newsletter? 
Please click here to send your comments or suggestions.

Back to Featuring

Upcoming Events

July 2-12, 2015 - Bergman Seminar for Jewish Educators, Israel

July 2-5, 2015 - UPJ Conference, Berlin, Germany

November 4–8, 2015 – Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) 73rd Biennial Conference, Orlando, Florida

November 5, 2015 - International Humanitarian Award Dinner Honouring Rabbi Lenny Thal & Installation of Rabbi Daniel Freelander, 
URJ Biennial Conference, Orlando, Florida

November 8–12, 2015 - Southern Jewish Civil Rights Experience, Atlanta, Georgia - For Registration Please Click Here

April 14-17, 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

May 15-21, 2017 – CONNECTIONS 2015, World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) 38th Biennial Conference, Jerusalem, Israel

Back to Featuring

Recent Issues