Issue #518

July 16 2015 // 29 Tammus 5775


Good News from UpJ German's Annual Conference: Organization Granted Legal Recognition by State 

We Are Proud Jews: WUPJ Responds to Israeli Minister Maligning Reform Jews

Righteous: Gentiles Host Progressive Jewish Summer Camp in Olesin, Poland

Live from Israel
Netzer Notes
Dateline USA
News Bits
Parting Shot
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events


Good News from UpJ German's Annual Conference: Organization Granted Legal Recognition by State

Sonja Guentner, President of the Union for Progressive Judaism (UpJ) in Germany, made a surprise announcement at the opening of the 21st annual UpJ conference at the Berliner Centrum Judaicum: “The state government of North Rhine Westphalia decided during its cabinet meeting on June 23 2015 to officially grant us KdoeR."

Becoming a KdoeR is the next step to organizational consolidation in Germany. The UpJ is now accepted officially as a religious institution that is here to stay.
Proudly Progressive: The legal status of Germany's
UpJ has been secured.
The German state promotes religious communities by guaranteeing not only religious freedom but also by granting them certain rights that make it easier to realize their public role in society. A KdoeR can appoint civil servants, issue statues as well as collect taxes and members’ fees. A KdoeR conducts its self-governance in accordance with its members’ votes and wishes. Thus, the UpJ as KdoeR can act publicly on behalf of its members.

As a KdoeR, the UpJ Germany has the same status as all Christian churches in Germany, the Central Council of Jews in Germany and all communal administrations. The German state collects taxes for religious communities that have the status of a corporation of public law (KdoeR).

KdoeR status is just the latest step in UpJ's development of a Jewish infrastructure in Germany. Examples of UpJ's growing role in the Jewish life of Germany include Netzer Olami camps aimed at children and teenagers, Jung und Juedisch activities for students and young adults, and the ongoing support of Abraham Geiger College for rabbinic and cantorial training, as well as seminars for members of the umbrella organization's 25 congregations. 
Chazzanit Aviv Weinberg sings at the opening
ceremony of UpJ's 2015 annual conference.

The UpJ in Germany has convened an annual conference since 1995. This year’s conference offered 20 workshops to 265 participants. The UpJ's theme for the 2015 gathering was the celebration of 50 years since diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany were established.

Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, Israeli Ambassador to Germany; Reinhold Robbe, Chairman of the Israel-Germany Society; Rabbi Lawrence Englander, President of the International Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists (Arzenu), and Miriam Kramer, Chairman of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) were among the notable attendees at UpJ 2015.

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We Are Proud Jews: WUPJ Responds to Israeli Minister Maligning Reform Jews

By Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, WUPJ President and Carole Sterling, WUPJ Chair

On July 7, Orthodox Knesset Member David Azulai, Israel's Minister of Religious Services, ignited a firestorm when he said, “I cannot allow myself to call such a person a Jew,” referring to Reform Jews.  Later in the week, he tried to explain: “Of course, all Jews, even though they sin, are Jews. It is with great pain that we view the damage caused by Reform Judaism, which has brought the greatest danger to the Jewish people.”

This latest outrage comes on the heels of the Israeli cabinet's July 5 decision to transfer the country’s rabbinical courts from the Justice Ministry to Mr. Azoulay’s Religious Services Ministry
The cabinet also reversed a decision that would have made it easier to convert to Judaism in Israel by setting up local conversion courts. Secular and liberal parties in the previous government had promoted the initiative.

MK Azulai's recent statements and the actions taken by the cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cast a dark cloud over the basic democratic nature of the State of Israel, the homeland for Jewish people of all streams and practices.

The WUPJ condemns Minister Azulai's statement and expresses its deep concern for the pluralistic, inclusive future of our beloved Israel. 

There is tremendous openness, even eagerness, in Israeli society for a pluralistic approach to Judaism. The WUPJ calls on moderate elements across the Israeli political spectrum to engage in this battle for Israeli citizens' basic right to equality and religious freedom and against the imposition of a religious monopoly by a corrupt rabbinic establishment.

By reshaping the relationship between religion and state in Israel on a pluralistic basis, the country will be more able to fulfill its mandate to be a light unto the nations.

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Righteous: Gentiles Host Progressive Jewish Summer Camp in Olesin, Poland

By Alexander Gaidar, Executive Director of the Progressive movement in Ukraine and Alexandra Gaidar, Educational Coordinator for Ukraine.

"In April 2015, the phone rang: a familiar voice. Our friends were in Ukraine for a few hours, this time in Kiev.

After meeting us at the Progressive movement's Hatikva Center, Gustav and Mary Musket invited us to stay at their home for 10 days in June, along with 40 children from our communities all over Ukraine, ages 9-11, who are too young to attend our interregional camps.

Yidishkeit visits Olesin: Progressive Jewish summer
camp in Poland, June 2015.

These days, from June 4-15, were unforgettable and included sessions about Jewish tradition, Zionism, kashrut, arts and crafts, quizzes, games and competitions. We also visited places of Jewish historical significance in Warsaw.

Our first encounter with Gustav and Maria Musket dates back to 1998, when they came to Lutsk from Warsaw for a few hours to find a Jewish community. 
Back in 1998, we were among the 28 children and five adults who travelled to Olesinov, a village near Warsaw. We stayed in a cozy three-story wooden house. It was the first family camp for Jews from the Progressive Jewish community in Lutsk. 

The Musket family is Protestant. They believe that we are all part of a biblical prophecy that will be fulfilled when all the Jews gather in the Land of Israel. 

Two Faiths, One Belief: The Musket's summer camp is
inspired by the connection of the Jewish People to Israel.

Gustav and Maria's connection to the Jewish People is being passed on to the couple's five children, all of whom have Jewish names.

Thanks to all who prepared and carried out this wonderful camp! Thanks to everyone who made it possible for this wonderful journey into the world of goodness, joy, friendship! 
A special thanks to Gustav and Mary for opening their home and their hearts to us."

Read the complete camp report here.

View the camp's photo gallery now.
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Live from Israel

Beit Shmuel Leads New Tour of Noble Prize Winner's Beloved Jerusalem Home

On July 3, the latest "Project 929" tour was organized and conducted by Mercaz Shimshon-Beit Shmuel, in cooperation with the Jerusalem campus of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). This field trip's focus was the inspirational neighborhood of one of the central figures in Modern Hebrew fiction, Shai Agnon.

Inspiration Point: Chilik Abergil (right, standing) provides "Project 929"
participants with fascinating insights into the life and mind of Shai Agnon.

A laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Agnon lived and wrote in this home for some forty years. It was in the Jerusalem suburb of Talpiyot that he wrote the greatest novels of Hebrew literature in the 20th century: "A Simple Story," "Temol Shilshom" (Yesterday and the Day Before), "Shira," and dozens of other stories that continue to stir the imaginations of readers throughout the world.

In the story, "From Enemy to Lover," Agnon speaks of his home, saying: 

"I will not praise my home, as it is small, and I will not be ashamed of it for there are bigger and better than it. My home is small, but there is space in my home for a man like me who does not seek grandeur."

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. 

Learn more about Beit Shmuel's Tour Department now.

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Israel-Diaspora Relations Initiative Launched

On June 24, the IMPJ launched the "Domim" ('alike') Israel-Diaspora relations project. The event took place at the Kehillat Yozma Progressive congregation in Modi'in. The initiative is a joint venture with the Israeli government, and aims to create closer ties between Israeli Reform communities and those in the diaspora. 

As part of Domim, 80 communities in the diaspora and 20 Israeli communities will be paired for joint programing.

Over 50 representatives from 32 Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) communities attended the highly successful inaugural conference.
To learn more and to find out how your congregation can get involved, contact Domim Director Rabbi Nir Barkin.

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United by Food: Israeli Muslims and Jews Break Bread Up North

Come Together: IMPJ's "Meeting Neighbors" project.

The IMPJ's recent "Meeting Neighbors" project in the northern Afula-Gilboa region one again brought together local families met a combined Kabbalat Shabbat and Ramadan educational program. Together, Muslims and Jews experienced a Progressive Jewish Erev Shabbat service, followed by an iftar meal to break that day's Ramadan fast. During the meal, the Arab families taught their Jewish friends all about the Ramadan and its significance.

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Netzer Notes

Tuning in to Summer: Southern Group Prays, Plays and Volunteers in South Tel Aviv

The Netzer Olami youth movement's Southern Shnat program is tailored to participants from the southern hemisphere. This unique 10-month leadership-training program facilitates personal development, offers opportunities to study Jewish and Zionist ideals and provides a structured environment for learning about and experiencing Netzer's principles.
Jaffa State of Mind: Southern Shnat program participants
soak in southern Tel Aviv.

July is turning out to be a very busy, exciting month for the southern Shnatties. On July 1, the group landed in their new home in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area. That same day, program participants were introduced to the Bina Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture, the organization where they will be volunteering. The Shnatties first week in Tel Aviv concluded with their participating in a beautiful Friday night Shabbat service overlooking Jerusalem Beach that attracted over 600 people. The service was full of singing, dancing and pulsated with an amazingly positive vibe.

Next, the Southern Shnat group began its volunteer work. In between their shifts at the Bina, the Shnatties found time to go on a fascinating tour of Jaffa and take part in a powerful lesson that connected the concept of social justice to Judaism.

Even though this period of the Shnat program is known as the ballagan ('mess', 'crazy', etc.), the young men and women taking part in this year's Southern Shnat program have had nothing but positive things to report to their friends and family around the world.

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Dateline USA

Camp Where Jewish Folk Music Movement Began Celebrates 50 Years

The Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Camp Kutz, known for being the birthplace of modern spiritual Jewish folk music, celebrated its 50th anniversary this Fourth of July weekend. Hundreds of Kutz alumni joined URJ leaders at the camp on Friday night and throughout Shabbat to mark the occasion. 
All Roads Lead to Reform: Camp Kutz, July 2015.

Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and Carole Sterling, the WUPJ's Chair, joined in the festivities. Freelander and Sterling spread the word about WUPJ to campers, counsellors and Reform leaders from around the United States.

Located in Warwick, New York, camp activities included hikes, Jewish studies courses, leadership seminars, arts and crafts classes, music workshops and team sports.

The Birth of Jewish Folk Music: Debbie Friedman
singing at Camp Kutz in 1969.
(Photo courtesy of Rabbi Jeffrey Klepper)

In 1965, Camp Kutz became the summer headquarters for the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), the youth arm of the Union for Reform Judaism.

In 1969, a singer named Debbie Friedman became the camp’s song leader. Friedman’s songs – some of which she wrote at Camp Kutz in the early ’70s – would go on to revolutionize Jewish music and prayer. Many of her melodies, like “L’chi Lach” and “Mi Shebeirach,” are still sung in congregations across the United States.

Friedman, who died from pneumonia in 2011 at the age of 59, and her music were lovingly remembered at the Camp Kutz anniversary.

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Meet the Future of UK Jewry: Leo Baeck College Ordains Two Rabbis

All of us connected with the World Union for Progressive Judaism in 50 countries and 1200 communities around the world join in joyful songs of praise for:

Rabbis Adam Frankenberg and Emily Jurman were ordained respectively by Rabbi Dr Michael Hilton, London, and Rabbi Dr Lawrence Englander, Toronto. Rabbis Hilton and Englander were the childhood rabbis of the ordained.

Mazal Tov! (left to right) Newly ordained rabbis Adam
Frankenberg and Emily Jurman receive a blessing
from Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, LBC

The ordination sermon was given by Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh, Dean of Leo Baeck College, who praised Adam and Emily for their commitment and application over five years' training and expressed his great confidence that they would make a significant contribution to Progressive Judaism in the United Kingdom.

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News Bits

Do you Fly Much? Donate your Miles to International Progressive Jewish Leaders

The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) is seeking the donation of frequent flyer miles to help underwrite the travel expenses of rabbis, professionals and youth leaders from the former Soviet Union, Europe, South America and other regions.

In the next few months, the WUPJ hopes to bring international Progressive leaders to the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) North American Biennial, November 4-8 2015 in Orlando, Florida, USA and the World Zionist Congress, taking place October 20-22 2015 in Jerusalem, Israel.

The opportunity to connect Progressive Jewish men and women from remote communities with leaders of our movement is nothing less than a sacred effort. With your generosity, our international visitors will be able to speak at pre or post-convention venues, sharing their valuable insights and learning from the Progressive movement's most influential figures.  

It takes 60,000 miles or more to help ensure one person’s attendance. Due to the time needed for processing, the donations need to be made as soon as possible. 

We hope we can count on you or your circle of friends and family. United Airlines is preferred as it is the easiest to work with. Another possibility would be to donate money to cover the cost of a ticket ($500 per ticket).

There is also the option of making this a tax-deductible donation: check with your accountant.

For more information or to make a donation, please contact Linda Levenson at (408) 644-4140

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Prominent Muslim Academic Speaks at South Africa's SACRED Event 

The South African Center for Religious Equality and Diversity (SACRED) hosted its second event of 2015, a lecture by Professor Taj Hargey titled "Progressive Islam: Tolerant or Intolerant?"

Hosted by the Bet David Progressive Congregation in Sandton, the well-attended presentation attracted Muslim and Christian guests, as well as members of other synagogues and the broader Jewish community.

Professor Hargey is a distinguished Oxford-based academic on Islam and the Middle East. He serves as the Imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, the most progressive Muslim organization in the United Kingdom. 

Coexistence Corner: Rabbi Julia Margolis
and Professor Taj Hargey.

At the SACRED event, Professor Hargey voiced his opposition to the covert imposition of sharia religious law into modern society. Taj Hargey has led a campaign to ban all forms of facial masking, including the non-Qur’anic burka and hijab, in the United Kingdom.

According to Rabbi Julia Margolis, Chairmen of SACRED. "I was absolutely fascinated to know more about Cape Town's Open Mosque, which was established last September. It's opening prompted immediate attacks from the local Muslim clergy, as well as several arson attacks, but has gained widespread publicity and international praise. Alone and unlike existing South African mosques, this landmark new Islamic institution is Qur'an-centric, gender-equal, non-sectarian, intercultural and independent."

Following the conclusion of Professor Rabbi Margolis was invited to give a sermon at the open mosque.

SACRED's next 'evening of interest' will discuss the different ways that religions pray over food and beverage, with a specific focus on water and prayer. 

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Parting Shot 

Sneak Peak: 2015 Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators Garners Rave Reviews 


Every year, the WUPJ's Bergman Seminar turns Israel into a giant classroom for Progressive Jewish Educators from across the globe. 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. 

This year's Bergman Seminar was held from July 2 to 12 and incorporated art, culture, spirituality, liturgy, Hebrew, history, politics, text study, Jewish values, pedagogy and more…

Stay tuned for a full report in the next issue of WUPJNews!

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Upcoming Events

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

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