WUPJ News # 428

Issue 428 19 January 2012 / 24 Tevet 5772

In this issue:
Chanukah celebrations light up the FSU
IMPJ launches Jerusalem’s first kindergarten for children of foreign workers

Presidential reflections

News in brief
Chelabynsk herald successful visit to Manchester
IMPJ's Shirat Hayam congregation moves to Beit Hagefen in Haifa
EUPJ early bird registration extended to February 10th
Two leading Liberal Jews awarded MBEs
Exciting clips from WUPJ celebratory luncheon at the URJ Biennial

Upcoming events


Chanukah celebrations light up the FSU

Chanukah celebrations lit up our congregations and community activities across the Former Soviet Union, as they celebrated Chanukah with great gusto.

The center of the celebrations was in our Dor ve dor WUPJ center in Moscow, where over 100 members of the city’s Reform congregation, joined by many guests from Russia and abroad, participated in the event. For many of the participants it was the first time they had ever celebrated Chanukah with a Jewish organization.

In addition to candle lighting, Children received Chanukah gelt and performed Chanukah songs they had learned at Sunday school. Special guest Vladimir Torchinsky, Cantor and community worker from Odessa, performed songs from his repertoire for the occasion.

In addition to Chanukah celebrations in our Moscow center, a youth Chanukah celebration was held in a newly opened kosher café "Shokoladnitza" in the city. It included candle lighting, traditional food, and an educational program about the holiday and its significance for the younger generation.

St. Petersburg enjoyed many diverse activities at Sha'arei Shalom which included: celebrations at the kindergarten with 25 participants; a Chanukah celebration with interfaith representatives from all faiths who came especially to our synagogue, with Israel General Consul Edward Shapira lighting the candles; the main event for congregation members with 60 guests including the Israeli Embassy’s First Secretary, Michael Paz, and the Head of the Jewish Agency, Irina Lotman; and the concluding event was a Chanukah seminar retreat outside the city with nearly 30 participants.

Rabbi Rubinstein lighting Chanukah candles in St. Petersburg

Communities in other FSU countries also experienced a joyful Chanukah. The Kiev community had a major Chanukah bash on the 4th night – a joint celebration of Hatikvah congregation, Netzer and the kindergartens with over 60 people. In addition to candle lighting and prayers, Netzer prepared and performed a play on the history of the Chanukah miracle.

Minsk hosted the annual International Chanukah Festival. Netzer was represented by four groups: two groups from Ukraine – for the first time ever from Poltava and Odessa – and two from Minsk. Netzer had the largest representation of all Jewish youth groups at the festival. Poltava had great success taking home 4 prizes: best director, best supporting actor, best interpretation of the Chanukah meaning, and best script. Poltava's film presented 2 generations of Netzer members, the present one including members and madrichim and the future generation.

Enjoying a plateful of Sufganiot

In addition to these celebrations, several Chanukah seminars and camps also took place. In Minsk there was a joint seminar between the Belarus leadership, congregation members and Netzer youth. A variety of activities took place, both joint and separate from the congregation. Netzer led and conducted Kabbalat Shabbat services.

St. Petersburg hosted a 3-day Chanukah youth leadership seminar in December. The Seminar, with almost 30 participants, was held outside St. Petersburg. A special volunteer committee took responsibility for all aspects of the seminar including the program and logistics, making it a most interesting and unforgettable weekend. Among the guests were some new members of the congregation who expressed happiness at joining Sha'arei Shalom for such a special event.

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IMPJ launches Jerusalem’s first kindergarten for children of foreign workers

The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) recently opened the Nitzanim preschool, Jerusalem’s only preschool program for children of refugees and foreign workers living in Israel.

Nitzanim, located on the HUC/Mercaz Shimshon-Beit Shmuel campus currently has 20 enrolled pupils, ranging in ages from 3-6 years old. They come from Eritrea, Sudan, the DRC (Congo), the Philippines and Korea.

The program, which is being operated in cooperation with the Jerusalem municipality, is intended to provide the children with a safe, stable and nurturing environment while their parent are working, and to promote their Hebrew language skills and generally prepare them for mainstream Israeli education.

Udi Cohen, Director of the Movement’s Preschool Programs on the HUC/Mercaz Shimshon-Beit Shmuel campus, says as far as the movement is concerned, the children’s legal status is irrelevant. “Kids are kids, they need to be looked after,” Cohen says. “For me it doesn’t matter where they come from. If they can accept what we offer, then we’ll take them, our job is to give them the educational and emotional support they require, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s all that matters. Even if the children are deported, we have the satisfaction of knowing we have provided them with a quality preschool education that will serve them well wherever they live their lives”.

The seeds of the program were laid last year, when Cohen accepted 10 children of asylum-seekers and foreign workers. “We based that decision on our ideology, which is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition”, he said, quoting the famous verse in Genesis “every human being is created in the image of God”.

IMPJ Executive Director, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, says that the issue of refugees, asylum seekers and economic immigrants is becoming a thorny national problem, and the government has to start dealing with it seriously. “As far as I’m concerned, as long as refugees are here with the government’s permission, it’s our duty as a democracy and a Jewish country to do whatever we can to ease their plight. We opened Nitzanim because of our commitment to social responsibility and social justice" he added. "Very simply, it’s the right thing to do. Welcoming these kids makes for a practical application of the Jewish values we teach all our pupils regarding Tikkun olam (repairing the world) and welcoming the stranger".

The IMPJ currently run over 55 preschool facilities in over a dozen cities, and most of them have waiting lists. This year it opened two new preschools in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Yovel neighborhood.

For the full article, and more information, please visit the Jerusalem Post website.

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Presidential reflections on... Stories that Stay With Us
by Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

As I sat waiting to address the convention of the National Association of Retired Reform Rabbis in Fort Myers, Florida, on the World Union and its vital work, Rabbi Hillel Gamoran took a seat close to mine.  Although we had not met each other, I leaned over and whispered to him, “You were my first Jewish role model,” and he smiled knowingly.

Hillel is the son of Rabbi Manuel and Mamie G. Gamoran, renowned Jewish educators of a previous generation. Mamie G. Gamoran was the author of Hillel’s Happy Holidays, my first Jewish storybook, and I get a warm glow whenever I think of it.

The book centers on how young Hillel and his family celebrated Shabbat, the Holy Days and festivals with a charming story connected to each occasion. 60 years later the story that sticks in my mind is the Yom Kippur story of how in 15th century Spain, a brave marrano child warned his father and fellow worshippers that Inquisition forces were approaching the secret synagogue where they were worshipping on Kol Nidre night.

To this day the message of that tale remains vivid in my mind:  Throughout history there are Jews who have risked and given their lives to preserve and practice the sacred traditions of our people.  Why?  Because of their belief that Jewish learning, Jewish worship, Jewish Holy Days and festivals can uplift the human soul and help create a more just, caring and compassionate society.

As Progressive Jews our approach brings the full force of our intellect to struggle with the meaning of our ancient texts and traditions. Our goal is to make informed decisions about what we shall observe and why.  Our heritage and the way we embrace it are both precious. Progressive Jewish ideals and practices are not just good for Jews; they are good for all humanity.

Stories from my childhood kindled my passion – long before I realized it – to keep Jewish life strong and vibrant.  But what I have seen with my own eyes of our peoples’ valiant efforts to promote Progressive Jewish life in Israel, Germany, Ukraine, Hungary, Argentina and Brazil has made the flame glow brighter!  Our WUPJ programs so effectively foster the sacred Jewish values of justice, righteousness, caring and compassion, and with your help, they can be an ever greater source of warmth and light for Jews and non Jews, in Israel and around the world.

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News in brief

Chelabynsk herald successful visit to Manchester
A successful visit of seven representatives from Hava Nagila Progressive Congregation in Chelyabinsk, Russia, to the Menorah Congregation in Manchester, UK in December resulted in strengthened ties and continued twinning cooperation between the two congregations. These connections were created thanks to the initiative, follow up and professional work of Ann Etkind, Coordinator of Community Connections in cooperation with Yevgeniy Dobin, chair of the Chelyabinsk Congregation who has demonstrated loyalty to the Reform Movement for many years. Among ideas discussed during the trip was to work on training a rabbi for the congregation within the twinning framework. 

Menorah members Andrew Pal and Jane Pal talk with the young Russian Jewish visitors

Gita Conn says that "these were seven of the most inspirational people I have met...they personify the revival of the Jewish soul in a faraway land with a long history of antipathy to Jews and the practice of Judaism..." She goes on to say that they "hope we have been able to give them some guidance, but the truth is that we seem to have learned more from them about enthusiasm and commitment than they have gleaned from us." (Please click here to read the full article in Manchester's Jewish Telegraph)

IMPJ's Shirat Hayam congregation moves to Beit Hagefen in Haifa

Haifa’s Shirat Hayam congregation has moved to its new location in Beit Hagefen, between the Hadar and German Colony neighborhoods.

Shirat Hayam, Haifa’s third and youngest reform congregation was founded just over two years ago. It currently has approximately 40 members.

Most of the congregation’s members immigrated to Israel from the FSU about 15-20 years ago as teens or pre-teens, and have now begun establishing families of their own. Having grown up in the FSU with little or no Jewish identity, they are interested in gaining a greater knowledge and understanding of their Jewish identities, so they can convey it to their Sabra children.

Until now the congregation was located at a community center in Merkaz  Hacarmel neighborhood of Haifa. Its new home is both much nicer, and more importantly much more accessible from the Hadar neighborhood, where many immigrants from the FSU have settled.

EUPJ early bird registration extended to the tenth of February

Early bird registration for the upcoming European Union for Progressive Judaism “Generations 2012” biennial convention which will take place in Amsterdam has been extended to February 10th.

The four day convention opens on March 15. Co-hosted by the Dutch Union for Progressive Judaism, Nederlands Verbond voor Progressief Jodendom, it will be an exciting and interesting experience. The list of inspiring speakers includes Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs, President of the WUPJ; Rabbi Menno ten Brink, spiritual leader of Liberaal Joodse Gemeente (LJG), Amsterdam; Rabbi Deborah Kahn-Harris, Principal of Leo Baeck College, London; former Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende; trendwatcher Adjiedj Bakas; International commentator Dominique Moisi; Leiden University Professor Andreas Kinneging, and many more.

The WUPJ will be holding an International Assembly meeting prior to the conference on March 15th.

Please click here to send an email to the EUPJ for more information.

Two leading Liberal Jews awarded MBEs (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire)

Two leading Liberal Jews have been awarded MBEs in the 2012 New Years Honors List.

Jess Wood – the founder and director of Allsorts LGBT Youth Project based in Brighton has been recognized for her services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and young people. She is a member of Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue and married to Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah.

Leslie Moss, a congregant at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue, has been awarded an MBE for his fundraising efforts for Cancer Research UK over the last four decades. In 2006, Leslie established the annual Harrow Relay for Life – which has raised almost £400,000 – and was made an Honorary Fellow by Cancer Research UK in 2010 along with his wife Gillian.

Exciting clips from WUPJ celebratory luncheon at the URJ Biennial

Relive with us some of our exciting moments at the WUPJ Celebratory Luncheon at the URJ Biennial in Washington DC.
Click here to watch the moving installation of newly elected WUPJ President, Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs.
Listen to the inspiring words of Michael Grabiner,Shai Pinto, and Rabbi Fuchs.
Click here to listen to Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor’s plea for your support of our Beit Shmuel 25th Anniversary Campaign, support of our camping program in the FSU, and support of the daily work of the WUPJ.

Click here to see Honorary Life President Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch present the WUPJ Micah Award to Rabbi Eric Yoffie as he steps down from the Presidency of the Union for Reform Judaism.
And click here to listen to some of the exciting music by Kol Beseder.

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Upcoming events

January 25-29, 2012 - Union of Jewish Congregations of Latin America and the Caribbean (UJCL) Biennial Convention, Guadalajara, Mexico

March 13-15, 2012 - WUPJ Executive Board Meetings, Netherlands

March 15, 2012 –  WUPJ International Assembly Meetings, Netherlands

March 15-18, 2012 – Biennial Conference of the European Union for Progressive Judaism, Amsterdam

June 1-2, 2012 – Biennial Conference of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), Israel

June 8-10, 2012 – 80th Anniversary and Biennial conference of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ), Johannesburg

August 8-12, 2012 – World Union for Progressive Judaism-Latin America (WUPJ-LA)'s 4th Conference of Jewish Communities, Buenos Aires

October 25-28,  2012 - UPJ Biennial Conference, Sydney, Australia

April 28-30, 2013 – WUPJ Executive Board Seminar and International Assembly Meeting, Jerusalem, Israel

May 1-5, 2013 – WUPJ "Connections 2013", Jerusalem, Israel

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