Issue # 50 – July 2011 / Sivan-Tamuz 5771 

 Israeli minister visits São Paulo

The São Paulo Jewish community received the visit of the Israeli Minister of Industry, Commerce and Labor, Shalom Simchon, this past month of May. He also participated in meetings with Brazilian entrepreneurs and politicians.

During his visit to the city, Simchon was welcomed by a group of representatives of the Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP congregation), composed of Luiz Gross, first vice president; Sérgio Kulikovsky, vice president for Judaism; Eduardo Zylberstajn, president of the entity's deliberative board; André Wajnberg, sheliach of the CIP; and the Rabbi Michel Schlesinger.

The conversation addressed subjects related to religion, Zionism and Israeli politics. "We spoke about issues such as the recognition of non-orthodox movements by the State of Israel and also about the challenges of being a part of a coalition that has opposing ideologies, with the parties Israel Beiteinu, Shas and Likud on one side, and the Avodá and Azmaut on the other", says Zylberstajn who was responsible for organizing the meeting as requested by the WUPJ.

(R-L): André Wajnberg, sheliach in São Paulo; Sérgio Kulikovsky, vice-president, CIP; Eduardo Zylberstajn, president CIP's Board; Luiz Gross, vice-president, CIP; Ilan Sztulman, Consul from Israel in São Paulo; Minister Shalom Simchon; Rabbi Michel Schlesinger from CIP; [translator]; and Aliza Cohen, Minister adviser.
 Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has a new president

Rabbi Jacobs

The Rabbi Richard Jacobs was unanimously elected president of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), by the Board of Curators of the institution in the United States. Presently, Jacobs acts as Senior Rabbi of the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY, and will take office in 2012.

The Rabbi demonstrated security with regards to his congregational experience. "I believe more than ever that young synagogues are the key to a Jewish future. I will be the first president of the URJ who spent decades as a congregational rabbi. Synagogues are what I know and love", he said.

Jacobs will be the fourth person to occupy the presidency of the URJ since its creation in 1943. His predecessors were the rabbis Maurice Eisendrath, Alexander Schindler and Eric Yoffie.

 Community in Belem receives new Sefer Torah

Rabbi Ruben Sternschein, from Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP), delivers the Torah to Essel Abraham Congregation, in Belém do Pará

The Eshel Abraham Congregation, in Belem, state of Pará, received a new Sefer Torah on June 12th. It was donated by the couple Nilma and David Igdallof in partnership with the WUPJ-LA, the Israeli Association of the Pampas (AIP – Argentina) and the Conib (Confederação Israelita do Brasil). The Sefer was chosen according to the customs of the Sephardic rite and with a mantle made especially for this synagogue.

The delivery ceremony was conducted by the Rabbi Ruben Sternschein of the Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP), who made an analogy of the Parashá of the week, read at the occasion, with the trip of the Sefer Torah and the transfer of knowledge and the coming together of the peoples.

The children received a kashrut certificate for the Sefer Torah and everyone participated in a "shower of bonbons", singing and dancing.

Since the celebration coincided with Valentine's Day in Brazil, the rabbi also spoke about family and love for our neighbors. The date also inspired the festive dinner conducted at the ballroom of the Centro Israelita do Pará, with the theme "Love is in the Torah".

The president of the Centro Israelita do Pará, Iana Pinto, emphasized the importance of the Sefer Torah in ensuring the transmission of Jewish values to the new generations and thanked the WUPJ-LA and the Igdaloff couple.

Jewish community of Pará celebrates the receiving of the Torah

 Latin America will soon have new reform rabbis

At the present time, three people who are members of entities affiliated to the WUPJ in Latin America are taking courses at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, with campuses in Israel and the USA, where reform rabbis study and graduate from. Uri Lam and Beni Wajnberg, from Brazil; and Tati Schagas, from Argentina, participate in the HUC-JIR. The Argentinean Jordán Raber will begin his rabbinical studies in October.

Raber tells that he was born into a middle class family in Buenos Aires and, more than by attending institutions of the Jewish community, he came into contact with Jewish values in his own home, with a very strong influence from his grandfather's teachings. He began his community work at the Gran Templo de Paso, as rabbinical assistant. Then he began to work at the Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina, the country's first synagogue and starting point for the emergence of a good part of the Argentinean Jewish institutions.

"The more involved I became in community service, the bigger the feeling that many of the problems of the Jewish community in Argentina would not be resolved without the advent of a new perspective on Judaism, a new experience that can renovate and supply energy to the obsolete model of the local community maintained for four decades. After an exhaustive search process, I realized that I would not be able to find this new concept of Judaism, but continuing my rabbinical education in Israel, with the progressive movement, whose main institution is the HUC-JIR, where I have the honor of starting my studies in October", concluded Raber.

Three years ago in 2008, Uri Lam, assistant to the rabbinate at the Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP), arrived in Israel to study at the HUC-JIR. He remembers that, at the beginning, things were not very easy. "There was a chronic problem of a lack of information and even lack of experience on the part of the HUC about how to guide a Latin American student, what are the academic conditions required and what are the costs of the actual course itself. Four of us had to arrive at an agreement that was good for the Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP), the WUPJ Latin America, the HUC Jerusalem and myself. Despite the difficulties in coordinating all of the interests, the effort was worth it".

In parallel to the studies, Uri continues working for the CIP long distance, via internet; and besides that, spends close to three months a year in Brazil. Regarding the work he will have in the future as a reform rabbi, he does not ignore his responsibilities and encourages more people to follow in the same path. "When I began my rabbinical studies in Jerusalem, a leader of the Jewish community in São Paulo asked me how many Brazilians were preparing to become future reform rabbis at the HUC. At the time, I answered that only me – two years later, Beni Wajnbeg has also begun his rabbinical studies and the North American program of the HUC. This leader then commented that the need in our region requires that at least 10, 20, 50 religious leaders go for their rabbinical education. I am convinced and optimistic that with good planning, communities from the south to the north of Brazil can and should invest in the education of their own religious and community leaders – male and female rabbis, chazanim and chazaniot, morim and morot, community leaders – that will give a new impulse to Jewish life in Brazil and Latin America as a whole".

 Brazil is featured in the Netzer Olami movement newsletter

The Netzer Olami youth movement, that has programs for the young people of the institutions affiliated to the WUPJ, emphasized in the last edition of its newsletter the official establishment of a snif (headquarters) in São Paulo.

The publication also has a whole page dedicated to the activities conducted in Brazil, with an article signed by the madrichá Olivia Birman Haiat, of the Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP). She emphasizes the non-formal educational method adopted by the summer camps with the objective of sharing Jewish values with the chanichim.

In its twelve pages, the newsletter, entitled Kol Netzer also presents information about activities developed by the youth movement in Israel, USA, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Germany. Link to PDF

Netzer Brazil

 Rabbi Sergio Bergman is elected alderman in Buenos Aires

Rabbi Sergio Bergman

Rabbi Sergio Bergman was elected alderman in Buenos Aires, leading the list of the PRO (Republican Proposal), which received almost 45% of the total votes. Recently, Bergman also had an important role in the debates for the race for mayor in the Argentinean capital, being part of the opposition to the government of the president Cristina Kirchner. Bergman created the Fundación Argentina Ciudadana (Argentinean Citizen Foundation), that protests against the impunity in the investigations of the attack on AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina), in July 1994. He also acts as rabbi at the congregation Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina.

The new alderman is 49 years old, married and has four children. He is a graduate of the Pharmacy and Biochemical University of Buenos Aires, ordained rabbi in 1992, has a master's degree in education "Suma Cum Laude" from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, master's degree in rabbinical literature from the Hebrew Union College, and master's degree in Jewish studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

 Beutel Leadership Seminar opens registration for 2012



The Anita Saltz International Education Center of the WUPJ in Israel is accepting applications for the 10th annual Beutel Seminar for Lay Leadership, an important 10 day meeting with the purpose of promoting progressive Jewish leadership.

The meeting's target audience is lay reform leaders and activists from the institutions affiliated to the WUPJ who are committed to working in their synagogues and communities in the next few years. Besides developing leadership capabilities, the seminar offers the opportunity to study ancient texts and history, discuss present day political and social issues and explore spiritual paths within the context of Reform and Progressive Judaism.

The seminar will be held January 12th to the 23rd, 2012 at the headquarters of the WUPJ in Israel and there are 22 slots available. The candidates must be fluent in English and be recommended by a local rabbi. More information can be obtained through this link.



 Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP) promotes a spectacle for Peace

The Israeli group The Voices of Peace Choir and the Brazilian singer Fabiana Cozza will present a spectacle for peace and for the peaceful coexistence among peoples and cultures on August 22nd at the Bradesco Theater in São Paulo.

The Voices of Peace Choir is a choir made up of twenty young Muslim, Christian and Jewish teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 who attend the Arab Jewish Community Center in Jaffa, city next to Tel Aviv.

The voices of Peace choir

Together with the singer Fabiana Cozza, one of the new voices of Brazilian contemporary music, the teenagers will be accompanied by a chamber orchestra directed by Maestro Marcelo Ghelfi.

The presentation is part of the celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the CIP and will be beneficent. All of the proceeds from the show will be destined to the continuation of the activities conducted by the CIP focused on its congregation and to its community service projects (Lar das Crianças, Bolsa de Empregos, Clube das Vovós Lotte Pinkuss e Projeto Vida Chai, among others).

Tickets are already for sale through Ingresso Rápido and at the theater box office located at Rua Turiassú, 2100 (Bourbon Shopping, 3rd floor). For information call: 55-11-3670-4100 or 55-11-4003-1212.

 Meeting brings together communities from South America, Central America and the Caribbean

The 13th Convention of the Unión Judía de las Congregaciones de Latinoamérica y el Caribe (UJCL), scheduled for January 25th to the 29th, 2012 in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico is already being organized. The main theme will be :

"Judaism for Adults: Complex Questions, Honest Answers"


The organizers expect to reflect upon and search for concrete answers to the complex reality of religion, discussing topics such as education; tsedaká; youth; anti-Semitism; Israel and the Diaspora; Jewish religious currents: identity and pertinence; technological and administrative resources; prayer and theology; interreligious dialogue; leadership; Jews in civil society; and conversions. More information is available on the website

 4th Conference of the Jewish Communities in Latin America – put it on your calendars!

Buenos Aires, in Argentina will be the stage of the fourth Conference of the Jewish Communities in Latin America, from August 8th to the 12th, 2012. The meeting will show how Latin American Judaism is stronger and more vibrant every day, repeating the success of the previous meetings in São Paulo (2004), Punta del Este (2006) and Rio de Janeiro (2008).

The WUPJ conferences are wonderful opportunities to narrow the bridges among the communities and mainly among individuals, volunteers and professionals who co-exist in the communities. But they are much more than mere opportunities to exchange experiences; they are powerful think-tanks for acquisition of knowledge about Judaism.

The team of lecturers that the WUPJ brings to each conference is simply unequaled. And the opportunity to become acquainted with these individuals is a greatly enriching factor for all those who participated in the conferences.

We still do not have the lecturers for Buenos Aires 2012 confirmed, but we can guarantee that they will be of the highest level!

World Union for Progressive Judaism - Latin America