Issue # 57 – March 2012 / Adar – Nissan 5772

 Chag Purim Sameach

Purim, the joyful combination between tradition and audacity

Uri Lam, Assistant of the Rabbinate at Congregação Israelita Paulista-CIP, and student at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem wrote the following message on the occasion of the celebration of Purim on March 7/13 of Adar.

We live in a time in which Jewish life is more and more focused on the State of Israel, a sovereign country, of Jewish majority and, more importantly, with the largest Jewish population in the world. There is no doubt that we have to be proud of Medinat Israel and support her with all our might. However, we must also strengthen our Jewish communities outside Israel, spread throughout the whole planet.

The feast of Purim, told through the Megillat Esther, portrays the joys and difficulties of the Jews, mainly outside Israel. The reality in ancient Persia is, in some way, the reality of our communities throughout the world today. In a few words, the challenges consist in establishing good relations with the larger society and learn with it. We must however, do this without losing the values and practices which identify us as Jews. Living in the greater society without being swallowed by it: that is the great challenge proposed in Purim.

To be successful, it is fundamental that we have experienced leaders like Mordechai, who know the right time to act when faced with threatening situations, based on the ethical values inherited from our prophets and sages. But it is also essential that we have young leaders like Esther, capable of taking bold steps, both outside the Jewish community as well as inside.

Purim portrays how the close, trusting relationship between Mordechai and Esther – between the experience and the audacity, the masculine and the feminine, the tradition and the innovation – is fundamental in maintaining the Jewish community life, mainly outside the State of Israel.

And where is God in Purim? We read in Psalm 121: "I will lift up my eyes unto the mountains: from whence shall my help come? My help cometh from God…". But God does not show up in the Megillat Esther. Now what? Where will our help come from? Just as, when we look in the direction of the mountains, we may not see the sun but we know it is there because of the rays and the colors of the sky, in the same manner when we read the Megillat Esther we do not find God, but we know that He is there through the actions of Mordechai, of Esther and of the Jewish people when faced with the challenge imposed by the evil Haman.

The joy of Purim brings to our awareness the message that, independently of where we live, we are capable of overcoming the challenges and threats imposed on the communities in which we live through the attitudes of love, courage and persistence of our people, based on millennial Jewish traditions, inspired on the experience of the more experienced leaders and transpired by the acts boldness of the younger leaders.


 4th Conference of the Jewish Communities in Latin America / Program has been defined

The WUPJ will hold the 4th Conference of the Jewish Communities in Latin America in Buenos Aires,
Argentina on August 8th to the 12th, 2012, with the theme "The New Face of Judaism in Latin America".

The Conference's steering committee has already defined the program. Check it out:

Plenary sessions:

The role of the Rabbi
in Jewish tradition

Chasing the prophetic
view in Israel today

The importance of
inter-religious dialogue

Is there a contradiction between tradition and modernism?



Studying Jewish texts,

Connecting the youth
to the State of Israel,

Combating the anti-Israel prejudice,

The Evolution of the Israeli economy,

Challenges of the Jewish community in Latin America,

Conversions and anussim,

Populism and anti-Semitism,

What do we do to
ensure continuity?

The challenges of the synagogue and of the family,

Challenges of our faith
and of the religious practice,

The rights of women in the synagogue,

Diversity and Unity: the multiple practices of reform,

Living according to
the Halakha

For more information, please contact: or
and at the website

 A new book about the Torah
The Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP) and the Livraria Cultura bookstore launched the book "Arte e Sabedoria Milenar Semana a Semana: o que a Torá nos diz hoje" ("Art and Millennial Wisdom from Week to Week: what the Torah tells us today"), which is written for those who are interested in learning more about the rich Jewish culture.

Written by the Rabbis Michel Schlesinger, Ruben Sternschein and Uri Lam, from the CIP synagogue, with the participation of Moacir Amâncio, poet and professor, it has illustrations in watercolor made by the artist Rosalia Lerner. The original watercolor paintings will be exhibited at the bookstore during the book launch and will later be put on sale.

The launch of the book will be on March 12 at 7:00 pm at the Livraria Cultura bookstore at the Conjunto Nacional office building on Avenida Paulista, 2073. The exhibit of the watercolor illustrations goes on until March 22.


 Lashir Benefesh gets to its 6th edition

The Lashir Benefesh – Singing with the Soul meeting, which has the support of the WUPJ-Latin America, will be held from March 25th to the 27th at the Congregação Israelita Mineira in Belo Horizonte, in the state of Minas Gerais. This is the 6th edition of the event that brings together chazanut professionals as well as sympathizers to participate in training activities as well promoting the exchange of experiences among them. More information can be obtained by sending an email to


 Tribute to Rabbi Gunther Plaut z"l

Deceased in February, at the age of 99, Rabbi Gunther Plaut z''l was one of the most important leaders of the Progressive Judaism movement. He was the author of various books and articles, with emphasis on the "The Torah: A Modern Commentary" published in 1981 and considered a reference even today for reform synagogues. One of the projects of the WUPJ-Latin America is to translate this work to Portuguese and Spanish.

Rabbi Plaut was honored in various synagogues throughout the world and his death was broadly mentioned in the major printed media sources such as The New York Times (USA) and the Toronto Star (Canada).

 Can you believe it?

The "" published an article in February signed by Shmuel Rosner about the number of Israelis who feel comfortable in the Conservative and Reform movements. With the title "Can you believe it? Israel has more Conservative and Reform Jews than Haredis", the text states that 8% of the Israeli Jews define themselves as conservative or reform compared to only 7% of Israelis who define themselves as Haredim (ultra-Orthodox).

"Amazing? I think it is quite amazing, should one consider the never-ending discussion of Haredi power and growing population and the very little regard given to the liberal streams of Judaism within Israel" writes Rosner, who says he arrived at this conclusion after analyzing the data from a survey from the Guttman Center.

Also according to him, the report points out that the majority of Israelis (61%) "Agree that the Conservative and Reform movements should have equal status with the Orthodox in Israel".

The complete article by Rosner and his thoughts on the situation of the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel are available at this link.


World Union for Progressive Judaism - Latin America