Issue # 64 – November 2012 / Cheshvan - Kislev 5773

 Hanukkah – a miracle for our times - By Rabbi Uri Lam (CIP)

We are approaching the celebration of Hanukkah, known as the celebration of the reopening of the Temple, but also as the Festival of Lights. In the Northern Hemisphere, the idea of a Festival of Lights is common to various peoples since during this period the nights are the longest and coldest of the year. In the Southern Hemisphere, however, we have many very bright days and short nights. Thus for us, in the Southern Hemisphere, the literal idea of a celebration that illuminates and warms our homes needs to be put into a new context. My suggestion is that the Festival of Lights illuminates not only the homes, but the souls and that it warms our hearts and enlightens our Jewish values, so that they may be read in light of the times and places in which we live.

The Word Hanukkah literally means to Dedicate, since the holiday celebrates the rededication of the Temple after it was profaned by the forces of Antiochus IV in the year 164 BCE. Some people interpret the term Hanukkah as the junctions between the verb chanu (they rested) and the last two letters of the word, kaf + he, which represent the number 25, since the Maccabees rested in the Temple on the 25th day of Kislev.

Hanukkah is one of the few Jewish holidays not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. The first documentation known arises only 250 years later, with the reports of the historian Flavio Josefo (Yossef ben Matitiahu), who refers to it as Chag Haurim, the Festival of Lights. One century later, the holiday received the name for which it would become better known: Hanukkah, the name given in the rabbinical sources. These same rabbinical sources do not speak of the whole complicated mission of the Maccabees to reconquer the Temple from the hands of the Seleucids. Instead, they prefer to concentrate on the miracle of the small container of oil specially prepared to maintain the candles of the Menorah lit, whose oil lasted eight times longer than expected, allowing them to prepare more oil without leaving the Menorah – and the Temple – in the dark. The first report of this miracle is registered in the Talmud, 600 years after the time of the reconquest of the Temple by the Maccabees whose leaders came from families of priests.

According to our rabbis, (Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 21b), the lights of Hanukkah should not be lit only inside the home, facing the inside. On the contrary, they should be placed in the widows, so that the lights may brighten the world around us.

A central point of the Hanukkah celebration is the meaning of the duty of the Jewish people to preserve their identity when faced with the threats of assimilation of customs different from ours and the loss of that which defines us as Jews. Curiously, the same Hanukkah lights that try to distinguish us are very similar to the lights of the celebrations of other religious groups who also take advantage of the time of the year to make their homes and streets brighter. Thus, what is the Hanukkah message for us today? Should we distinguish our lights from the lights of others? Or should we add our lights to the lights of the other peoples?

Looking from afar, it is hard to tell the difference between our lights and the lights of others during this time of the year. They are all beautiful, colorful and they brighten life in moments of darkness and sadness. However, looking closer, we can see that each group has its own flame, its own soul. But to notice this one needs to look closer, be closer.

During this period of Hanukkah may we be able to get closer to our lights, to our Jewish souls. Let us illuminate our deepest ethical values with practical attitudes and place lights in the windows of our homes, schools and communities. May the lights of Hanukkah inspire us to become a light not only for ourselves but for those all around us. This way we will be able to understand each other better and respect each other more without losing that which defines us as individuals and as a people. If this happens, we may be able to say nes gadol haia pó, a big miracle occurred here.

 "Connections 2013" - 36th Biannual International Convention of the WUPJ - Registration is now open!

The WUPJ invites everyone to the

"Connections 2013 – Being the Difference"
from May 1 to the 5, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel.

It will be an opportunity to learn, explore, question, get involved and become inspired together with the
WUPJ family from around the world.

We have the confirmed presence of some of the most exciting and captivating Jewish leaders such as:

Irwin Cotler
Member of the Canadian Parliament, professor emeritus of McGill University and ex-Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. He has important work in the areas of freedom of expression, freedom of religion, rights of minorities and justice for war crimes.

Ruth W. Messinger
President of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), organization that supports
the human rights of people who are marginalized throughout the world.

David Grossman
Israeli author with work translated into over 30 languages. Wrote eight internationally acclaimed novels as well as news articles and literary and theatrical works for the
young public.

Rabino Rick Jacobs
President of Union for Reform Judaism.

Once more, the WUPJ international convention will also promote special moments through religious services
and presentations with talented musicians and singers as special guests.

More information and registration through the website :
If you have any doubts, contact us through the email addresses: or

See the emotional footage of the "Connections 2011"
Picture Gallery:

 Fundación Judaica (Argentina) sends representative to the Beutel Seminar

The next edition of the Beutel Leadership Seminar will be held in February 2013 in Jerusalem. This is an opportunity to study ancient texts and Jewish history and also to discuss social and political problems of the Jewish world; spirituality and community leadership in a Progressive Jewish context.

In the last ten years, close to 200 people from all over the world tend to participate in the seminar held at the WUPJ´s Anita Saltz International Education Center.


Participants are nominated by their respective communities. In this next edition, the representative from Latin America will be Enrique Jurkowski, assistant secretary of the Fundación Judaica in Argentina.

 Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators

The WUPJ will hold another edition of the Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators in Israel in July 2013. In the last edition, the seminar had representatives from over 40 countries.

In this edition, the seminar will focus on a great variety of Jewish narratives and play off the creative tension that has existed between Israel and the Diaspora communities. The idea is to reflect on the critical challenges that the Jewish people face; find creative projects that tackle these challenges; and conceive imaginative initiatives within the group.

The program also combines classes, reading of texts and visits to various locations where the content of the course can be experienced, incorporating art and culture, spirituality and liturgy, the Hebrew language, history and memory, politics, Jewish values, education and other topics.

The faculty is composed of renowned scholars and educators such as Rabbi Steve Burnstein, Director; Anat Hoffman; Steve Israel; Yael Katz; Sally Klein-Katz; Professor Paul Lipz, Director of Education; Rabbi Michael Marmur; Rabbi Joel Oseran; Rabbi Mira Regev. Another attractive aspect is the fact that the seminar participants are based at the Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon, in the WUPJ's Anita Saltz International Education Center, with a view of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

 Exchange between the WUPJ affiliates in Brazil
Rabbis from various institutions affiliated to the WUPJ-LA will visit the SIBRA, in Porto Alegre (RS), to conduct the Shabbat religious services during the period in which Professor Guershon Kwasniewski, religious leader of the community, concludes his rabbinical studies in Israel.

Rabbis Leonardo Alanati, from the Congregação Israelita Mineira, Sergio Margulies, from the Associação Religiosa Israelita (RJ), and Rubens Sternschein and Uri Lam, from the Congregação Israelita Paulista (SP) will participate in the exchange program.

Rabbi Uri Lam and prof. Guershon Kwasniewsk
 Aldermen from Rio de Janeiro conduct a tribute to the Chazzan Oren Boljover

(L-R) Rodolfo Zuckermann; Mauro Wainstock; the "chazan" Oren Boljover, at Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI); José Kogut, former general director of Instituto Nacional do Câncer; and Silvina Boljover, Oren's wife
With the town-hall of the city of Rio de Janeiro crowded, the Chazzan Oren Boljover, of the Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI), received the title of "Honorary Citizen of the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro".

At the same occasion, through the initiative of Alderwoman Teresa Bergher, journalist Mauro Wainstock, director of the Alef News, received the "Albert Sabin Medal" given to those who "contribute to the improvement of relations between Brazil and Israel and fight against discrimination".
 Devarim Magazine – new issue

Issue number 19 of the modern Jewish magazine – Devarim – will be launched at the end of November with the following topics:

• The recognition by the state of Israel of the liberal rabbis (term used to include the range of movements not aligned with the orthodox) is approached through an interview with Rabbi Miri Gold.

• The reasons for the incontestable success of science in Israel are the theme of the interview with the president of the Weizman Institute.

• The motivation and objective of the Jewish Museum recently inaugurated in Curitiba and a letter from the ex-ambassador to Israel in Brazil, Jack Keinan.

• A brilliant analysis of Anne Frank, through the perspective of her literary proficiency and the observations of Ary Coslov with regards to theater and Judaism.

• A curious window is opened over the life of the Jewish community in Uganda, which was born approximately 100 years ago in the center of Africa and is practically unknown by Brazilian Jews.

• The rabbis from the ARI, Sergio Margulies and Dario Bialer register their delicate perceptions of Jewish life, from the roots of the past to today.

• Paulo Geiger signs his "Tickling Thought" column which invites us to think in an instigating and enthusiastic manner.

• The magazine also publishes two book reviews.

Devarim is distributed free of charge by the ARI-RJ.
To receive the publication, just send an email with
your name and address to

The magazine can also be accessed on the web at

The electronic library contains resources so you can research all of the issues, and their texts can be used
for teaching purposes.
 12º Meeting of Professionals and Leaders - Joint Distribution Committee

The city of Quito, in Ecuador, was the stage of the 12th Meeting of Leaders of Jewish Institutions and Communities in Latin America and the Caribbean promoted by the Joint Distribution Committee.

Over 500 volunteers and professionals from synagogues, schools, sports clubs and community entities from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela interacted and shared moments of study, reflection and experiences.

Rabbi Dario Bialer, from the ARI-RJ, represented the WUPJ-LA at the meeting, also participating in a Rabbinical Convention that was held in the Ecuadorian capital.

 Lecture in Ecuador
  Recently affiliated to the WUPJ-LA, the Bet Chadash
Congregation, in Ecuador, had a special visit by
Rabbi Juan Mejia who conducted the lecture
"Jewish Liturgy: myths, history and reality".
 Rabbi Stephen L. Fuchs leaves the WUPJ
The WUPJ announced that Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs left his position as executive president of the organization in October of 2012 due to health problems and we hope he can recover soon. Rabbi Fuchs made significant contributions to the WUPJ and leaves a deep impression as an eloquent and committed defender of Progressive Judaism.

Together with his wife Vickie, he visited over 65 communities around the world, sharing the organization's history and work. His various visits to our region were marked by valuable collaboration to publicize the mission and commitment of progressive Jewish thought.

Michael Grabiner, president, expressed the appreciation of the Executive Board and of the WUPJ collaborators saying that "Rabbi Fuchs was a strong defender of Progressive Jewish values and ethics around the world and we thank him for his tireless efforts in the name of the organization. We wish him only the best".

World Union for Progressive Judaism - Latin America