Issue # 67 – February 2013 / Adar 5773

 World Union Statement on Argentinean Congress Memorandum of Understanding

February 21, 2013
11 Adar, 5773

In recent days, the Republic of Argentina has sent to the Houses of the Argentinean Congress a memorandum of understanding with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Should the Houses of Congress adopt this memorandum, a relationship will be created between the two nations and will be supported by law. The Jewish community of Argentina, as well as a great number of the Argentinean public, reject this relationship as the Islamic Republic of Iran is accused of the vicious terrorist attack against the Jewish Community Center (AMIA) in 1994 and has yet to answer for its crimes. Further, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to deny the historic fact of the Shoah, and calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Iran has also blamed Israel for the attack on the AMIA, outrageous on every level and an affront to the memories of the many lives sacrificed on that day.

The World Union for Progressive Judaism stands with the Jewish community of Argentina and all decent people the world over, in repudiating this spurious memorandum between these two countries. Iran is trying to use a relationship with the Republic of Argentina to whitewash its hateful positions and policies. The World Union for Progressive Judaism calls on the Argentinean Houses of Congress to reject this memorandum of understanding. We further call upon the Argentinean government to continue with the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the yet unsolved tragedy of the bombing of the AMIA almost two decades ago.

Mike Grabiner, Chair, WUPJ
Miriam Vasserman, President, WUPJ-LA
Dr. Philip Bliss, Chair, Advocacy Committee

 Lashir Be Nefesh will be next month

The Lashir Be Nefesh (Singing with the Soul) seminar
comes to its seventh edition on March 10, 11 and 12
at the ARI – Rio de Janeiro. The program provides practical and theoretical studies with the objective of training chazanim, cantors, Shaliah Tzibur (prayer conductors), members of liturgical choirs, professional and volunteers in the musical departments of the communities which are part of the WUPJ-LA.

This time, the seminar will have the special participation of the Argentinean chazzan Isidoro Abramowicz, musical educator and choir conductor. Presently, Abramowicz is a guest chazzan at the synagogue Mishkenot Beit Ruth-Daniel and Reform Synagogue Kiriyat Ono, both in Israel.

Besides the experience of working with the Israeli communities, the cantor also actively participated in the reconstruction of Reform Judaism in Germany, where he worked in various institutions between 2005 and 2009.

His artistic side is also valued with presentations and recitals in various musical genres in Israel, the United States and Europe.

Further information about the event that will be held at the ARI – Rio de Janeiro can be obtained by telephone at +55-21-2156-0431 with Ana Elena or by email at:

 Connections 2013 - “Being the Difference" – Last minute preparations

The 36th International WUPJ Convention – Connections 2013 – “Being the Difference” already confirmed its first lecturers and topics that will be discussed in the lectures and panels. The biennial meeting will be held once more in Israel, between April 28th and May 5th. More information for those interested in registering can be found here.

The steering committee of the Connections 2013 is trying to bring together a broad list of involving and inspiring topics for the Jewish community throughout the world, including, for example, from the challenges of contemporary society – including the relations between the new technologies and religion – to reflections on how the communities can become more welcoming.

Confirmed Lecturers and Tributes

Among the confirmed lecturers is Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), who will share his visions and deep commitment with Tikun Olam, the State of Israel, global social justice and equality with the participants.

Jacobs was honored in 2000 with the International Humanitarian Award (IHA). The most important tribute awarded by the WUPJ to global visionary leaders, in recognition of their contributions to society and to the construction of a fairer and plural world.

The president of the URJ worked in various communities in the USA, having founded one of the first homeless shelters in New York. Other demonstrations of his commitment with humanitarian causes were the visit to Haiti after the earthquake that devastated the country in 2010; the trip to become acquainted with the situation of the refugees in Chade, on the border with Darfur (Sudan); and his participation in initiatives for inter-religious dialogue, having even participated in a conference of Muslim leaders.

The WUPJ convention will also count on the presence of Ruth W. Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service, who will be honored with the IHA this year. After 20 years of public service in New York, Ruth is now dedicated to the Jewish community, having been called various times to advise President Barack Obama on international topics, such as the fight against poverty and, for example, the crisis in the Sudan. Publications of the Jewish community worldwide already put Ruth at the top of the list of most influential Jews on the planet. In her lecture, Ruth will speak about the Jews as global citizens, their responsibility in contributing to mold a fair future and how they can be powerful agents of change in the 21st century.
Other lecturers are Irwin Cotler and David Grossman. Cotler is a member of the Canadian Parliament, professor emeritus of Law at McGill University and ex-Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. He is well known for his work in the areas of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the rights of minorities and justice for Crimes of War. Grossman is an Israeli writer with works translated into over 30 languages. He wrote eight internationally acclaimed novels as well as journalistic reports and literary and theatrical works for children.

Moments of emotion

Besides including lectures, debates and panels, the program of the convention Connections 2013 also brings the opportunity for the participants to get to know Israel in a different way, with specific itineraries that will provide emotional moments for all, including tours before and after the conference.

The meeting will also have religious ceremonies, with special emphasis on the Kabbalat Shabbat and surprising performances by artists from various parts of the world, proving that music can be a relevant source of inspiration for the religious services in all the Jewish communities.

Before the official opening, as is already a tradition, there will be a Rabbinical Kallah, a meeting of religious leaders from numerous countries. And during the meeting there will be activities that have been especially prepared for the members of the TAMAR – Tnuat Magshimim Reformit youth movement.
 WUPJ Latin America welcomes new affiliates

Purim had even more important significance to the WUPJ Latin America, with the inclusion of two new congregations to its affiliates, by unanimous decision. The new members of the WUPJ Latin America are the Centro Israelita de Pernambuco - CIP, in Recife, and the Associação Cultural Israelita de Brasília – ACIB, both in Brazil.

Thus the WUPJ Latin America also renews its mission of building bridges between the Reform / Progressive congregations in the region, supporting and organizing programs with inclusive Jewish content.

Centro Israelita de Pernambuco

Associação Cultural Israelita de Brasília
 Vice President of the WUPJ is highlighted in the Reform Judaism Magazine

See the interview with Raul Cesar Gottlieb, vice president of the WUPJ Latin America, member of the board of directors of ARI - Associação Religiosa Israelita of Rio de Janeiro, and chief editor of the Devarim magazine published by the Reform Judaism Magazine, main communications vehicle of Reform Judaism in the world:

Rio de Janeiro: Culture & Community

What excites tourists about Rio?

Brazil is a very welcoming country. Be ready to be surrounded by smiling people 24/7, to drink heavenly "caipirinhas" (a strong alcoholic beverage made of lemon, sugar, and the sugar cane alcohol called "cachaça"), and to relax in the sun.

Rio's south zone, nestled between the Serra do Mar mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, offers spectacular views, both from the mountaintop down and from the beach up.

A must is February's Carnival parade, which is too exciting to be described in words; please YouTube it and come. And go to a soccer game; when you sit in the middle of the torcidas (team supporters), you'll feel a part of our lively rituals.

What are some culinary delights?

Rio is famous for all-you-can-eat Churrascarias (barbeque restaurants), where dozens of different kinds of meat are served, along with a sumptuous assortment of side dishes, including all kind of salads, fish, and cheese.

What are your top travel tips?

Pick up my favorite guide, How to Be a Carioca by Priscilla Goslin, a small, delightful book that captures the soul of Rio de Janeiro.

Also, be careful traveling. Avoid carrying passports and valuables with you. Choose popular destinations such as Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf cable car), Corcovado (a mountain with a magnificent view), Ipanema (a popular beach), Copacabana (another popular beach), and Jardim Botânico (a botanical garden with a large collection of tropical plants). A stroll in the historic downtown on a weekend is also a good option.

What is Jewish life like in Rio?

In Brazil, the Jews are a small minority—0.05% of 195 million people. Within Rio, 30,000 Jews are well integrated among the 12 million "cariocas" (as those born in Rio de Janeiro call themselves). Our Jewish community is quite active and diverse. There are 20 synagogues: one Reform, one Conservative, and various streams of Orthodoxy. We also have three big Jewish day schools (two pluralist and one Orthodox) as well as welfare, cultural, burial, women's, Zionist, and social organizations—about 80 institutions in all!

In Rio, the biggest congregation is Reform, our own 900-family Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI). Founded by German Jews in 1942, it now attracts Jews of all kinds drawn to modernity, egalitarianism, and the balancing of spirituality and rationalism. The congregation is always bustling with religious, cultural, and social activities.

What are Shabbat services like?

Before the service, almost every worshiper joins in the festive meeting we call hora do cafezinho ("little coffee time"), talking about the week and enjoying the company of friends.

Now, imagine yourself in our main sanctuary, built in the shape of a desert tent, with two large stained glass lateral walls representing the openness of Judaism. Most Friday nights the space is filled with around 500 persons, members and non-members alike, attracted by the challenging intellectual messages that emanate from our pulpit, by the beautiful music, and by a genuinely friendly ambience. Our rabbis—Rabbi Sergio R. Margulies, a Brazilian who belonged to ARI as a child, and Rabbi Dario E. Bialer of Argentina—follow a long tradition (that begun with Rabbi Henrique Lemle, our German founding rabbi) of bringing to the fore the main questions and concerns of contemporary Jews. And whenever Israel is threatened or celebrated, ARI serves as the center of activity for Brazil's strongly Zionist Jewish community.

Religious services are almost all in Hebrew, with very little Portuguese. Because Brazil is the only Latin American country where Portuguese and not Spanish is spoken, ARI uses a homemade siddur in Hebrew and Portuguese for Kabbalat Shabbat, and prayer books edited by the liberal congregation of São Paulo for all other services.

Kippot (head coverings) and tallitim (prayer shawls) are mandatory for men—a custom dating back to our congregation's German roots. In European Reform Judaism, the wearing of talitot and kippot by men has always been compulsory; American congregations began to abandon this practice in the 1890s. That said, as we are an egalitarian community, kippot and tallitim may be worn by women as well. Women participate equally in all ways. Some years ago we had a female rabbi, Rabbi Sandra Kochman, the first woman to serve as a community rabbi in Brazil.

What is the worship music like?

Our two full-time chazanim (cantors) — Oren Boljover of Argentina and Andre Nudelman, who has also been a member of the community since his youth — conduct the musical prayers, accompanied by an electronic organ.

The music includes many compositions by Louis Lewandowski and other 19th-century German composers—a reflection of our founders' origins—along with modern and participatory music, including a few pieces of jazz and just a touch of Brazilian and South American music.

What else is unique about ARI?

ARI holds a daily minyan every evening, seven days a week, which provides a space for the community to recite Kaddish and to pray at the end of the business day.

On the High Holy Days, our services draw more than 3,000 Jews—a remarkable feat for a congregation of 900 and a Jewish community of 30,000. Other congregations are overflowing as well. This says a lot about how Brazilian Jews feel about being part of a religious community; even the least observant of them will be in a synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

What are ARI's other priorities?

On the cultural level, ARI publishes Devarim, a high-standard magazine aimed to strengthen Reform awareness in Brazil, and to dispel the awkward notion that Reform congregations "are like churches." We print some 5,000 copies three times a year and distribute them for free all over Brazil.

We also emphasize social awareness and activism. Recognizing that persons with special needs are productive and creative human beings, we've created a space inside the synagogue building for them to use daily, mostly for crafts—instead of seeing them relegated to an almost invisble parallel world. Our youth movement, Chazit Hanoar, holds ongoing teaching and recreational programs with children in Rio's disadvantaged communities, helping them to organize themselves as a youth movement, which raises their self-esteem. The Social Action committee collects needed goods (medicines, food, clothes, etc.); supports "Ballet Santa Teresa," a ballet school for disadvantaged youth; and helps hire teachers for the supplementary education necessary to prepare students for acceptance into colleges, as the level of teaching in public schools is woefully inadequate.

Please come and see all we do at ARI!
You will be very welcome.


World Union for Progressive Judaism - Latin America