Issue # 68 – March 2013 / Nissan 5773

 Getting to know and falling in Love with Jerusalem in a different manner – Connections 2013
At the same time that the 6th International WUPJ Convention – Connections 2013 – "Being the Difference", from April 28th to May 5th, occurs, the steering committee for the meeting is organizing activities to give the participants the opportunity to become acquainted with the beauty of Jerusalem.

Hidden gardens and caves
More information for those who are interested in
registering for the Connections 2013 conference is
available here. To see the itineraries of the tours that
will be held during the meeting click here.

One of the attractions is a walking tour through the
Old City of Jerusalem during Shabbat, with a different
view of the path that leads to the Kotel, going through
the Jewish quarter.

Walking tour, Connections,2009

Another itinerary is the Five Senses Extravaganza
Tour, where the participants can smell and taste
teas, spices and baklava (traditional sweet pastry with
filo and nuts and honey); listen to the sounds of the
Old City and feel the texture of the fabrics from
Damascus and India. The view is even more
magnificent from the rooftops and observation points
of the Old City.

The "Psalms" tour is for those curious people who
are interested in seeing what is in the underground
of the Old City or mummies, tombs and treasures
on King David Street.

Five Senses Extravaganza

 Greetings for Pope Francis
The WUPJ published a message regarding the
election of the new Pope Francis as leader of the
Catholic Church. The text signed by its president,
Mike Grabiner, and the VPs Dr. Philip Bliss, Shai Pinto, Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor and Rabbi Joel Oseran emphasized that Pope Francis already showed great empathy towards the Jewish community of Argentina and was one of the first leaders to demand justice after the bombing of Amia, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in 1994. The message from the WUPJ also wished the Pope a long and successful term and good relations with the Jewish world.

In Argentina, Rabbi Sergio Bergman, of the Fundación Judaica, maintains a good long-standing relationship with the new leader of the Catholic Church and published a text soon after his election that can be read here.

Find out meeting between Rabbi Sergio Bergman
and Pope Francis in the first audience with leaders
of different religions - Link.

 7th Lashir Benefesh: one more successful edition
Over 20 people from various cities in Brazil, Argentina and Panama participated in the 7th Lashir Benefesh at the ARI-RJ in March. The seminar was attended by an international guest, Isidoro Abramowicz and had the support of the WUPJ-LA, who already suggested the possibility of having an exchange program in the future with communities in Europe.

The chazanim and musicians who attended the meeting ended the activities with the "Kaleidoscope" show for an audience of approximately 500 people.

The 8th Lashir Benefesh already has set a date: it will be in August 2014 in Porto Alegre, during the next Conference of the Jewish Communities in Latin America.

 Opinions about the Beutel Leadership Seminar

The Beutel Leadership Seminar was held in February at the WUPJ's Anita Saltz International Education Center in Jerusalem with 16 attendees from seven countries. Enrique Jurkowski, Adjunct Secretary of the Fundación Judaica, of Argentina, was the representative of Latin America at the seminar. The group in which he participated travelled through Israel for ten days, reflecting on critical issues faced by the Jewish communities throughout the world, by the Jewish people and by the Jewish State.

"To describe the seminar in a single word, I would say it is 'integrative'. It provides a broad vision of religious, social and political aspects and integrates the communities of various locations within the Diaspora amongst themselves, and of all of them with Israel. Personally, it made me integrate the intellectual level with the emotional one. All of this from a progressive perspective, which is also integrated with our oldest Jewish tradition", stated Jurkowski.

In the last days of the seminar, the participants had the surprise visit of Austin Beutel, ex-president of the WUPJ,
and his wife, Nani Beutel, who inspired the creation of the seminar with the objective of training leaders of progressive communities throughout the world.

 Purim: costumes and happiness in Latin America
The Purim celebrations were filled with activities that brought together hundreds of people in the communities affiliated with the WUPJ in Latin America. The traditions of the celebration were also maintained, with the reading of the Megillat of Esther, a lot of music, people in costumes and typical food like the Oznei Haman.

In Argentina, the Associação Israelita dos Pampas (AIP) promoted parties in communities in the province of Buenos Aires, such as the Asociación Israelita de Paraná, Entre Ríos, which was attended by the chazanit Rachel Mendelson. There were also parties in Coronel Suárez and Avellaneda. At the Comunidad Judía de Huánuco, Beith Etz Chaim, the children made the difference.

In the capital of Argentina it was also the children who played the leading role in the special moments at the Escuela Comunitária Arlene Fern, of the Fundación Judaica, where there was a special night, with the staging of the story of Purim and a costume parade. The Fundación Judaica also had Purim activities at the NCI-Emanu El Temple and at the Templo de Libertad.

In Chile, the reading of the Megillat Esther attended by children in costumes, followed by a festive kidush marked the celebration of Purim at the Sociedad Israelita Max Nordau, in Valparaíso. In Santiago, the Ruaj Ami Community had various activities to celebrate this happy moment in the Jewish calendar. There was a party for young adults with costumes, drinks, food, dancing, Oznei Haman and a special presentation of the Megillat Esther. At a home of members of the community there was a big Purim party, including not only the reading, but a fun staging of the Megillat Esther acted out by all of the participants. Furthermore, there was a costume contest, the traditional Oznei Haman and even an Arab dance show.

At the B'nei Israel community in San José,
Costa Rica, at the end of the Shabbat, the young people went up to the bimah for the reading of the Megillat Esther and a creative Oznei Haman recipe contest was held. The party continued on Sunday, with activities organized with the help of the Sistehood volunteers and of the Avodá committee.

In Brazil, the ARI-RJ celebrated Purim also with various attractions. Once more, the children stood out and at the kid's party, heard the story of Queen Esther read from a Megillat prepared especially for them and participated in an arts workshop, where they prepared masks, puppets and their own meguilot.

Members of the Kibud group, of the Community Service Committee of the ARI-RJ, celebrated Purim at the União Associação Beneficente Israelita – Lar de Idosos (home for the elderly), with a lively party that coincided with the 100th birthday of one of its residents.

At the Congregação Israelita Mineira, in Belo Horizonte, there was a big festive Purim celebration, with a reading of the Megillat and a Havdala, puppet show, consume contest and games, in a joint activity with WIZO, the Habonim Dror and the AIB.

Purim was celebrated with a lot of joy, music and costumes at the AIC community in Santa Catarina. Purim also marked the debut of Rabbi Uri Lam at the Sociedade Israelita da Bahia, in Salvador, where close to 100 people, men and women of the community, took turns reading the Megillat, always making a lot of noise when the name of the Haman was mentioned.

 Community conducts joint conversion in Guatemala
A small Guatemalan Jewish community formalized
the conversion of 19 members – 12 men and 7 women – during a rabbinical tribune held in February of this year.
The group is a part of the Asociación Judia Reformista
de Guatemala – Adat Israel –, who joined the WUPJ-LA
at the end of last year.

The new congregation counts on the volunteer work of
Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, who was suspicious when she received an invitation to spend the Shabbat at a small
liberal Jewish community that she met through the
internet on the eve of her first trip to Guatemala in 2009.

There were suspicions that they were not taking
things seriously, but the rabbi was surprised. Last year
they held the religious services for the High Holy Days
for the first time.

In February, Rabbi Elyse performed the conversion
to Judaism of members of the community following
the tradition of conducting an evaluation before a
rabbinical tribunal after having studied Judaism with
the help of Skype.

Helping Elyse were Ruth Abusch-Magder, executive director of the Be 'chol Lashon, an organization headquartered in California, that promotes diversity throughout the Jewish world, and the Argentinean Rabbi Claudio Kogan, who is also a mohel and is now based in Texas (USA).

"I had never encountered a group like this one. They were deeply spiritual people from an evangelical or Catholic background who were searching for a non-Christian religious life. They decided that Judaism made more sense in their lives because they already knew the Bible. My life was deeply touched by them, by their desire to learn, by the deep passion for Judaism", stated the rabbi.

 Associação Israelita Catarinense inaugurates new headquarters
The Associação Israelita Catarinense (AIC) inaugurated its new headquarters last March 14th with a cocktail party
and the opening of the "Janusz Korczak, world reformer" exhibit.

The exhibit, held in partnership with the Polish Consulate, is dedicated to the life and work of the hero of the Jewish
and Polish people, doctor, educator, social activist, writer, journalist and defender of children's rights.

World Union for Progressive Judaism - Latin America