Issue # 79 – May 2014 / Iyar-Sivan, 5774.

 WUPJ Latin America professionalizes leadership
Dear "chaverim"

We would like to inform you that we have a new Executive Director, newly hired to work for WUPJ, the Latin America region. His name is Sergio Napchan; he is Brazilian, 49 years, resident in the city of São Paulo.

Sergio has a wide professional experience in the context of the Brazilian Jewish community, in addition to academic training in the Jewish communities of Argentina and USA: studied in LEATID in Buenos Aires and Brandeis University in Whaltham-MA, also having part of his personal and training Jewish in Israel.

Sergio Napchan will continue the work that is being developed by the team of activists, rabbis and engaged professionals, affiliated and committed to the cause of Reform Judaism.

One of the main goals of WUJP to professionalize the work in the region of Latin America is to make the Movement's ideological message as accessible as possible, known and appealing to other congregations and families. The growth potential is significant, because it must follow the trend in major Jewish centers around the world.

Another important goal is to consolidate a relevant presence in terms of formation of new leadership for the region, that is volunteers or professionals, committed to a vision of a vibrant and transformer Judaism, always together with the congregations, rabbis and professional from the communities.

Sergio will contact the congregations and their respective leaderships, with the purpose of together understand their needs and seek solutions to address future demands, develop new projects and promote synergies with the Movement abroad.

We welcome him, with the expectation and hope that we can all together continue to grow as Congregations, promote and publicise our cause, a Progressive Judaism that is inclusive, equitable, relevant and meaningful in our lives, and our families.

Baruch habá – Welcome, Sergio!

Raul C. Gottlieb


Miriam Vasserman

 New president of the WUPJ International takes office in September

Rabbi Daniel Hillel Freelander was announced as the new president of the WUPJ as of September 1st. Presently, he works as vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism in North America and his appointment is seen as an opportunity to strengthen the ties between the two institutions.

"He brings with him wide leadership experience and a deep understanding of how to strengthen Jewish commitment and identity", stated Mike Grabiner, chairman of the WUPJ.

Freelander is one of the leaders of the URJ since 1975, occupying various management positions and having actively participated in the organization of conferences and programs in Israel, among various other community activities.

"I am exceptionally excited to be able to apply my skills and love for vibrant synagogues on an international scale. While I will miss my day to day with the extraordinary lay and professional leaders of the URJ and its congregations, I look forward to learning about and developing new models for dynamic Jewish communities around the world", stated the Rabbi.
 Leshaná Habá Birushalaim – Pesach at the WUPJ Latin America
Even before Pesach began, the congregations of the WUPJ Latin America were already organizing activities to remember the liberation of the Jews from ancient Egypt.

One of the activities this year was the exhibit "Ma Nishtana – what makes the hagadot different from each other?", presented during almost the whole month of April at the Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP), in São Paulo. The exhibit included 30 hagadot, including one from 1894 as well as present day publications, demonstrating the transformation of thought and of the Jewish history throughout time.

Also at the CIP, the Lotte Pinkuss Grandmother's Club held its traditional pre-Seder, with almost 150 people who happily participated in the event.

In Recife, the Centro Israelita de Pernambuco also organized a pre-Seder with close to 300 people together with the Federação Israelita de Pernambuco and other institutions.

At Templo Libertad, in Buenos Aires, activists from the Congregación Israelita de la Republica Argentina (CIRA) had the opportunity of learning together as a group how to prepare for Pesach both at home and in their daily lives.

In Porto Alegre, the Sociedade Israelita Brasileira de Cultura e Beneficência (Sibra) once more took advantage of the Pesach celebration to promote inter-religious dialogue, with the presence of the Archbishop of Porto Alegre, Dom Jaime Spengler at the community Seder, who brought a message from Pope Francis. Also present were the Assistant Bishop, Dom Agenor Girardi, Payan Neda, representative of the Baha'i faith and Mayor José Fortunati.

The lighting of the Yom Tov candles was one of the highlights of the community Seder that brought together over 150 people at the Associação Religiosa Israelita do Rio de Janeiro (ARI). The presence of young people from the Chazit Hanoar youth movement was also a high point, with a debate on characters with different perspectives on the concept of freedom.

As one could expect, Pesach was also popular at the communities that are members of the Asociación Israelita De Las Pampas, in Argentina. Videos, music, dancing and entertainment activities were part of the community Seders in Coronel Suarez, Concepción, Avellaneda, Rivera and Roque S. Peña, Chaco. At the community in Paraná, the children from the Martín Buber School prepared presentations and the adults participated in a "cooking class" about Pesach dishes.

Young people also enjoyed themselves at the Fundación Judaica, in Buenos Aires, singing the Ma Nishtana and searching for the Afikoman. Besides the community Seder, the Arlene Fern School also organized an activity for parents and children.

The Jewish Community of Concepción, in Chile celebrated a beautiful seder in a harmonic and pleasant atmosphere with music, videos, music, and a fun and participatory ritual.

Fundación Centro de Espiritualidad Judía Mishkan, in Buenos Aires held its community Seder conducted by Rabbi Reuben Nisenbom.

Adat Israel. in Guatemala has planned a very special Pesach which included the whole Congregation. They had special guests this year – visitors from the US Embassy. In a small space, but cozy, all gathered in a cheerful and festive climate. In different languages, in a range of age groups, all together enjoyed a special meal that included a Charoset done in the style of Guatemala, with beans.

 A debate on the importance of Jewish education
The Elizer Max School organized the conference "International Symposium on the New Frontier of Jewish Education in Brazil" in April in partnership with the Associação Religiosa Israelita do Rio de Janeiro (ARI).

The objective of the meeting was to promote a reflection on the paths necessary to strengthen the Jewish schools in Brazil. The event had three international lecturers: Muki Tsur, from the Bina – Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture in Israel; and the professors Yosi J. Goldsten from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Joshua Holo of the Hebrew Union College in the United States.

Texts and videos about the symposium are available on the website:

 Launch of the Devarim magazine
The new issue of the Devarim magazine – number 23 – includes a text by Rabbi David Ellenson, Chancellor of the Hebrew Union College Institute of Religion, rabbinical seminar of the Reform Movement.

The beginning of the article is intriguing: "The origins of the rabbinate as a profession are involved in the mists of antiquity. While Jewish tradition identifies with Moses as "Moshe Rabeinu"/ "Moses, our Rabbi", the Bible itself never identifies him as such and not even the word Rabbi appears in the Jewish scriptures."

Devarim brings unpublished texts written by present-day exponents of Jewish thinking and members of reform communities throughout the world.

Issue 23 also includes a vast collection of topics, from remembering Ben Gurion on the fortieth anniversary of his death to the impact of Arik Einstein on the creation of Israeli music, as well as aspects of anti-Semitism during the Vargas dictatorship, an original interpretation on the first chapters of the Bereshit, the thoughts of the Rabbis from the ARI, an analysis of the work of Charlotte Delbo, the intra-religious conflict between liberals and orthodox and the vision of Paulo Geiger on democracy and Judaism.

The magazine is distributed free-of-charge to the members of the ARI and to all those who register at the website: The website also has the magazine's electronic library.
 Lag BaOmer: What is and how do we celebrate?
Lag BaOmer is a festive minor holiday that falls during the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot (known as the Omer), this year occurring on May 18th. It is celebrated with bonfires and picnics as well as study and reflection.

Lag BaOmer is not mentioned in the Torah and only hinted at in the Talmud. Consequently, there is no formal ritual associated with the holiday.  Rather a series of attractive and meaningful Lag BaOmer rituals have evolved over time.

Lag BaOmer is a shorthand way of saying the 33rd day of the omer. In addition to tracking the agricultural cycle, the omer marks the period from Passover, which commemorates our people's exodus from Egypt, to Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

The journey from Egypt to Sinai was not only biblical, but spiritual as well. As the Israelites hiked through the desert, they also had to find their way through the wilderness of their souls, preparing themselves not only to be given the Torah, but to accept the Torah.

Historically, the period of the Omer is a time of semi-mourning, when weddings and other festivities are avoided, in memory of a plague that killed thousands of students of Rabbi Akiva, a Talmudic scholar. Lag BaOmer was the day on which the plague ceased, and thus became a day on which the mourning rituals are abandoned and are replaced with great joy.
 Questions and answers on Progressive Judaism

How do Progressive Jews observe Shabbat?

Progressive Judaism emphasizes the positive nature of Shabbat, so that the seventh day may become a renewal experience – a holy day of spiritual renewal. It is our opportunity to escape from the hustle and bustle of our daily life and make the Shabbat a special day. There are three basic principles in this observance:

1. Sanctify Shabbat, in our homes and at the synagogue. The Friday night celebration at home includes the lighting of the candles and the recitation of the Kiddush as well as other prayers and songs. At the synagogue, the community prayers and the reading of the weekly portion of the Torah sanctify this special day.

2. Honor the Shabbat, which should not be treated as a "secular" day. Even our clothes must reflect the feeling of a sacred period. Many people dedicate this time to activities different from their everyday lives.

3. Take advantage of the Shabbat. Tradition speaks of three special Shabbat meals. It is very much possible that in ancient times three meals a day was something exceptional, but there are other ways to take advantage of the Shabbat with pleasant activities. This could be the perfect day to visit family and friends.

The Shabbat constitutes an essential part in the observance of Judaism. It is not only the sole festive day mentioned in the Ten Commandments, but also it has, above all, been a part of Jewish community life for generations. It constitutes a precious opportunity to separate us from the commercial and technological complexities of modern-day life.

In other words, the Progressive Jew is urged to attend the Shabbat services, celebrate this special day at home, around the dinner table, and to meet with friends, listen to the reading of the Torah and participate in the discussions, to read, to be in contact with nature and say goodbye to Shabbat with a nice Havdalah ceremony.

As the modern poet Ahad Ha'am wrote: More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews".



 Connections 2015

World Union for Progressive Judaism - Latin America