Issue # 80 – June 2014 / Sivan-Tamuz, 5774.

 Open letter to the President-Elect of Israel
The president of the Union for Reform Judaism in the United States, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, published an open letter to the President-Elect Reuven Rivlin in the Haaretz newspaper. Despite congratulating Rivlin and recognizing that he stated that he intends to be the president of all – Jews, Arabs, Druses, rich and poor -, Jacobs demonstrated concern about the opinion of the new president with regards to Reform Judaism.

The leader of the religious movement recalled that, after a visit to the Emanu-El Synagogue in New Jersey in 1989, Rivlin said he did not believe in the religiosity of North American Jews.

"Mr. President elect, we are strong, we are proud and we love the Jewish people and the State of Israel. We honor and respect the many different expressions of Judaism – from the ultra-Orthodox to secular Jews. You may not agree with everything we do or how we express our deep Jewish commitment, but please know it is no less than yours, or any of the chief rabbis", wrote Jacobs, while also inviting Rivlin to visit Reform congregations in the United States in the near future.

See the complete letter: link

 WUPJ International reinforces the communications and marketing team

Gidon Ben-Zvi was announced as Marketing and Communications Manager of the WUPJ International. Accomplished writer in Hollywood (USA), Gidon is American and lived various times in Israel, having settled definitely in Jerusalem in 2009.

He has experience in developing marketing strategies, public relations, advertising and news media. Before accepting the WUPJ's invitation, he worked for the Kenes Group, an Israeli company that organizes scientific congresses throughout the world.

Gidon also periodically contributes with texts for communications websites such as Algemeiner, Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post.
 Rabbi Sobel is honored by the Government of the state of São Paulo
Rabbi Henry Sobel received the medal of the Ipiranga Order, the highest honor conferred by the State of São Paulo, from the hands of the governor of the State of São Paulo Geraldo Alckmin. "The honor is reserved for Brazilian citizens and foreigners who deserve the gratitude of the citizens of São Paulo for services of exceptional relevance rendered to São Paulo, which was the case of those receiving the award in this ceremony, who have been providing a great service not only to the citizens of São Paulo but also to all Brazilians," stated Alckmin during the ceremony held at the Bandeirantes Palace, headquarters of the government of the state of São Paulo.

During this ceremony the cardiologist José Eduardo Moraes Rego Sousa was also honored.

(L-R) Governor Geraldo Alckmin, Rabbi Henry Sobel and Vice-Chancellor of the Order of Ipiranga, Adilson Cezar
 Progressive Judaism in Europe
The European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) held its biennial conference in Dresden, Germany with over 300 participants, including leaders from the WUPJ International.

With the theme "Reflections on Faith in Action", the conference promoted a debate of various instigating topics for Progressive Judaism in Europe, such as the role of women in religion, identifying with the State of Israel and the presence of music in religious services. One of the workshops whose theme was Ethics and the Kashrut was coordinated by Miriam Vasserman, vice president of the WUPJ-Latin America and member of the Executive Board of the WUPJ. This panel discussed various progressive points of view regarding Kashrut, environment and sustainability. The panelists were: Rabbi Janet Darley, Rabbi Menno ten Brink, Danielle Touati and Jonathan Woolliff. The choice of Dresden as the host city had a special meaning because it was one of the largest Jewish communities in Germany during the Second World War. It was also in this city where, close to a decade ago, the first rabbis were ordained on German soil after the war.

(L-R)Miriam Vasserman & Jonathan Woolliff

The next biennial conference of the EUPJ is scheduled for April 2016 in London.

The EUPJ – Faith in Action Dresden Conference 2014: Video

 SIBRA during the World Cup – For all the Jews in the world

Mayor of Porto Alegre, José Fortunati between Guershon Kwasniewski (L), religious leader and Sergio Caraver,
President of SIBRA. Photo: Disclosure.

The Sociedade Israelita Brasileira de Cultura e Beneficência (Sibra) was chosen by the Municipality of Porto Alegre as the official synagogue of the FIFA World Cup in the city. The idea is that it will be a point of reference for Jews from all over the world that visit Porto Alegre, one of the host cities of the soccer World Cup.

Before the opening ceremony of the World Cup, the Sibra held a Shabbat of Nations, with the presence of the Mayor José Fortunatti and authorities from different countries and of other religions, such as the Consuls of Germany, Canada and Spain and the representative of the Islamic Cultural Center, Ahmad Ali.

The Jewish communities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Salvador also organized themselves to receive Jewish tourists, mainly from Israel and Argentina during the World Cup.

 Visit to the Community in Santos
During the month of May, in celebration of Lag Baomer, the synagogue in Santos , in São Paulo, organized a special activity for its members as it does from time to time. The Jewish community in Santos is old and today is structured around the synagogue and the recreational club.

The community is estimated at 120 families besides another 30 families that live alternately between the cities of São Paulo and Santos.

An international panorama of the WUPJ was presented as well as reflections and teachings about Lag Baomer. Another aspect discussed was the topic of the importance of a small Jewish community being strong and anchored on values to be able to continue its work of maintaining the city's Jewish tradition for the new generations.

At the Lag Baomer event approximately 45 people were present. At the occasion, before the Kiddush, the Executive Director of the WUPJ Latin America, Sergio Napchan, made a speech and reflections. He was invited by the Zonis couple, activists who are engaged and committed and who lead the services of the synagogue and the path of the Jewish community in Santos.

 Launch of the new issue of the Devarim magazine
The new issue of the Devarim magazine – number 23 – includes a text by Rabbi David Ellenson – Dean of the Jewish Institute of Religion of the HUC, 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 mist of antiquity. While Jewish tradition identifies 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 published never-before published texts by representatives of modern-day 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, including aspects of anti-Semitism during the Vargas dictatorship, an original interpretation on the first chapters of the Bereshit, the thoughts of the ARI Rabbis, an analysis of the work of Charlotte Delbo, the inter-religious conflict between liberals and orthodox and the vision of Paulo Geiger on democracy and Judaism.

The magazine is distributed freely to the members of ARI and to all those who register through the website The website also contains the electronic library of the magazine.

 Connections 2015

 Questions and answers on Progressive Judaism

What does Progressive Judaism have to say about the Torah and the Bible?

As Progressive Jews, we have before us an ancient document whose general historical line we consider to be true, but whose various stories have very clearly in them the markings of the environment in which they were written, as well as the specific and many times fallible world vision of their authors. As Jews we reaffirm the idea that the Torah reveals the divine word of God to us. In this manner, we consider it a work of eternal truth, whose whole is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Because the Bible is the Book of our People, we consider it with love and respect. It certainly is a live testimony of the eternal pact between God and Israel. The Hebrew Bible is the written record of the beginning of history and the Jewish identity, on whose text was built a religious civilization full of vitality. The books of the Bible comprise a period of one thousand years and describe the development of a new and surprising attitude with regards to God and ethical behavior.

For the Jew, the Bible is the core of a vast correlated literature. The stance of Progressive Judaism is one of valuation and appreciation of the inheritance. No text, however, no matter how ancient it may be, can be used to justify what is morally unjustifiable. The ancient Hebrew and Aramaic text must be comprehended in the context of its time, since it did not arise in a cultural, economic and religious vacuum.

With the return of the People of Israel to the Land of Israel in modern times, the language of the Bible became even more important, and Biblical studies flourished. Archeology of the Middle East, the knowledge of ancient languages related to Hebrew and the discovery of the Manuscripts of the Dead Sea expanded our knowledge qute a lot and increased our valuation of the past.

The study of the Bible became a task shared by Jewish and non-Jewish enthusiasts, reducing religious differences and stimulating cooperation among scholars of different religions.

World Union for Progressive Judaism - Latin America