Issue # 82 – September 2014 / Elul, 5774.

 WUPJ-LA Conference shows the strength of Progressive Judaism in the region

Close to one hundred people from various countries participated in the WUPJ-LA conference held at the Sociedade Israelita Brasileira de Cultura e Beneficência - SIBRA, in Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil), on August 17th to the 19th. Besides Brazil, there were representatives from congregations and Jewish communities in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, United States, Israel, Guatemala, Spain and Panama.

Professor Joshua Holo, PhD and Dean of the Hebrew Union College, and Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President of the WUPJ International, came especially for the meeting from Los Angeles and Jerusalem, respectively.

The debates brought to light topics relevant to Judaism in contemporary society, as well as activities divided by groups, with the Rabbinical Kallah – for rabbis and religious leaders; Lashir Benefesh, for musicians and Chazanim; meeting for leaders; and the Mifgash for young adults.

Besides stimulating the creation of a network for the effective exchange of experiences, projects and content, important topics discussed included education, tzedaka, cult, integration, citizenship, community development, leadership and participation.

Another highlight was the Mifgash, second annual meeting for young Jews from Latin America, organized by the TaMaR, young adult division of the WUPJ International. With the awareness that they are the future leaders, the participants took from the Mifgash new ideas for activities that can be conducted before the next meeting in 2015.

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 Chumash Project– Torah Translation into a modern and accessible language

The WUPJ-LA began the translation of the Chumash into Portuguese. The Chumash is composed of Moses' five books in the Torah as well as the Haftarot, texts written and inspired by the prophets.

This project was idealized by Rabbi Gunther Plaut to offer an alternative for the progressive congregations. In the United States, the Chumash in English is a great success in almost one thousand congregations.

One of the main objectives of the WUPJ in making this translation into Portuguese is to provide for the Brazilian Jewish community a book with interpretations in a modern, interesting and attractive language, which identifies with a egalitarian, inclusive and modern manifestation of Judaism.

 Representatives from Latin America participate in a seminar for educators in Israel
Ricardo Cavalcanti, from the ARI-RJ, and Karin Meischenguiser, from the Arlene Fern School, in Argentina, participated in the Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators promoted by The Anita Saltz International Education Center in Israel. With the objective of promoting the exchange of experiences and learning about the Israeli way of life, the group this time had the opportunity of getting to know the capacity for resistance, the courage, compassion and strength of Israelis at a time of tension.

Besides visits to historical locations and debates, the participants spoke with taxi drivers, waiters, salespersons and educators, who expressed their gratitude to the visitors for having come to Israel at such a delicate period in time.
 President of the WUPJ-LA extends invitation to the Connections 2015
The WUPJ International newsletter in its last issue highlighted an interview with Raul Cesar Gottlieb, president of the WUPJ-LA, member of the board of the ARI-RJ and director of the Devarim magazine. The topic of the conversation was the Connections 2015 conference, which will be hosted by ARI-RJ on May 13th to the 16th, 2015.

Questioned as to what he would like to say to the participants of the conference with regards to the local Jewish community, Raul highlighted that "the Jewish community feels comfortable in Brazil. The level of anti-Semitism is low but far from being irrelevant. The community was very angry at the official diplomatic position of Brazil with regard to Operation Protective Edge".

At the end of the conversation, the president of the WUPJ-LA said goodbye with a "see you in Rio"!

 We welcome a new community
The Sociedad Cultural Israelita Scholem Aleijem from Corrientes recently became part of the Asociación Israelita de las Pampas (AIP) in Argentina. Rabbi Sebastian Vainstein will supervise the community with support from Director Moshe Hazan Wajcer.
 Training of Jewish leaders is the topic of the Beutel Seminar 2015
The Beutel Seminar, scheduled for the period February 5 to 15, 2015, will have "Because Jewish Learning is the Key Component of Jewish Leadership" as the main theme. The seminar organized by the Anita Saltz International Education Center will be held at the Mercaz Shimshon-Beit Smhuel, headquarters of the WUPJ, overlooking the walls of Jerusalem's Old City.

The seminar offers the opportunity to study ancient texts and history; discuss current political and social issues; explore spiritual pathways and concepts of Jewish leadership - all within a Progressive Jewish context.

Each community must recommend the participants –rabbis, professional or lay leaders. For more information contact and the email

 São Paulo community welcomes Scholars
Professor Joshua Holo, PhD., Dean of the Hebrew Union College, and Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President of the WUPJ International, were in São Paulo during the month of August – after participating in a WUPJ-LA meeting in Porto Alegre – to reinforce the ties with the Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP).

The two guests offered views with respect to the present challenges of the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora, as well as specific topics of interest for educators and young Jewish activists and community leaders. A group of young activists who are preparing to become future community leaders spoke with Professor Holo about Tikkun Olam and its implications in their everyday lives.

Another objective of the visit was to broaden their contact with volunteer and professional leaders engaged with community service beyond CIP. Professor Holo visited the I.L. Peretz School, where he had the opportunity to speak with the Director of the Jewish Department Rabbi Rogerio Cukierman, as well as the Jewish Department coordinators and teachers. He also visited the ALEF School, together with the Executive Director of the WUPJ-LA, Sergio Napchan, where they had the opportunity to meet with the Director of the Jewish Department, Mariana Gottfried and the respective coordinators of various departments within the school.
 Launch of the Devarim Magazine issue # 24
During the week in which we hope to emerge from one more nightmare in Israel, the ARI launches issue 24 of the Devarim magazine. As expected, the fifty days of war left marks on the magazine, both in some of the articles as well as in the "In a Few Words" column and in the editorial.

We published an interview with American Professor Ruth Wisse, where she denies the paradigm of the war between Israel and the Hamas, which she does not consider a conflict. We also published a surprising article by Professor Luis Dolhinkoff from São Paulo about the consequences of the war of 1967 had it not been won by Israel. Reflecting on the views of these two professors is definitely a worthwhile exercise.

Also regarding Israel, Paulo Geiger concludes his brilliant analysis on the Jewish Democratic State. We also focus on the Jewish communities in the Diaspora with excellent and opportune analyses of the Jews in Turkey and Germany; two European communities in completely different moments in time, one collapsing and one progressing.

On the softer side of life, Rabbis Sergio Margulies, Dario Bialer and the Chazzan André Nudelman explore facets of our spirituality. Ricardo Gorodovits analyses the issue of the refusal of Judaism to name and qualify God.

And, entering definitely into the topic of the joy of living, Jaime Barzellai delights the readers with a new analysis on the strong influence of Brazilian music in Israel – a story that demonstrates the success of the Brazilian way of life.

The magazine is distributed freely to the members of the ARI and to all those who register on the website The website has the electronic library of the magazine.

Don't forget to get your copy and tell all your friends about Devarim!
 High Holy Days 5775

Preparing for the High Holy Days / Yamim Noraim / ARI-RJ

Elul, the last month before the Yamim Noraim, is full of meaning in Jewish life. This month is seen as a time to look inside our hearts and get closer to God, in preparation for the next Day of Judgment, Rosh Hashanah, and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

According to the Talmud, the Hebrew word "Elul" can be expanded as an acronym for "Ani Le Dodi Ve dodi Li" – "I belong to my Beloved and my Beloved belongs to me" (Song of Songs 6:3). Believing that the "beloved" refers to God, the scholars take this verse to describe the loving and particularly close relationship between God and Israel.

During this whole month, except on the Shabbat, we listen to the sound of the shofar, a way in which – according to Maimonides – we "awaken" our hearts to the realization of how we are living our lives, preparing thus for the process of the Yamim Noraim.

Although how we consider our choices is not something that we can schedule, Judaism offers us opportunities to focus on different aspects of life. Elul, then, is our time to begin to remember everything that can be improved.

 Questions and answers about Progressive Judaism

How do Progressive Jews face the festive days of the Jewish calendar?

The Jewish calendar spins a web of beliefs and idealism that connects the individual to the presence of God in the universe. The concept of a Single God, indivisible, transcendent and immanent, is transmitted to Jews, young and old, through the heritage of the Jewish year. The Shabbat reminds us, week after week, of the mitzvot of rest and happiness, of study and of prayer. The Yamim Noraim (High Holy Days or Days of Awe) bring together the community for repentance (Teshuvah) and spiritual renewal. We have a direct and personal relation with God that can be restored through sincere repentance.

We celebrate the three ancient "Feasts of Pilgrimage": Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot – concluding this cycle with Simchat Torah. Pesach tells us about the spiritual relevance of freedom. Shavuot is the feast of the revelation of the Torah. Sukkot is the celebration of our gratitude for life and for the harvest and it is followed by the feast of the rejoicing of the Torah. All of the Feasts of Pilgrimage were, in their origin, intimately tied to the seasons of the year and to the preservation of nature. These festivities attracted pilgrims to the Temple of Jerusalem, which for a thousand years was the only sanctuary in the world dedicated to the adoration of a single God.

With the passage of time the Jewish year began to include other special days, such as Hanukkah, Purim, Yom Ha'atzmaut (Day of Independence of Israel), Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and Tisha B'av (Ninth of Av).

Through prayer and religious services, the individual and the community continue to experience the presence of God and renew the common commitment to a religious Jewish experience. Progressive Jews observe the biblical calendar. Just like the Jews in Israel, we do not celebrate the second day of the holidays, which were added during rabbinical times, when there were doubts regarding the precise moment and day of each of the festivities.


World Union for Progressive Judaism - Latin America