Issue # 83 – October 2014 /Tishrei, 5775.

 New President of the WUPJ International takes office
Rabbi Daniel Freelander officially began his mandate as president of the WUPJ International in September. He had already served in the North American Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), beginning his community service activities in 1975.

Right after taking office at the WUPJ International, Freelander travelled to Wroclaw, Poland, where he participated in the ordination of new rabbis and chazzanim who will work in progressive congregations throughout Europe.

Next the new president went to Israel, where he approached the team that works at the worldwide headquarters of the WUPJ, in Jerusalem, demonstrating the importance of the centrality of the Jewish State for Reform Judaism throughout the world.

 Ecumenical Act for peace gathers hundreds of people in São Paulo

A joint manifestation of Christians, Jews and Muslims for peace in the Middle East and throughout the world was held in São Paulo, on September 7th, anniversary of Brazil's independence, with the participation of hundreds of people. The cardinal and archbishop of São Paulo, Dom Odilo Scherer, sheik Houssam Al Boustani and Rabbi Michel Schlesinger led the meeting at the Sé Cathedral, which continued with a walk to the Pateo do Colegio, location where the city was founded.

 Launch of the book "Mais Torá, mais vida", by Rabbi Leonardo Alanati
Over 200 people were present at the book signing of "Mais Torá, mais vida", book written by Rabbi Leonardo Alanati, at the beginning of September, in Belo Horizonte. After the Shehecheianu and a toast, the rabbi autographed various copies. The printing of this book is part of the 25-year celebration of Alanati's ordination at the Hebrew Union College and brings together a selection of his sermons. This is a project of the Congregação Israelita Mineira, where the book is now on sale.

 Management of the Sociedade Israelita do Ceará presents the new synagogue
The Beit Yaacov Synagogue, of the SIC in Fortaleza, was re-inaugurated at the beginning of September after an ample renovation, with new floors and new furnishings. The congregation's other installations were also revitalized, including the library, main office, classrooms and meeting room of the Habonim Dror youth movement. The resources for the renovation were obtained through a joint effort of the SIC and the Confederação Israelita do Brasil (CONIB).

Pictured are all those that are part of the recently elected directory: (L-R): Marina Lacourly, Laura Schejtman, Ivelise Strozberg, Ana Viriginia Tavares, Miriam Havdt Binda, Vera Paiva and Debora Tavares.

 Vibrant Judaism in Porto Alegre
The SIBRA - Sociedade Israelita Brasileira de Cultura e Beneficência, in Porto Alegre, turned 78 years old at the end of August with a festive Kiddush at the Sheraton Hotel. The date was even more festive because of the renovation conducted at the entity's headquarters, which can now hold large events, such as the WUPJ Latin America meeting.

During the High Holy Days, the SIBRA maintained the tradition of transmitting the religious services of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur live through the Internet. The Kabalat Shabbat religious services can also be seen every Friday night on the website

Another prominent activity of the SIBRA is in the area of Inter-religious Dialogue. In August, the religious leader Guershon Kwasniewski participated in the Bible Week in Germany, which was attended by rabbis, pastors, priests, nuns, theologians, and professors with the objective of studying the bible.

 Jewish music in Florianópolis
The Zemer Choir, of the Na'amat Women's Organization in Porto Alegre, held a recital in Florianópolis, together with the Associação Israelita Catarinense (AIC), on September 18th. The event was held at the Museum of Art of Santa Catarina (MASC), at the Centro Integrado de Cultura. The repertoire, led by conductor Francis Padilha, included songs in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and Portuguese, highlighting songs from the film "Fiddler on the Roof".

At the last Kabalat Shabbat of 5774, before Rosh Hashanah, the choir was honored and also presented some songs at the headquarters of the AIC.

 Welcome for the new Israeli ambassador in Brasília

(L-R) Diplomat Pinchas Avivi, Hermano Wrobel and Ambassador Reda Mansour

The management of the Associação Cultura Israelita de Brasília (ACIB) made a courtesy visit to the new Israeli ambassador for Brazil, Reda Mansour. Hermano Wrobel, Fábio Milman and Hugo Sternick welcomed him and mentioned the possibility of working together to promote Jewish and Israeli culture.

Ambassador Mansour and members of the ACIB management also participated in a conversation with Pinchas Avivi, the Israeli government's special envoy, about the Middle East after the Operation Protective Edge.

 Volunteers at the Fundación Judaica

The Fundación Judaica, in Buenos Aires, took advantage of the end of the Jewish year of 5774 to honor all of its volunteers by holding a large party with the participation of Rabbi Sergio Bergman.

Volunteer work is also an important part of the educational project of the "Escuela Comunitaria Arlene Fern", of the Fundación Judaica, where the students and their families are encouraged to participate in campaigns such as the "Matanot Laaniim" and "Mitzvómetro".

Besides the activities for the students, the parents meet weekly with the school rabbis to learn and reflect about texts from the Torah, understand their significance and importance in everyday life.

 Pope welcomes Jewish leaders from all over the world

Rabbi Michel Schlesinger (CIP) greets the Pope.
Photo: disclosure.

Francisco flanked by Ronald Lauder, Jack Terpins, Chella Safra and Jewish leaders.
Photo: disclosure.
Rabbi Michel Schlesinger, from the Congregação Israelita Paulista, and the president of the CONIB (Confederação Israelita do Brasil), Claudio Lottenberg, were part of the group of 40 leaders from Jewish Communities throughout the world that was welcomed in September by Pope Francis at the Vatican. Promoted by the World Jewish Congress, the objective of the meeting was to reaffirm the friendship between Catholics and Jews and to wish the Pope a Shaná Tovah.

"Pope Francis said that we need to be humble and admit that the efforts for peace are larger than us and that we need the help of God. The meeting, a few days before Rosh Hashanah, represented a demonstration that Catholics and Jews are committed to searching together for a path that strengthens the dialogue for peace", stated Rabbi Michel, who is also the Conib's representative for inter-religious dialogue.

The Pope greets the President of Conib, Claudio Lottenberg, under the gaze of Michel Schlesinger (Center) and Claudio Epelman (CJL).
Photo: disclosure.

 WUPJ International highlights the Connections 2015 in Rio de Janeiro

The WUPJ International newsletters continue to highlight the Connections 2015 meting which will be held in Rio de Janeiro from May 13th to the 16th, 2015.

The new website was launched with information about the meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

Recently, the new president of the ARI, Ricardo Gorodovitz, was presented. ARI is the host congregation for the Connections 2015. He said that his parents were already born in Brazil, living in various states such as Maranhão, Bahia and Pernambuco. "Our Judaism is open, offering everyone a guide for life in a modern world, facilitated by a large quantity of questions and the great opportunity to find different answers", he stated.

Marina Ventura Gottlieb, ex-president of ARI, was also a topic of the WUPJ International newsletter. She said that her parents came from Istanbul in 1959, city where she was born. According to her, "the services of the ARI are inclusive, innovative and inspiring". Marina also demonstrated her desire to take the visitors to main attractions in Rio de Janeiro, like the Tijuca Forest, the Botanical Gardens, the Corcovado and the Pão de Açúcar.

 Beutel Seminar 2015 announces its program
The topic of the Beutel Seminar, scheduled for February 5 to 15, 2015, is "Because Jewish Learning is the Key Component of Jewish Leadership". The seminar organized by The Anita Saltz International Education Center will be housed at the Mercaz Shimshon-Beit Shmuel, headquarters of the WUPJ, with a view of the walls of Jerusalem's Old City.

The program of the seminar is available at the link

The participants – rabbis, professional and lay leaders – must be recommended by their communities. Further information is available by email at

 Like the WUPJ!
The WUPJ International is also present on Facebook with the objective of using this tool to involve, inform and inspire all those who are part of the congregations affiliated with Progressive Judaism.


 Questions and answers about Progressive Judaism

What is different in Progressive Judaism's approach to Halakha and religious observance?

Halakha is a technical word in Aramaic that means law and that shows up in rabbinical literature. In Hebrew the word reminds us of the verb "to walk".

After the destruction of the Temple in the year 70, the rabbinical academies and tribunals in Israel began to construct a framework of observance that could substitute priesthood, ritual sacrifice and an independent political Jewish existence based in Jerusalem.

This "second Torah" – or Oral Torah, was initially edited and written in a series of six large books, called the Mishnah. The rabbinical debates about the Mishnah that occurred throughout the following centuries both in Israel and Babylon are part of the Talmud. This enormous rabbinical collection of laws, legends, history, case studies and debates established the basis of subsequent Jewish religious practice. Rabbinical literature is, almost by definition, pluralist and dynamic, clearly reflecting different opinions and mirroring the environment and intellectual world of its time.

The Orthodox belief is that the Torah, its fundamental laws, details and interpretations were given through Moses on Mount Sinai. The Halakha is, therefore, immutable. The "fundamentalist" position rejects the concept of change and the possibility of development or innovation in the Halakha. There are many examples of evolutionary changes. Progressive Judaism states that Jewish law was never monolithic. The right of dissention "in favor of a celestial cause" was always respected. The texts carefully register the different interpretations of the Halakha.

Progressive Judaism searches for ethical and ritualistic values in the Halakha. There are traditional values preserved in the Halakha that are based on biblical law as a basis for personal and community decision-making. Rabbinical literature registers solid precedents of carefully evaluated changes. For example, biblical law established the death penalty for a series of crimes. In post-biblical times rabbinical law surrounded these death penalties with so many conditions that, in practice, the death penalty became obsolete. Certain biblical laws regarding sexual crimes, ritual purity, the sabbatical year and the religious calendar were submitted to deep changes by the rabbis of the Mishnah and the Talmud, or developed to the point that they became unrecognizable as the conditions of life changed. And just like during those times, the same happens today. There is the need to change, modify or even abolish ancient laws so as to preserve the basic ethical impulse that constitutes the foundation of monotheistic faith started by Abraham and Sarah.

Progressive Judaism understands that there is a hierarchy of values within tradition. The initial formats of worship and of social behavior were modified by the same religious civilization that produced them. We learned that war, poverty, hunger and discrimination diminish the dignity of all those created in the image of God. Since the first codes of law, Judaism has been motivated by a concern for social justice, for the value of life and for the ideal of integrity and personal honesty.


World Union for Progressive Judaism - Latin America