Issue # 88 – March 2015 /Adar - Nissan, 5775


 Lashir BeNefesh - Singing with the Soul

 Visit by a rabbi from Brazil to Chile may become a model of cooperation

Ruben and Chaim in Ruach Ami

Rabbi Rubén Sternschein, from the Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP), was in Chile in January for a series of activities at the Comunidad Ruaj Ami. It was not his first visit, but it was very different from the previous one. In 2007, the progressive community in Chile had just opened its doors. Now, in 2015, over 130 families welcomed him.

At the Kabalat Shabbat and on Saturday morning, Rubén participated in the religious services and spoke about understanding the texts of the Torah.

On Sunday, the rabbi participated in a Beit Din for seven conversion candidates and also visited the Comunidad Judaica Santiago.

The general feeling after his visit was that this initiative could become a model of between the progressive communities in Latin America.

(L-R) Martin Hirch, Chaim, and Ruben for the Beit Din

Meeting with community members
 Community in Chile gets new mantles for the Sefer Torah

The Comunidad Israelita Concepción, in a province in the central region of Chile, began to use new mantles for their Sefer Torah in February, thanks to the help of volunteers. Miriam Sanhueza, mother of one of the young activists, made the mantles. The embroidery was the responsibility of Eliezer Berant from Santiago. The community also produced a film with a summary of its activities in 2014.

You can see it at: link.

 "Back to Brazil"
A delegation from the B'nai Abraham Temple in Livingston, New Jersey, was in Brazil. Rabbi Clifford Kulwin, who worked at the ARI-RJ during the 1980's and speaks fluent Portuguese, was one of the trip's organizers. He wrote a text about the visit called "Back to Brazil", available on the link link, in which he remembers the period in which he lived in Brazil and describes the encounter with representatives of the various entities.

"This trip was not simply an opportunity to learn about an interesting community, but to gain a new perspective from which to look at our own lives as Jews: even in this far flung, Portuguese-speaking part of the Jewish world, we saw much that could help us be better members of our own community", concluded Rabbi Kulwin.

 Values and concepts of the Purim holiday - Rabbi Sergio Bergman (FJ)
Purim reminds of the "LOTS" which Haman (Persian minister) cast to chose the day and month for the extermination of the Jews from the kingdom. The salvation of the people comes through Queen Esther who is the main character of the text (Megillat) where this story is told. The holiday is a celebration with much joy, costumes and gifts.

The story of Purim

Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar. The previous day is a day of fasting: Taanot Esther. It recalls the events of the Jewish community in Persia at the time of King Ahasuerus, who had taken Esther as his wife without knowing she was Jewish. Esther remains faithful to Judaism thanks to the guidance of her uncle Mordecai, who also was a favorite of the king because he had saved the king from a conspiracy. However, there is an enemy in the castle, not only enemy of Mordecai but of all the Jews, called Haman, symbol of the anti-Semites throughout all time and who wants to destroy the Jewish Community. Being able to convince the king of his plan, he cast lots and set the date for the extermination of the Jews in the kingdom on the 13th of Adar, called Purim (from Pur, lots). Thanks to the intervention of Esther and Mordecai, the king cancels Haman's decree and orders him hanged. This story is told in the book of Esther, which is usually read at the Beit Hakneset. This book is in the form of a scroll, in Hebrew Meguillat. It is a custom to bang or sound rattles each time the name of the evil Haman comes up in the reading.

Afterwards comes a Seudat (festive meal) preceded by the delivery of presents, especially to those in need. At this party everyone wears costumes to represent the story and to celebrate the salvation of the people at that time.

The Mitzvot:

The precepts:

Reading of the Meguillat at the Beit Hakneset

Mishloaj Manot: sending gifts

Matanot laevionim: sending gifts, food to the needy;
celebrating at the party

The Minhaguim:

Costumes típicos:

Se fantasiar, representar a historia, usar elementos barulhentos durante a leitura da Meguilá, comer Oznei Haman, enviar bandejas com doces e pequenos presentes.


The good and the bad as choices of man

Anti-Semitism as a form of evil, of destruction, of racial hate against Jews. Haman is a symbol of the evil that can return in each generation.

Remember what happened to us, so as not to forget and beware of the bad that occurs against us and every other human group.

Gratitude for being saved: not only were we saved once, and not only does G"d provide our salvation: in Purim Esther and Mordecai are instruments for our salvation.

Historical expressions where we were not saved by Esther and suffered deaths and persecutions: pogroms in Russia, the Shoa

Zionism and Israel as modern forms of salvation with regards to these situations.

Values and customs:

Joy as an expression of gratitude for what we have, we are or remember.


Reading of the Meguillat: read and tell the story to remember and transmit customs and traditions.

Offering, to give: deliver gifts: give as an expression of fulfillment and not only to ask and receive. Give of yourself as an expression of affection and concern.


Gifts for the needy: charitable work as an ethical imperative. Tzedaka is SOCIAL JUSTICE, not charity, is an act of justice to give to those whose basic needs are not covered. Solidarity is an expression of salvation in our days.

The role of our women as architects of salvation: Esther, Yael, Deborah, Ruth, and even contemporary characters such as Jana Szenesh, Golda Meir.
 Bergman Seminar for Jewish Educators – "Creating Meaningful Connections"
For Jewish educators in Jewish schools and progressive and liberal congregations around the world.

Another edition of the Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators will be held on July 2 to 12, 2015 in Israel, with the theme "Creating Meaningful Connections". The course, whose target audience is educators from Progressive Jewish Communities throughout the world, combines classroom and text study with visits to various locations where the content of the studies can be experienced hands on. The multidisciplinary curriculum includes concepts related to culture, spirituality, language, history and memory, as well as dealing with the common topics and the differences between the Jewish communities in Israel and the Diaspora. The seminar will also explore the three central components of Jewish existence: the Jewish people, the Torah and the Land of Israel.

The complete program of the seminar and the registration form are available on the website. More information and registration forms can be obtained by email at or

 Questions and answers regarding Progressive Judaism
Is Purim similar to a Jewish Halloween?

Although both Purim and Halloween have in common the custom of people wearing costumes, the similarities stop there.

Halloween originated as a Celtic festival and, later, became a Christian holiday. Using costumes on Halloween remits us, probably, to the 16th century. But the tradition of using costumes on Purim finds its origins in a game, as if it was a satire, many times in good humor, based on the real history of this holiday of the Jewish calendar.

There was a time when people dressed up like the Purim characters, like queen Esther or her cousin Mordecai. In the contemporary world, many people began to wear other costumes, from folkloric figures of the local popular culture of each community to even cartoon characters, or from television and the movies.

Instead of going from door to door asking for treats – like in Halloween – the custom in Purim is to give presents including various types of food to neighbors and friends, called mishloach manot.

Answer adapted from a text by Rabbi Victor Appel,

 International News
"Reform Judaism is not a license to abandon one's Jewish duties; it is a commitment to consider those duties with sincerity and to live Judaism with integrity." Rabbi Larry Milder

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