Inspiring conference celebrating 80 years of Progressive Judaism in South Africa
The South African Union for Progressive Judaism celebrated of 80 Years of Progressive Judaism in South Africa, on June 7 – 10, across three Johannesburg Progressive Synagogues.The cream of world Progressive Jewry participated: International visitors included World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) president and chairman, Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs and Mike Grabiner; chairman of the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), Yaron Shavit, and chairman of theEuropean Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), Miriam Kramer. The Director of the Israel Religious Action Centre for Reform Judaism (IRAC) and chairperson of the Women of the Wall, Anat Hoffman, Union for Progressive Judaism of Australia/New Zealand’s (UPJ) president, David Robinson and executive director, Steve Denenberg, Rabbi Helena Rubinstein of the Sha’arei ShalomCongregation, St. Petersburg, Russia and Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of UK’s Liberal Judaism added luster to the full programme.
SAUPJ’s Annual General Meeting, chaired by Mr. Steve Lurie, Chair of the SAUPJ, took care of formal business. Setting the tone for learning, the panel “Defining the Progressive Challenge” led to interest groups discussing future possibilities for the Movement. “Using Technology and Social Media for Our Benefit,” “Reviewing the Work of Congregations and Sisterhood” and other sessions reported their vision to the plenum. Friday’s Luncheon Keynote address was “Progressive Judaism in Action” by world-renowned Israeli activist Anat Hoffman. Sponsored by South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity (SACRED), this came as a welcome follow up to SACRED’s recent video, Exclusion of Women.
Back row (L-R): Steven Gruzd (SAZF), Desmond Sweke, Ashley Sweke, Rabbi Robert Jacobs, Isla Feldman, Yaron Shavit
Front row (L-R): Rahle Lurie, Steve Lurie, Rabbi Stephen Fuchs, Vickie Fuchs
Following Kabbalat Shabbat evening service led by Rabbi Dr Robert Ash and student Rabbi Julia Rubinstein at Beit Emanuel in Parktown, Rabbi Stephen Fuchs inspired the audience with his “Vision for Progressive Jewry in 2012.” Later that evening, Mike Grabiner spoke about “The Importance of the World Union for South African Jewry.”
Ya?kov Finkelstein (Deputy Ambassador), Reeva Forman, Steven Gruzd, Wendy Kahn, Yaron Shavit
Temple Israel, Hillbrow – the first Progressive Synagogue in South Africa (1936) – hosted Torah study led by Rabbi Malcolm Matitiani (Cape Town), Rabbi Richard Newman (Cape Town), and Rabbi Dr Robert Ash before the Shabbat Morning Service, including a Dvar Torah by Rabbi Danny Rich. Kiddush and a Bracha led to inspired and satisfied participants. Havdalah in the Middleton Hall on Bet David’s Campus preceded an African-themed Gala dinner. Keynote speaker Anat Hoffman used the theme “Human Rights, Civil Rights and Jewish Rights” to warm participants on a cold winter night. Hearty congratulations from the WUPJ Regions, and from the SA Zionist Federation, JNF and SA Jewish Board of Deputies added to a meaningful night of community.
Standing (L-R) Charmaine Levy, Moira Holz, Kito Holz, Dalya Levy, Giki Sive, Chips Sive, Jo Norris
Seated (L-R): Phina Hoberman, Rhona Lief, Giddy Lief
Sunday was devoted to a day of learning. Speakers were Ya’akov Finkelstein, Deputy Israeli Ambassador, who was introduced by ARZENU SA Chairman Professor Antony Arkin (Durban) on “The Place of Israel in the Changing Middle East.” “The Changing Politics of The Middle East” chaired by Reeva Forman, brought Yaron Shavit (Israel), Arzenu executive director Dalya Levy (Israel) and journalist Paula Slier to the podium. Miriam Kramer (European Union), Rabbi Helena Rubinstein (St. Petersburg), and David Robinson (Union of Progressive Judaism of Australia, Asia, and New Zealand–UPJ) led a stirring discussion about the Diaspora communities they lead.
“Seeking Justice in Africa” was the luncheon keynote from the Director of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre, Tali Nates, moderated by Jeremy Gordin. The audio-visual presentation and in-depth discussion of the Rwanda Genocide touched everyone deeply.
Afternoon break-out discussions on “Anti-Zionism vs. Anti-Semitism”, “Images of Jews in the Media”, “Progressive Jewish Identity” and “Progressive Jewish Lessons for a Greener World” prepared the way for the Closing Plenary Panel where Anat Hoffman, Yaron Shavit and Paula Slier discussed “Tsedek, Tsedek… Progressive Jewish Views of Justice” moderated by Prof. Merle Williams.
Rabbi Robert Jacobs concluded the conference with a closing ceremony that was enjoyed by all.
Newly elected Executive Members to SAUPJ, WPJ-SA, SACRED and SAFPJ:
SAUPJ—Steve Lurie (Chair), Alvin Kushner (Vice-Chair), Anthony Arkin (Vice-Chair), Monica Solomon (Treasurer), Lynton Travis (PR), Sivan Zeffertt (Mazkirah), Giddy Lief (President WPJ-SA), Jacob Hurwitz (Exec. Director), Hayley Brown (Secretary). WPJ-SA (formerly SAUTS)—Giddy Lief (President), Jo Norris (Vice-Pres.), Astrid Broll (Vice-Pres.), Marilyn Trujillo (Secretary), Monica Solomon (Treasurer), Paddy Meskin (Imm. Past Pres.) SAAPR—Rabbi Robert Jacobs (Chair), SACRED—Lynton Travis, Rabbi Robert Jacobs, Monica Solomon, Eric Beswick, Adina Roth, Dora Wynchak, Prof. David Bilchitz, Charlotte Fischer (Exec. Director) SAFPJ—Desmond Sweke (Chair), Steve Lurie, Lynton Travis, Dr Paul Davis, Rabbi Robert Jacobs, Jacob Hurwitz.