Issue #558

2 March 2017 // 4 Adar 5777

Limited Space Available at CONNECTIONS 2017: Register Today to Join us in Jerusalem May 17-20, 2017

First Seminar of the Eastern European Council of Reform Rabbis Launches in Moscow

Bringing Netzer, Israel and Global Youth Engagement to North American Youth at the NFTY Convention in Chicago

In the News
Join the World Union at Upcoming Events
Announcements: In Our Lives & Communities
Dear Reader

Upcoming Events

Limited Space Available at CONNECTIONS 2017: Register Today to Join us in Jerusalem May 17-20, 2017

With May just a few months away, CONNECTIONS 2017 is nearing its maximum capacity! More than three hundred participants, from over twenty countries, have already signed up for this exciting four-day conference. If you haven’t taken a look at our confirmed sessions and presenters, please visit our website and register today before registration closes!

Join us in Jerusalem for CONNECTIONS 2017.
Limited spaces are available - sign up today!

Due to security and capacity requirements, we will be unable to offer day passes for CONNECTIONS 2017, including for spouses or partners, with the exception of the opening gala (for which separate registration will be available later this month). Credentials will be checked at all conference entrance points. 

Click here to register today!

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First Seminar of the Eastern European Council of Reform Rabbis Launches in Moscow

The first seminar of the Eastern European Council of Reform Rabbis took place in Moscow February 20-22, 2017 with Rabbis Alex Dukhovny (Ukraine), Julia Gris (Ukraine), Gregory Abramovich (Belarus), Alexander Lyskovoy (Russia), Leonid Bimbat (Russia), and Elena Rubinstein (Russia) in attendance.

Rabbis from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia attending the first seminar
for the Eastern European Council of Reform Rabbis in Moscow

“Everyone knows that it is the rabbis who are called upon by their congregations, communities and individuals to not only teach, but also lead. I have no doubt that the most important component of our position as rabbis is our role as teachers – and with that our ongoing educational, academic and spiritual growth. Understanding this facet of our position was the catalyst for this initiative, for our region to mobilize and launch a council of rabbis and organize such a seminar,” says Rabbi Elena Rubinstein, Chairperson of the Eastern European Council of Reform Rabbis. 

The seminar program comprised Jewish text study, discussions and lectures on various aspects of tradition, philosophy and Jewish history supplemented with site visits to the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow where the group explored photographs and historical documentation of the Jews in Russia. 

Rabbis of the Eastern European Council of Reform Rabbis
in Moscow visiting the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center

During discussions, Rabbis addressed urgent issues of the Reform movement’s efforts and impact in the FSU, including training Netzer youth movement leaders; upcoming summer camp registration and educational subjects; conversion (giyur); the Institute for Modern Jewish Studies; and more. Valery Sheinin and Dr. Alex Kagan joined the group through video calls on behalf of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ); future plans will include holding these seminars more regularly with the help of the World Union.

The inaugural seminar took place over the weekend of Shabbat Shkalim, in which the Torah portion is devoted to the annual general contribution to the Temple. About this coincidence, Rabbi Elena Rubinstein noted, “I am convinced that this rabbis’ seminar, dedicated to the professional development, scientific and emotional growth, is our ‘contribution’ to the Temple which we are building every day in our hearts and in the hearts of our community members and students."

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Bringing Netzer, Israel and Global Youth Engagement to North American Youth at the NFTY Convention in Chicago
By Lior Argaman

On February 17-20, 2017, I left the Netzer Shnatties to fend for themselves while I headed to the biennial for North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) Convention in Chicago, with more than 1,000 youth, young adults and movement professionals from North America in attendance. The three-day convention was a celebration of youth, activism and Reform Judaism. My role in attending was both familiarizing myself with NFTY leadership and goals, and representing Netzer Olami to young, Reform Jewish North Americans. 

It was fascinating to be a part of such a well-organized, professional and enthusiastic event. Seeing 1,000 people come together for Shabbat services, singing their hearts out, speaking about pluralism in Israel and how to be activists – well, it’s everything we at Netzer Olami believe in and more. 

Friday Night Shabbat Services (Photo: Courtesy of NFTY)

Representing Israel along with me was Nadav Shachmon, Director of Noar Telem, Israel’s Reform Jewish Youth Movement that is also a regional branch of Netzer Olami. Nadav, like me, is a former Shaliach for the Progressive movement and for Netzer in Melbourne, Australia. Nadav led an educational workshop about the state of religious and social pluralism in Israel, and spoke about his own experiences regarding same-sex marriage in Israel.  

From left: Nadan Shachmon, Director of Noar Telem;
Lior Argaman, Director of Shnat Netzer for Netzer Olami;
and Naomi Segal, a Shnat Netzer graduate and NFTY Youth Advisor 

Discussing Israel, Reform Jewish Zionism and Netzer with so many young people in North America was eye opening for all involved. NFTY joined Netzer as a regional branch in 2005, adopting the same principles of youth empowerment and engagement, social justice, Reform Judaism and more. NFTY also employs the Netzer platform, or charter, in its activities. 

Since 2005, there have been some notable collaborations between NFTY and Netzer, including:
  • Welcoming NFTY movement graduates and North American young adults to Shnat Netzer. To date, 40 North Americans have joined young Reform Jews from Australia, England, Europe and South Africa on this transformative ten-month Israel leadership program.
  • Our annual Netzer Veida, or international conference, recruits notable leaders from each Netzer branch – including NFTY – for a five-day young adult strategy and planning seminar in Jerusalem. 
  • Netzer graduates (bogrim) attend Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) summer camps across North America as educators, leaders and representatives of Israel. 
Being at NFTY convention gave me the opportunity to represent Netzer Olami in-person, and to talk about the movement and its activities through meaningful personal encounters. Many of the young adults I met with had never heard of Netzer and did not know about their potential to continue as young adult leaders in the Reform movement through Netzer programs. Others, including the Shnat Netzer graduates who are now NFTY Youth Directors, not only knew about us but also spoke movingly about how their experiences with Netzer helped them transform and advance, and afforded them new opportunities to grow as leaders in the movement. 

I met with URJ Summer Camp Directors who come to Israel once a year, NFTY and URJ leaders who are planning their first visit to Israel soon, and new shlichim who represent Israel across North America. I also met with graduates of NFTY’s EIE high school program where students spend a semester in Israel learning about and experiencing the country firsthand. The chance to speak with them in-person – about the impact of their being in Israel, their involvement with Netzer, or their exposure to Reform Judaism in Israel – was invaluable. 

From left:  Miriam Chilton, URJ Vice President/Youth;
Rabbi Reuven Greenvald URJ Director of Israel Engagement;
Lior Argaman, Director of Shnat Netzer at Netzer Olami;
Nadav Shachmon, Director of Noar Telem;
and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, URJ President
(Photo: Courtesy of Lior Argaman)

One of the most inspiring experiences I had was seeing the NFTY Board in action: their influence on participants, their level of understanding and communication with professional staff, and their commitment to social justice and empowerment of youth to stand up for what they believe in. 

Attending the NFTY convention, I felt the strengthening of the relationship between NFTY and Netzer Olami, which will hopefully lead to more collaborations between us as well. I strongly believe in our shared potential for growth and impact. Overall, being among enthusiastic and driven young adults felt like…. home. 

About the Author:
Lior Argaman of the Director of Shnat Netzer in Jerusalem for Netzer Olami, the global Reform Zionist youth movement of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). A seasoned educator and leader, Lior also served as a shlicha in Australia for several years.

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In the News

“We are women – hear us pray”
By Emma S. Jacobs, Times of Israel

A Shnat Netzer participant from RSY Netzer in the UK, Emma recently wrote this blog post for the Times of Israel following her experiences attending prayers at the Kotel with Women of the Wall on February 27, 2017, which was Rosh Chodesh Adar. “Today one of the holiest sites in Jerusalem was engulfed in protest. It helped me connect with religion in a way I never have before,” writes Emma.

Praying at the Kotel with Women of the Wall
Photo: Courtesy of Emma Jacobs / Times of Israel

Eloquent and hard-hitting, Emma captures the complexities of religious pluralism in Israel from the perspective of an outsider just starting to find her place in Israeli society as a Reform Jew. 

To read the full blog post, click here. 

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Join the World Union at Upcoming Events

Best practices in Reform Jewish Education: The Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators, July 13-23, 2017

Educating the educators is one of the Bergman Seminar’s guiding principles. An intensive ten-day program for Progressive Jewish Educators from around the world, the Bergman Seminar, led by the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ)’s Anita Saltz International Education Center, combines classroom and text study with site visits and face-to-face encounters with individuals and educational projects that explore the multitude of Jewish narratives inside and outside of Israel. 

2016 Bergman seminar participants practice project-based
learning and alternative STEM approaches at the
innovative ecological classroom of Ein Shemer

For more information, including the schedule and fees, click here.

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Experience Jewish Camping Around the World: Join the WUPJ Mission to Netzer Summer Camps in Ukraine, Germany and France, July 19-30, 2017

This July, join Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) on a special ten-day mission to experience and learn more about Netzer Summer camps across Ukraine, Germany and France. See first-hand how we’re reviving Jewish identity and engagement through camping among the next generation. 


Join the WUPJ Summer Mission in July 2017 to Netzer Summer Camps in Ukraine, Germany and France. 

Click here for details, including fees and itinerary.

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Announcements: In Our Lives & Communities

The World Union Connects at Kehilat YOZMA in Modi’in, Israel

Friday night services at Kehilat YOZMA in Modi’in, Israel were enriched by the presence of many distinguished guests and visitors on February 24, 2017. Lay leaders and professionals of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), joined Rabbis Philip Nadel, Kinneret Shiryon, Alona Nir-Keren and Nir Barkin, as well as visitors from Temple Barnert in New Jersey and their Rabbi Elyse Frishman for prayers and blessings. 

From left: Andrew Keene (USA), Executive Board Member and
CONNECTIONS Chair; Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander (USA), President;
Danny Jaffe (Israel), CFO; Sonja Guentner (Germany),
Executive Board Member and CONNECTIONS Chair;
David Robinson (New Zealand), Vice Chair,
Finance, Management Committee;
In front: Ziva (and daughter Tzofia) Haller Rubenstein
(Israel), Director, Marketing & Communications;
Carole Sterling (Canada), Chair; and Noya Jaffe (Israel)

All guests enjoyed home hospitality for Shabbat dinner, hosted by congregational members, leaders and rabbis.

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Condolences to Lynn Magid Lazar on the Passing of her Father

The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) expresses its deepest condolences to Lynn Magid Lazar on the passing of her father, Arthur Friedland z”l, a beloved member of B’er Chayim Temple in Maryland. Lynn and her husband, Dale, are cherished lay leaders of the World Union and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), including the Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ). We wish their family much strength during these difficult days of mourning. 

May the memory of their loved one be a blessing for generations to come.

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Upcoming Events

May 13-17, 2017 - Pursue Justice: Seminar for Legal Professionals, Jerusalem, Israel

May 17-20, 2017 - CONNECTIONS 2017, Jerusalem, Israel

July 13-23, 2017 - The Bergman Seminar for Jewish Educators, Jerusalem, Israel

July 19-30, 2017 - WUPJ/Netzer Summer Youth Camp Mission, Europe 

December 6-10, 2017 - The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial Conference, Boston, USA

February 17-24, 2018 - Igniting the Musical Jewish Soul, Caribbean Cruise

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