FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WUPJ CONFERENCE OPENS WITH MILESTONES AND MUSIC
NATAN SHARANSKY HELPS TRANSITION 500 YEAR-OLD TORAH SCROLL BETWEEN DEAF PROGRESSIVE COMMUNITIES
(JERUSALEM, Israel – May 17, 2017) On Wednesday evening, May 17, the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) hosted a gala opening ceremony at the Olmaya Hall on Jerusalem’s Haas Promenade to launch the 38th annual CONNECTIONS conference (www.wupjconnections.org).
Centered around the theme “Milestones & Innovations,” in celebration of the WUPJ’s 90th anniversary, the four-day biennial event drew over 450 lay leaders, rabbis, students and congregants from Progressive, Reform, and Liberal communities from 30 countries, all of whom were in attendance at Olmaya to partake in the celebration of a new milestone for the members of WUPJ’s international community.
The evening began with the leadership of Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf in Southern California presenting a Torah Scroll, a European treasure dating back to the 1500s that survived the Holocaust and has resided in their Temple for the last several decades, to the leadership of Kehillat Sheket, the only Deaf congregation in the city of Minsk in the Republic of Belarus. Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, to whom the Torah’s destination was particularly meaningful, joined the presentation to help complete the circle and send the Torah back to its birthplace.
“The World Union for Progressive Judaism represents Progressive Jews in over 40 countries, 30 of which are represented here in Jerusalem this evening. It is crucial that all of our international delegates participate in this wonderful display of Jewish continuity because it highlights the Reform Movement’s ongoing efforts to connect all Jews with our rich tradition,” said Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President of the WUPJ.
“We must remain vigilant in this endeavor and continue to drive home the importance of connection, especially in light of the large numbers of young Jews who are disengaging rapidly. The presence of almost 100 young adults under the age of 30 at this conference is a clear step in the right direction. We recognize the role that the next generation must play in order to keep Progressive Judaism vibrant and relevant.”
Later in the evening, the crowd was treated to a variety of musical performance by Boaz Dorot, Shimon Smith & Band, and the HaZamir Choir.
The conference will mark yet another milestone on Thursday morning at Robinson’s Arch, near the Western Wall, where a group of 12 South American women ages 40-60 will be called to the Torah for the first to participate in their collective ceremonial Bat Mitzvah celebration. This milestone had been left unmarked for decades due to a local policy that disallowed female participation during Torah reading. A new progressive stance in the region now allows women to participate equally in Jewish worship. Once again, all 450 conference participants will be in attendance.
The CONNECTIONS conference will also feature workshops from world-class speakers, group learning and prayer sessions, and networking and touring opportunities that will allow participants to look back on significant events in Israeli, general Jewish, and Progressive Jewish history, and examine Progressive Judaism’s ability to innovate at every turn. The participants will also gain tangible skills that they can bring back to their home communities.
The World Union for Progressive Judaism (wupj.org) is the international umbrella organization of the Reform, Liberal, Progressive and Reconstructionist movements, serving 1,200 congregations with 1.8 million members in more than 40 countries. Headquartered in Jerusalem, the WUPJ represents the largest body of Jews in the world who seek a traditional yet contemporary expression of their Jewish spiritual, cultural and religious identity. The WUPJ supports the Progressive Zionist Youth Movement, Netzer Olami, and the TaMaR Progressive Young Adult Movement.
It is the World Union’s goal to ensure that all Jews have access to a vibrant and personally meaningful Jewish life that can best inspire them spiritually and ensure the future of the Jewish People, whether in the State of Israel or throughout the Diaspora.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Ziva Haller Rubenstein
Director, Marketing & Communications
World Union for Progressive Judaism