Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
We hope you are well!
So we thought last week was packed… who knew it can get even more packed??? Let me give you a glimpse into the last eight days on Shnat Netzer-
Wednesday- opening event of CONNECTIONS- WOW!
Thursday- Bnot Mitzvah for members of WUPJ-LA at the Kotel; themed tours; shnattim outing with their home movement workers
Friday- sessions at CONNECTIONS, including Asha, Mili and Liat's session about Youth leading Youth; Mega Kabbalat Shabbat; Netzer and TaMaR Friday night meal, and Farewell to the one and only, but really!- Maoz Haviv.
Shabbat- beautiful morning service; afternoon tours, including Mili and Tilda's old city tour; schmoozing time; Netzer HAVDALLAH!!!
And this week-messy days with President Trump in Israel; Yom Yerushalayim; Etgar on Chinuch Seminar; Machon last Movement Track day
So much has happened, so it is not surprising that so much is written below, by our shnattim Adam K.B., Joshi Nirens, Tom Smith, Nathaniel Knoll; Rabbi Josh Weinberg- President of ARZA; and Rabbi Daniel Freelander- President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Hope you find it all interesting!
Wishing you all a peaceful Shabbat
Weekly update by Adam Keren Black and Joshi Nirens
What a busy week it has been!!
We had the WUPJ CONNECTIONS conference in the first part of the week. While it was a very stimulating few days, the reactions from our kvutsah were definitely mixed. We definitely felt some disconnection between us, the youth, and the older generations present who were running the event. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a great deal of it, and we did feel able to establish ourselves as Netzer and enter into good discourse with the WUPJ. We were also given the opportunity to run a couple of sessions over the conference, such as a session on youth leading youth, a walking tour of the old city of Jerusalem, and a havdallah service, which will stand out in our memories as a empowering experience.
On Sunday, we went back to our usual sessions, and it definitely became apparent that we are in our last few weeks of Etgar! Our chinuch and hadracha session was particularly enjoyable, as for the past few sessions we have been organising and running peulot for one another. This week were the final three pairs, who ran engaging sessions on topics such as perspective and the universe, self-love, and the importance of kvutsah.
On Monday morning, Hannah’s brother came to visit after travelling in South America. She woke up very, VERY early in the morning to meet him at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, and needless to say, Hannah was over the moon. Our first session of the day was Gender & Us, where we watched a documentary about black gay men in New York City, and about the drag and wider LGBTQIAA+ community throughout the 1980s. We had a really in depth discussion about the nature of the ‘masks’ that we all wear and if there really is a true self or if it’s just more layers of ‘masks’ below the surface.
We had a fantastic vegan shwarma lunch made by our favourite person ever, Julia, who makes us the best food when we are on seminars, this seminar specifically being Chinuch Seminar. Thanks to a significant member of the United States Government, the bus ride to our lovely hostel by the bank of the kinneret was significantly earlier than planned. On the evening of our arrival, we read a reflection of Shnat maya'an and RSY-Netzer madricha, Charley Katan on the issues Netzer Olami, her snif face, both independently and through their relationship. She had some interesting insights into the problems with the Netzer movement as a whole, and her presentation of a solution to the issues brought about some in-depth conversations about alternate ways to solve the problems she presented.
Over the past month or so, we’ve been working in chevrutot with a wide variety of knowledgeable mentors to investigate various topics that we felt were deeply important to our ideological fulfilment, and today (Wednesday) we presented them to each other through peulot. The peulot ranged on topics from the nature of Judaism, to a practical approach to achieving Olam Metukan. And every one of the peulot ran today guided us to a deeper understanding and connection to these important ideological concepts.
It’s getting late and we want to make sure we’re fully rested for the remainder of the seminar. Tomorrow, we have exciting peer-led outdoor training sessions as part of our communal effort sessions, and a mysterious sikkum session with Danit and Ady before a very kef ending at the beach!!
Until next time!
Your madrichim shavui’im,
Adam KB, and Joshi Nirens
Weekly update by Tom Smith
This week has been a whirlwind to say the least. Just over a week has passed now since the opening of CONNECTIONS. The opening extravaganza included an outstanding speech from Natan Sharansky (The Head of the Jewish Agency for Israel) and lots of introductions to big names in the Anglo-Progressive Jewish world.
Thursday came around and we initiated very tense discussions within the Machzor of our views of Jerusalem Day which crept into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a clear divide between Us and Habonim-Dror and then Betar and Hineini. Just another great example of how we try and learn in the pluralistic setting with such conflicting ideologies, really helping us in particular to understand our personal beliefs more whilst hearing an opposite side.
Friday came and off we walked to Beit Shmuel to see what the fuss about CONNECTIONS was. I came and sat in on an amazing sessions led by the previous head of the European Union of Progressive Judaism about the Communal leadership within Judaism and another session on how to market your local congregation. Then, that night I partook in one of the most empowering moments as a Progressive Jew in my life, where hundreds (RSY put 1000 on their Instagram) gathered for a Kabbala Shabbat service at First Station, which concluded with a joint Netzer-Tamar dinner at Cafe Landwer. This included a heartfelt goodbye to the incomparable Maoz!
Skip through a Shacharit at the top of Beit Shmuel, have we heard this before, joint led by Boger of Machon Rabbi Charlie Beginsky (and LJY) and past another amazing lunch we had a LGBTQ tour of Jerusalem. This really opened my eyes and I learnt that buildings and parks I walk past on a weekly basis have such significance to the city of Jerusalem. That evening, after a week and half of stress and rehearsals me and all the other Shnattim did Havdallah for the whole CONNECTIONS and the atmosphere and positive reaction really blew me away and set the scene for an amazing bluegrass, Jewish band.
Sunday morning of Machon we had a Limmud where different movements explored different ideas in preparation for Shavuot. We decided as Netzer to run a short discussion on what Shavuot represented to us as Jews and what sort of Jew we want to be whether we empower ourselves continually or maintain the empowerment of Sinai.
On Monday morning we had the incredible Jeremy Leigh talked us through the impact of the French Revolution on European Jewry which is something I have never imagined and one of my friends from Betar described it as "a great, great class". Then in the afternoon we had Movement Day at Beit Shmuel however thanks to Trump it meant all the other Machoniks bar me were held up for 40 minutes or so.
First thing Tuesday morning we hopped on a bus with our guide Jamie and we visited the sites around Jerusalem relating to the 1967 War, including the only hill surrounding Jerusalem that was Israeli held pre-67, the Citadel. We then has another discussion on how the war impacted the area and how the old road to Jerusalem had been a single, vulnerable road through an oh so narrow corridor. Then the evening was Yom Yerushalayim where partying occurred long into the night, however as a little counter culture a handful of Netzerniks stayed in Kiryat Moriah and discovered you can put the Shema to Walking on Sunshine, instant classic.
Today (Wednesday), we had an in depth session with Michael Livni describing how we educate, power/behaviour within people and how movements can impact people for the better. As an educator, he has vast amounts of knowledge and I feel very happy I was able to hear him speak for the fourth time on Shnat. After, we heard him speak we quickly hoped on a bus (missed the first) and went over to Jaffa Gate to hand out flowers of peace as a counter to certain people in the March who incite violence of which this is a minority.
And to top of the day, I saw Manchester Utd win the Europa League with 4 others and our Dutch friend really getting passionate and screaming as loud as he can in Dutch "come on Ajax!" Unfortunately it was not to be but as a Machzor we look forward to this coming closed Shabbat where we (I am running one) have planned activities over the weekend to come together more as a group and I think Netzer will be going to a Nava Tehila service of which will be my first since Simchat Torah in my first week of Shnat......
Today I believe is a month till I fly home and I want to say that unbelievable, indescribable the best year of my life truly undersells how transformative Shnat is and the impact it has on the many who do it after Nof.
The two faces of Yom Yerushalayim
Nathaniel Knoll, Shnat Netzer Nof South
Yom Yerushalayim commemorates and celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem during the 6 day war. This year's celebration was particularly notable as the 50th anniversary of the reunification. The streets of West Jerusalem were packed with people dancing, partying and parading. Meanwhile, East Jerusalem has once again been partially evacuated to “protect” the Palestinian citizens from a fringe group of violent extremists who, each year on this day, take it upon themselves to knock on Palestinian doors and scream at the residents about how this is the Jewish city and they should all leave. And this is the milder form of violence committed.
Don't get me wrong, I think it is wonderful to celebrate the fact that once again the Jewish people have managed to survive a war and retain the state of Israel. However, I think it is very important to recognise the other side of Yom Yerushalayim to realise that, as we celebrate, some of those who live in Israel are mourning, feeling unsafe and tensions arise.
The problem is not only due to the fringe group committing acts of violence towards Palestinians, but also one that is similar in nature to the debate over the date of Australia Day. The main argument against Australia Day being on the 26th of January is that the chosen day marks the beginning of a long period of violence, oppression and other atrocities towards to Aboriginal community. Similarly, Yom Yerushalayim marks the beginning of a period wherein the West Bank region was no longer part of Jordan, and Palestinian citizens became second-class citizens of Israel with less rights and lower quality of life.
Today I went with my youth movement, Netzer, to join a form of peaceful activism that recognises the duality of Yom Yerushalayim. We gathered flowers tagged with stickers marked “Flowers of Peace” in English, Hebrew and Arabic, and took them to the Jaffa Gate where we handed them out to as many passers-by as we could. The goal of this was to simply spread peace and make people a bit happier. We gave no words except for “would you like a flower for peace?”. I would like to share with you the responses we got. Some individuals came up and asked for flowers. Some of them knew what this was about, others just wanted a flower. Some would thank us and gratefully accept the flowers we offered to them, and some would simply take them and walk on. Some avoided our group entirely. Some said “Peace? I don't want peace!” and took the flowers to stomp on or refused to take them at all. One individual remarked that “having peace in Israel is like having a soccer game without the soccer”. These mixed responses truly represent the situation in Israel. Some people will happily have peace but won't work for it. Some will do what they can to achieve peace. Some are entirely impartial and some don't want peace at all.
This was my Yom Yerushalayim experience in Jerusalem that I wanted to share with my home community- the Emanuel Community. I hope that each of you who read this can still happily celebrate Yom Yerushalayim, and I do hope that your Yom Yerushalayim this year was a joyous one. I only ask that as you celebrate, you also acknowledge that there is more to this day, and that we should not just ignore the face of the coin that we don't like, because that will not change the fact that it is there.
Thoughts on Yom Yerushalayim
By Rabbi Josh Weinberg, President of ARZA
I do not travel to Jerusalem, I return (to paraphrase the poet Yitzhak Yasinowitz). I pick up where I left off, visiting friends old and new, arriving at former stomping grounds and watering holes to find them still pulsing or others torn down and rebuilt in the ever evolving life that lays down strata upon strata of this city of ours. I’m not sure what a unified city would look like. Is Paris unified? London? New York? LA? Bangkok? Madrid? One thing I can say is that Jerusalem is not. Not to contradict the psalmist: "Jerusalem built up, a city knit together."
There is West Jerusalem and East, Arab Jerusalem and Jewish Jerusalem, Jerusalem of Haredim, Masortim, liberals, secular, mizrahim and Ashkenzaim. The Yekkes of one neighborhood vs the hippies of another. There is the Jerusalem of poets, philosophers, professors and politicians. There is Jerusalem of Halakha and Jerusalem of Aggadah. Jerusalem of on high and Jerusalem of down below. Each Jerusalem identity boils over onto another, blurring the lines of people, characters, and stories.
Today is the 28th of Iyyar, a day on which the State of Israel and Jews around the world celebrate the unification of Jerusalem. I returned to Jerusalem last week, joining the CONNECTIONS Convention of the World Union of Progressive Judaism, and would like to share some thoughts on Yom Yerushalayim, its meaning and my experiences of the past week. Of course a quick shout out of Kol HaKavod to the WUPJ Staff, Sonja Guenter, Andrew Keene, and Yair Lootstein for a truly phenomenal convention.
All Quiet on the Western Wall
In the Eighth Chapter of the book of Nehemia we read about what is likely the first documented public Torah reading in our history. Ezra, coming from Bavel, had it as his mission to bring a new Torah to a nation recently returned to their home. He assembled all the people at the water gate, read the Torah, translated it and celebrated. The people, overwhelmed with emotion, wept.
Learning from Ezra, this week we held our own public Torah reading in the main plaza of the Kotel. After a moving tfilah where 12 women from Brazil became Bnot Mitzvah and were called to the Torah for the first time, we brought Torah scrolls to the main plaza and heard Rabbi Naama Kelman read out loud in public. And you know what? Nothing happened. The sky didn’t fall, and the Haredi hecklers largely ignored us. No, it was not Rosh Hodesh, just a Thursday morning. Just imagine if we didn’t have to protest and wonder if they will let us in with Torah scrolls? The plans exist, now we just need to make it happen.
50 years of…
Leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Six Day war, I took a group of young people from around the world (members of our movement’s Tamar Olami) to get a very basic understanding of the diversity and complexity of the Jewish communities over the Green line. There is a great deal of discourse around the question of settlement, it’s always on the news and frequently at the heart of debate among Israel’s critics and those that love her dearly. But how often do we stop and ask those who live there what they think and how they feel? That was the goal of our day, and our conversations with our hosts touched at the very core of the debate about the sanctity of the Land, the nature of how we relate to our neighbors, and the prospects for a one or two state arrangement.
The details and conversations were passionate, lengthy, and often enlightening, and I listened with great intent to the pragmatism and conviction of my Judean friends. There were some things I agreed with, most others I don’t, and (partially due to time constraints) they were presented way too simplistically. Let’s be clear, there is no question that all of Judea is the Land of the Bible, the Land of our forefathers and mothers. This is where [some of] Jewish history took place, but does that necessarily have to dictate where the Jewish future takes place?
There is of course much more to be said. To continue reading click here.
By Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander , 18/5/17
Evvery four years, Progressive Jews from around the world would pilgrimage to Jerusalem to learn with and from each other and to forge personal connections with the holy land. Though framed as a conference, the experiences at CONNECTIONS transcend the usual workshops and networking, as it truly serves as medium for fostering a sense of belonging among participants to both Israel and the Jewish people.
In 1973, the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), the global organization for which I serve as President, moved its headquarters from bustling Manhattan to historic Jerusalem. Less than 12 years later, we established Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon complex as our international headquarters in Jerusalem; the campus of which is shared with the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the Hebrew Union College – Jerusalem Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). This was, of course, intended as a statement, that Progressive Jews root themselves in the center of the Jewish world.
To me, Jerusalem represents the true essence of Progressive Judaism. Just as Jerusalem is at once a link to our past and a conduit to our vibrant economic and cultural future, Judaism must use its vast inheritance, our rich history, to propel Judaism ever forward. As a movement, we must root ourselves in Jerusalem in order to become a unified movement for inclusion, equality and unfettered progress that can really impact change.
By hosting our biennial conference, CONNECTIONS, in Jerusalem every four years, we reaffirm this statement that we made over four decades ago: That Jerusalem is unifying for all Jews and that the “City of Gold” is the epicenter of the Jewish World both symbolically and spiritually – an epicenter that embodies our anxieties, our commitments and our hopes for the Jewish future.
It is specifically in Jerusalem that we bring together Reform Jews from all over the world to assert together, in a magnified voice, the right of Jews to practice Progressive Judaism wherever they choose to live.
This year we are bringing together over 450 lay leaders, rabbis, students and congregants from Progressive, Reform, and Liberal communities from 30 countries. And, for the first time ever, a quarter of those delegates will be “home grown,” proud Israelis with wisdom, experience and inspiration to spare.
Our conference will mark the first time Progressive rabbinic students from all Reform rabbinic training institutions, including the major Progressive seminaries in North America, Germany, Israel, the FSU and the United Kingdom, will gather to learn together. This reflects our strong belief that Judaism will become even more global in the 21st century, requiring 21st century rabbis and leaders to actively engage with the rapid-fire changes of our world.
And what will we DO at our conference? Celebrate new milestones and make new statements, of course. To open the conference, the leadership of Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf in Southern California will present a 500-year-old Torah scroll, a European treasure dating back to the 1500s that survived the Holocaust and has resided in their synagogue 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.
The study of Torah is central to all of our congregations, and the acquisition of a Torah scroll is a time for great celebration. This ceremony in Jerusalem is intended as a physical demonstration of Jewish continuity, as we are sending this Torah “home” to be used and cherished by an active congregation, as a well as a statement that no one group of Jews ‘owns’ Torah. For that matter, no one group of Jews owns prayer or our holy places either.
Indeed, both of our unifying forces, the Torah and Jerusalem, belong to us all. No one group has the right to decide upon the “authenticity” of other Jews and ban them from areas in our holiest of cities, and every group has the responsibility to advance Jewish unity and the accessibility of Jerusalem to all.
It is the Reform Movement’s mandate to connect all Jews with our rich tradition, and we must remain vigilant in this endeavor, doing everything in our power to drive home the centrality of Torah, 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 our conference demonstrates our commitment to shape the future of our movement and of Judaism itself with Jews of all ages, levels of ability and religious origin. We recognize the role that the next generation must play in order to keep Judaism vibrant and relevant. We cherish their participation and leadership.
It is fortuitous — and also quite fitting — that the World Union’s 90th anniversary coincides with celebrations for Jerusalem’s Jubilee year. Throughout our history, Jerusalem has evolved and Progressive Judaism has found brilliant ways to innovate at every turn. The milestones that we have achieved to date, those that we plan to mark with great fanfare during our conference as well as those that lie ahead, speak to the strength, vision and staying power of our global movement.
Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander is the President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), the international umbrella organization of the Reform, Liberal, Progressive and Reconstructionist movements. The WUPJ represents 2 million Jews and 1,200 synagogues in 40 countries around the globe. The organization will be hosting the 38th annual CONNECTIONS conference in Jerusalem from May 17-20: www.wupjconnections.org.
From IRAC's Newsletter
Yesterday [18/5/17], we made history again. Men and women joined together in the upper plaza of the Kotel and led an egalitarian service that included reading from our own Torah scrolls. This was led by IRAC as part of the World Union for Progressive Judaism's (WUPJ) Connections conference, was attended by more than 450 Reform Jews from around the world.
We were not sure if it was going to happen. We were the first people to show up at the entrance with a Torah in hand. Security guards stopped us and asked whether we knew that it was against the Kotel rabbi's regulations to let a woman carry a Torah to the Kotel. We told them that we knew about the regulation, that it was in fact illegal, and that they should let us pass.
After a few moments of hesitation they backed down. With WUPJ's help, we had five Torah scrolls enter the plaza and we used them to read together (men and women) in front of the Western Wall.
We came, we prayed, and we read from the Torah. There was no conflict, and this day shows that there is no need for conflict between Jews who simply want to pray and read Torah in their own way.
We want to thank all of our friends and partners at WUPJ for their help and support. No matter what happens next time you can count on IRAC to be there to continue fighting for equality at the Kotel. Stand with us!
Anat Hoffman and Rabbi Noa Sattath
The Havdallah Netzer ran on CONNECTIONS 2017!
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,
Lior and the Netzer staff
This may be the first weekly update you receive directly from us, and is part of our goal to have more direct and open communication with all our partners in this program
if you think there is anyone else that should receive this weekly updates, please send me their details
As always, the local Netzer Branch is always there for you as well