What I Discovered
What To Know…
What To See…
What To Do
MY BIG SMALL WORLD
BUENOS AIRES CAPETOWN
RJ INSIDER’S JEWISH
WORLD TRAVEL GUIDE
How to make friends with Reform Jews in 49 countries * Where to go, what to see, how to connect.
‘ y a d G o p l m Xf Bienvenue Welcome
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RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE TOWORLD JEWISH TRAVEL
My Big Small Jewish World By Eileen Winter
ast Spring, my husband Ken ly young professionals and a few “elder hours. We were exhausted. There was and I decided to tour Eastern statesmen” sitting in rows of chairs. We really one motivation to refresh ourEurope to experience the part took the only open seats—two overselves and head out to Beit Warszawa: of the world our ancestors had Rabbi Gil Nativ was personally expect- stuffed armchairs toward the back. left behind. About It was easy to feel part of the four weeks before our departure, service. Although the readings in the midst of my researching were in Polish, Rabbi Gil Nativ cities to visit, I picked up the spoke to everyone in English— mail—and lo and behold, there whether that was because the was the Spring 2013 issue of vast majority of congregants Reform Judaism magazine with understood English, or because its “World Jewish Travel Guide” the congregation is committed Cover Story and an article by to making English-speaking Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor visitors feel included, I don’t offering to connect readers know, but it was wonderful for with Progressive synagogues us. The service was full of singworldwide. I was thrilled! ing, the songs entirely in Within 20 minutes of my Hebrew, and most tunes, such emailing Rabbi Bretton-Granaas V’Shamru, familiar to us, so toor of the World Union for we gladly sang along. Progressive Judaism, he sent Every Kabbalat Shabbat serme the names of the rabbis, vice at Beit Warszawa is typiKEN AND ME AT RYNEK GŁÓWNY / MAIN MARKET SQUARE, KRAKOW. presidents, and administrators of cally followed by Kiddush and a the Progressive congregations in Warsaw, ing us at services that evening. buffet dinner. Rabbi Nativ had invited us Budapest, and Prague. He also asked to join the 40 people partaking in authenOne of the most harrowing taxi rides them to assist me in planning my itinerin my life ended in front of a non-descript tic Polish cuisine—salads, soup, cheeses, ary. Before long, I was exchanging pierogies, dumplings, and desserts— commercial building with a sign reading emails in English with welcoming people “Beit Warszawa.” But where was the along with discussion and camaraderie. across the world. entrance to the synagogue? We wandered At our table, a man regaled us with stointo one doorway, only to be redirected to ries of Polish history, the modern Jewish ♦♦♦ community in Warsaw, and a legend another building farther back from the We arrived in Warsaw on a Friday we’d never heard of: a 16th-century Jew street. There, a nice older gentleman in a afternoon, after traveling more than 18 white jacket and kippah who didn’t speak named Saul who became King of Poland for a single day while the reigning couna word of English led us upstairs. cil of the time decided between three Eileen Winter is a member of Temple The small prayer space was filled Emanuel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. almost to capacity with 50 people, most- contenders to the throne! (We later found the legend documented on Wikipedia.) In a surprising coincidence, my husband Ken discovered that the father of Beit Warszawa congregant Michael Levi he Reform Judaism magazine editors express their gratitude to the had designed a refinery in the Bahamas following donors, whose generous contributions made this “RJ Insider’s that had been recently purchased by my Guide to World Jewish Travel” possible: Jean and Jay Abarbanel, Austin and husband’s friend’s company. At the end of Nani Beutel, Stephen K. Breslauer, James and Linda Cherney, The Golomb the evening, Michael drove us back to our Family, Anne Molloy and Henry Posner III, Rosalyn G. Rosenthal, Jerry hotel, an unexpected gesture of kindness Tanenbaum, and Dolores K. Wilkenfeld. that also allowed us to see the National To explore how you might contribute to a future Insider’s Guide, please Stadium, Old Town, and the Royal Castle contact the editors—Aron Hirt-Manheimer, editor, or Joy Weinberg, managing all lit up at night—experiences we likely editor—at firstname.lastname@example.org. wouldn’t have had on our own.
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© Roy Botterell /Corbis
The following Friday we arrived in Budapest. Making Shabbat services here was going to be easy, we thought. After all, one of the two Progressive synagogues, Sim Shalom, was only down the street from our hotel. Street address in hand, we walked back and forth, back and forth—where was Sim Shalom? Finally, we realized the congregation had to be housed within a nearby apartment building that had an inner courtyard. There we found the temple’s call button and were buzzed inside. We walked up the stairs and into the second-floor apartment. An open room led into a second large room that had been set up for the service: two rows of chairs shaped into a semi-circle, and a small table with Shabbat candles and a Kiddush cup. Ken and I chatted with about a dozen friendly, mostly young people who spoke English, including Rabbi Katalin Kelemen, whose husband Jesse Weil, the synagogue’s treasurer, had written to me, welcoming us to Sim Shalom. Rabbi Kelemen then announced to the congregation that Ken and I were visiting from the United States, and invited me to light the Shabbat candles. What an honor, to participate in the same ritual in Budapest that I had done countless times at my home congregation in New Jersey. I immediately felt “at home.” Like at Beit Warszawa, most of Sim Shalom’s service was musical, led on vocals and guitar by Cantor Miklos Budai and accompanied on drums by a young congregant named David. Except for the melody for the Sh’ma, the songs were mostly unfamiliar to us, but we caught on and sang along. We especially loved the congregation’s version of Lecha Dodi, a catchy Chasidic melody with a “Ya ba ba ba bam” refrain that transported me into the imagined shtetl life of my ancestors. All the prayers were chanted in Hebrew, and we knew them well. The service was in both Hungarian and English, and although we didn’t understand the Hungarian readings, both Ken and I were honored with English readings, contributing to our sense of belonging. Afterwards Sim Shalom held a potluck supper in lieu of an oneg. Our contribution was a cake we’d purchased at
Turning a Vacation into a Homecoming by Gary Bretton-Granatoor
ince the publication of Reform Judaism magazine’s first Guide to Jewish World Travel (Spring 2013), I have fielded dozens of requests by travelers wishing to visit Progressive and Reform congregations around the world. For many of them, the experience of meeting spiritual leaders and Progressive Jews abroad on Shabbat is a kind of revelation: “I am part of a wider Reform Jewish family. In 49 countries around the world I can connect with people like me who are striving to create warm, welcoming, egalitarian, pluralistic Jewish communities.” In North America we are called Reform. In other parts of the world, we are known as Progressive or Liberal (in most of Europe, if you ask for a Reform congregation, you’ll be directed to a Protestant church). How do you find your larger Progressive/Reform/Liberal family when travelling outside North America? The process is different than what you find in North America, where synagogues and Jewish institutions in North America generally have an “open-door” policy and regularly welcome visitors. In most other lands there are pervasive security concerns. Synagogues do not publish their street addresses, return phone calls or emails, or openly declare their presence. A random visitor, even one claiming affiliation
Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor is the Vice President—Philanthropy at the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
with a Reform synagogue in the U.S. or Canada, is likely to be turned away if visiting unannounced. The best way to connect is to have the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), the institution that now serves, nurtures, and supports 1,176 Reform/Progressive/ Liberal Jewish congregations worldwide, make an introduction for you. This process takes time, so be sure to contact us several weeks in advance of your trip. First, go to the World Union for Progressive Judaism website, wupj.org. On the main page, use the dialogue box to search for WUPJ congregations by country and then city. Once you have verified the presence of a congregation in the area you plan to visit, email me, Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor (email@example.com), at the WUPJ’s New York office. Provide your travel dates, where you plan to stay, when you would like to visit the congregation, the number of people in your party, and a way to contact you once you are there (to make sure you are advised of any last minute changes in the synagogue’s plans). If given sufficient time, we can try to arrange a personal visit. Connecting with your “cousins” is a great way to experience a country and a Jewish community. You’ll get insight into the challenges and the triumphs of living as a Jew in that place—and, most of all, you will see that we are all a part of one extended family.
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♦♦♦ The next Friday afternoon we were in Prague, sightseeing. We’d planned to return to our hotel and freshen up before attending Kabbalat Shabbat services at Bejt Simcha, but we’d packed in too much touring and time had gotten away from us. We were tired, windblown, outfitted in sneakers and backpacks, and nowhere near our hotel—and services would be starting soon. My husband and I weighed the options. He felt uncomfortable attending services in such casual clothing; I didn’t want to miss Shabbat in Prague. “Besides,” I pointed out, “They are expecting us! Surely it must be more important to attend the service ‘as we are’ than not to come at all.” I reminded him, too, of our home congregation’s relatively recent tradition where some
and the Maisel Synagogue, set back services are designated “come as you behind an iron fence. When we got to are,” imparting the message that it is more important to worship together then Maiselova 4, the building where Bejt Simcha rents to focus on space for dressing up services, the for the young man occasion. who opened We the door for chose a us could not third alterhave been native: more welarriving at coming. the syna“By all gogue means,” he before the said, “please service and stay and apologizpray with ing to the INTERIOR OF BEJT SIMCHA, PRAGUE. members us; it does for not having had time to make ournot matter how you are dressed.” People started arriving, members as selves more presentable. If, then, it didn’t well as Americans and Canadians visiting seem appropriate to stay, we’d leave. Prague. We struck up a conversation with We walked through Prague’s Jewish David, a 20-something Prague native who quarter, passing the Pinkas Synagogue told us excitedly, in good English, that with its cobblestone drive and white stucco exterior; the King Solomon Kosher he’d be in the U.S. in the summer, having gotten a job teaching Torah to young peoRestaurant, fronted by a clock that uses ple at the URJ’s Kutz Camp in Warwick, the Hebrew alphabet in lieu of numbers;
Photograph by Joseph Getzoff
the Great Market Hall. Unbeknownst to us, the rabbi’s birthday was that week, so our cake served as her impromptu birthday cake. And Ken was also celebrating his birthday that week, so it became a joint celebration!
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New York. Astonishingly, our daughter, Debra, was going to be head songleader at the same camp, and the two had already been in touch on Facebook! It is a small Jewish world indeed. About 25–30 people prayed with us. The siddur was in Hebrew and Czech— but even though I didn’t know a word of Czech, we were reciting the Hebrew prayers in the same order as we did at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and singing the same melodies for the Sh’ma, Lecha Dodi, and V’Shamru. Closing my eyes during some parts of the service, I could have been in New Jersey instead of across the world. ♦♦♦ In our journey to the land of our ancestors, we saw many beautiful landmarks, Shoah memorials, and remnants of Jewish communities long past. I realize now that the experience would not have been complete without our also connecting to a living Judaism, as we did while worshipping with our brethren in Warsaw, Budapest, and Prague on three successive Shabbatot. And, we could not have done this without assistance from the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). Unlike U.S. congregations that typically have stand-alone buildings, most of the Eastern European congregations we visited used prayer spaces tucked away in apartments or courtyards well-off the street. Some did not exhibit signage indicating that a house of worship was within. For their own protection, many synagogues outside North America do not welcome strangers who have not made advance arrangements. Had we not connected with the WUPJ, I’m not sure we would have ever made it to services. We were also struck by how comfortable we felt. Each Jewish community warmly welcomed the stranger into their midst. More people than we expected spoke English, and in Budapest we played an active role in the service. The presence of Hebrew in prayer and song united us in a common bond with our host communities. And it was inspiring to meet other Progressive Jews who worship as we do, share our values, and are part of our Jewish family. I’m already dreaming about my next Progressive adventure abroad!
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RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE TOWORLD JEWISH TRAVEL
Tracks of Time in Jamaican Sands By Aron and Judith Hirt-Manheimer
t Congregation Sha’are Shalom in Kingston, Jamaica, we experienced a Jewish community the likes of which are not to be found anywhere else in the world. Where else does a community’s “Prayer for the People” conclude with an homage to “One Love,” the anthem of Jamaica’s late reggae star Bob Marley: “May the people of our country be safe from strife and affliction and may we…join together in one love, one heart, and let us say amen.”
floor covered in sand, a practice of unknown origin shared by only four other functioning synagogues in the world. Some say the sand came into use to muffle the sounds of marranos, forcibly baptized Jews who continued to practice Judaism in
asked what draws him to the synagogue, he explained that he follows the teaching, “For I give you a good doctrine, forsake ye not my Torah” (Prov. 4:2). He hopes that Gabrielle “may grow in the Jewish faith and become a bat mitzvah.” ♦♦♦ One of the congregation’s elder statesmen, Ainsley Henriques, a man of aristocratic bearing and sharp wit, introduced himself to us as “the Jewish genealogy of Jamaican Jewry.” After all, he told us, “I
Photographs by Judy Hirt-Manheimer
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: RABBI DANA EVAN KAPLAN OUTSIDE THE BOB MARLEY MUSEUM; AINSLEY HENRIQUES IN THE SYNAGOGUE COURTYARD; PATRICK MUDAHY; WILLIAM AND GABRIELLE RENNALLS; CONGREGATION SHA’ARE SHALOM; CANTORIAL SOLOIST MARIE REYNOLDS.
The last functioning synagogue in Jamaica, a stately white building, looks somewhat out of place in the run-down neighborhood of Central Kingston. Most of the city’s Jews had lived here 100 years ago, but later moved to more affluent parts of the city. Entering the sanctuary, we found the Aron Hirt-Manheimer is editor and Judith Hirt-Manheimer copy-editor of Reform Judaism magazine.
secret. Others believe it symbolizes the sand of the Sinai Desert in the Exodus story. Still others say it was to absorb the mud tracked in from the outside. We devised our own theory while watching three-yearold Gabrielle playing with her toy pony on the sand-filled floor—a sandbox to keep children occupied. Gabrielle’s father, William Rennalls, 41, who wears a kippah over his flowing dreadlocks, worships weekly at Sha’are Shalom, although he is not Jewish. When reform judaism
have been here for about 250 years. I am not as old as I look.” Ainsley, actually 75, traces his ancestry in Jamaica to Raphael Cohen Belinfante, a Hebrew teacher who arrived on the island from Amsterdam in 1745. For Ainsley, as with other congregants we met, veneration of one’s ancestors seems to tie him to the Jewish community as much as religious conviction. Past and present here are inexorably linked. Member Jennifer Millicent Lim proudly
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♦♦♦ Today’s Jamaican Jewish community is considerably smaller than it was in its heyday in the mid-19th century, when Jews who prospered from international trade and commerce had the financial wherewithal to maintain a half dozen synagogues here. Over the next 150 years, assimilation and emigration reduced the organized Jewish community from approximately 2,500
individuals to 200 today. The attrition has faces the challenge of deciding how far to diverge from the traditions that have continued, as most young people leave defined and governed this community for college and do not return. Ainsley’s while still preserving its inherited three daughters, for example, now live in cultural identity. Boston, Manhattan, and Syracuse. Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan, who “Fifty years ago,” Ainsley lamented, “we filled our synagogue’s 350– 400 seats, especially on the High Holy Days; now only 70–80 worshipers come. On Friday night, about 50 people used to attend; now we get half that number. And we no lonFROM L. TO R.: MARINA DELFOS, CARETAKER OF THE JEWISH CEMETERY ger have enough children IN FALMOUTH, DISPLAYS A PHOTOGRAPH OF ANGELINA ANSELL; AUTHORS ARON AND JUDY HIRT-MANHEIMER IN FRONT OF THE BOB MARLEY HOUSE. to run our relimoved to Jamaica from the United gious school.” States in 2011 to become the congrega♦♦♦ tion’s first ordained rabbi in 33 years, With the congregation’s diminishing believes that a promising way to grow Sha’are Shalom would be through outdemographic, the Board of Directors
Photographs by Elie K lein
showed us her family tree, pointing out her earliest known ancestor, Gabriel Pinedo, born in 1652. The congregation’s prayer book, an amalgam of prayers in Hebrew (with transliteration) and English (drawn mostly from Sephardic as well as British and American Reform sources), documents historical communal milestones, telling us on the very first page that it was “established in secret by marranos fleeing the Inquisition during the Spanish rule….” The subsequent 15 pages present a history of Sha’are Shalom’s predecessor synagogues, including photographs of the original buildings and noting the various causes of their demise—earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, and/or factionalism.
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reach to non-Jews. He wants, he told us, “to build a multiracial community in Jamaica that can be a model for the world.” Early in his tenure, the congregation’s lay-led beth din permitted him to officiate at six conversions. He estimates that an additional 20 candidates are interested in becoming Jews, but the beth din has yet to interview any of them. Rabbi Kaplan believes that the committee is more interested in “bringing back people of Jewish descent who were lost, and thereby preserving the seed of Israel.” Ainsley told us that his first wife, the late Sheila Chung, was the first woman of color (Chinese, Indian, African, and Scottish) to be converted to Judaism in Jamaica. “Racism,” he explained “is not an issue in Jamaica; class is an issue.” Rabbi Kaplan pointed out that “the six recent converts, of various racial and ethnic backgrounds, are all in the upper class of Jamaican society.” Patrick Mudahy is one of the congregation’s most vocal critics of Rabbi Kaplan’s conversion efforts. “We have to be careful who we take in,” he told us. “We have to maintain our blood line.” A born Jew who had been raised as a Christian, Patrick returned to “the faith of my ancestors” as an adult seeking connection to his roots in the aftermath of marital difficulties. When asked how the community could survive without an infusion of new blood, he responded, “Like Masada, it is better to die in honor than to die in shame.”
as adding the matriarchs to the recitation of the Amidah prayer, have met with strong resistance. When one influential member heard the rabbi invoke the name of the matriarch Sarah, he walked out of the sanctuary in protest. Why, we asked, would a congregation where women receive aliyot and sit alongside men in the sanctuary be so opposed to a liturgical change reflecting gender equality? “What’s written in the prayer book is perceived by the ‘conservationists’ as received truth,” Rabbi Kaplan said. “Any devia-
tion from that is seen as a termination of their traditions.” Ainsley told us that because change is so controversial here, it has to be handled through a deliberate process managed by the congregation’s directors rather than imposed in an ad-hoc manner. The last major change came about 30 plus years ago, he said, “when we recognized women as equals for religious practices.” The decision to allow mixed seating, he explained, went back to 1921, when a number of synagogues of varicontinued on page 43
♦♦♦ On the Friday night we attended services, Rabbi Kaplan delivered an impassioned sermon warning that the congregation’s very future depended upon breaking the impasse between what he termed the “conservationists” and “innovationists.” The rabbi hopes to convince the “conservationists” to add contemporary Jamaican culture, such as reggae music, to the congregation’s cherished Sephardic and Classical Reform traditions, because he believes it will appeal to the younger generation. His “Prayer for the People of Jamaica” and his introduction of Debbie Friedman’s Mi Shebeirach have gone largely unopposed by the “conservationists,” but most of his other innovations, such reform judaism
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RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE
PARIS: Culture & Community interview with Stéphane Beder
Greetings from Les Philosophes.
places and people. Be open to the unexpected. That is how I met my American wife 30 years ago, in an elevator, the day she arrived in Paris. What are the Jewish sites?
Don’t miss Rue des Rosiers, the heart of the Jewish quarter, with its mix of bohemian clothing shops, art galleries, falafel stands, kosher butchers, Jewish bakeries, and crowds of eclectic Parisians, everyone from Orthodox Jews in shtreimels to gay hipsters decked out in the latest fashions. For great falafel, locals flock to L’as du Falafel. If you’re a strudel lover, don’t miss Florence Kahn on rue des Ecouffes, which intersects with Rue des Rosiers. When you’re done feasting, visit Le Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme, which displays Judaic objects dating back to the Middle Ages. The Memorial de la Shoah captures the horrors of the Second World War, when nearly 76,000 French Jews were deported to concentration camps and only 2,500 survived. Many French Jews lost their lives because they were betrayed by their fellow citizens. As a result, to this day, many French Jews prefer to keep their religious affiliations private. Is it difﬁcult, then, to live as a Jew in France today?
France’s reputation as an anti-Semitic country is overblown. Today France is probably the least complacent country in the world when it comes to anti-Semitic acts or statements. American readers who are attached to notions of freedom of speech may be surprised to learn that many anti-Semitic statements about continued on page 34
Les Philosophes: Photo by John Weiss
contemporary and modern art center in the 16th arrondissement (neighborhood); and Les Ombres on the rooftop of Musée des Arts Premiers, which offers one of the best views in the city of the twinkling Eiffel Tower at night. Food is a French obsession. Parisians spend hours comparing the merits of local bakeries, cheese stores, and restaurants. What should Today, a travelers number of not miss young chefs in Paris? have joined the “fooding” There is a PROGRESSIVE COMMUNITIES IN PARIS CELEBRATE PURIM, 2013. movement, a reason why Charles Dickens dubbed Paris “the most fusion of the words food and feeling, extraordinary place in the world,” Henry which emphasizes quality products preJames referred to it as “the greatest tem- pared in fun, modern, and accessible ways. At Pierre Sang Boyer, for example, ple ever built to material joys and the lust of the eyes,” and Ernest Hemingway the chef serves up affordable, gourmet called it a “moveable feast.” Beyond the dishes, such as panned fried foie gras with figs, to walk-in patrons. Reservations are historical landmarks, monuments, not accepted and there are no tables— incredible museums, and restaurants only bar stools. Les Cocottes, too, serves that serve meals that can only be exquisite food, but in verrines (canning described as sensuous, Paris displays a jars) and cocottes (cast-iron pots). unique beauty you can discover just by In Paris you can also experience walking and looking at buildings at difkosher gastronomy. Yayin pairs excelferent angles in different lights of day lent wines with reinvented traditional and night. History and romance are part dishes, such as gefilte fish wrapped in of the fabric of every street, bridge, and banana leaves with coconut milk and shop you visit. Interestingly, some Pariduck filet with a charoset crust. sian museums offer great restaurant experiences with fabulous views that are not tourist traps. I recommend Georges What is your top travel tip? on top of the Pompidou Museum; MonDon’t schedule too much. Allow sieur Bleu within Palais de Tokyo, a time to wander and just look around at
Interview with Stéphane Beder, president of the Federation of French-Speaking Liberal Jews (an organization representing liberal communities across France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg), vice-chairman of the European Union for Progressive Judaism, and a member of the World Union for Progressive Judaism’s executive board.
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RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE TOWORLD JEWISH TRAVEL
REFORM JUDAISM WORLDWIDE
ack in 1926, when the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) was established in London to serve as an international movement of Progressive Judaism, the world map of Reform (also known as Progressive or Liberal) congregations looked quite different than it does today. Outside of the U.S., there were but a handful of Progressive/Reform congregations in the UK, Germany, and France. The WUPJ began sending young, dynamic Reform rabbis to the far corners of the world to plant the seeds of this modern Jewish movement, and by the 1930s, Progressive congregations were established in Australia, South Africa, Latin America, and the land of Israel. The renewal of Jewish life in the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe since the late 1980s has given rise to nearly 100 new congregations affiliated with the World Union. In Spain, the newest frontier for Progressive Judaism in Europe, numbers of Anusim (forced converts) are looking to the World Union for their way back to Jewish life. And who in the 1920s could have predicted a growing Reform Movement in Asia, including congregations in Hong Kong, Singapore, and the newest Asian Reform congregation in Shanghai. Today’s map of the World Union testifies to just how far we have come.
−› First congregation: New Israelite Temple Society, European Union for Progressive Judaism:
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Union for Progressive Judaism (Australia, New Zealand, and Asia): First congregation: Temple Beth
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Israel, Melbourne, Australia, 1929. Today: 22 congregations in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, India, and Singapore.
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Union for Reform Judaism (North America):
South Carolina, 1824. Today: 864 congregations.
Hamburg, Germany, 1817 (before the European region was established). Today: 148 congregations.
−› First congregation: Beth Elohim, Charleston,
South African Union for Progressive Judaism: 3
First congregation: Temple Israel, Johannesburg, 1936. Today: 10 congregations.
−› First congregation: Congregação Israelita Paulista, World Union-Latin American Region/UJCL:
Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1936. Today: 48 congregations. Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism: First congregation: Har El Congregation, Jerusalem, 1958. Today: 41 congregations throughout Israel. Former Soviet Union (FSU): First congregation: Congregation Hineini, Moscow, 1990. Today: 43 congregations in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Ch Ch hiile Arrg Arg A rgent e ina
Rabbi Joel Oseran, VP, International Development, WUPJ
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Reform Congregations Worldwide • Each number represents the number of World Union for Progressive Judaism congregations currently in that country. • There are now 49 countries with World Union congregations. • As of Spring 2014, there are 1,176 Reform congregations worldwide.
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Rabbi Elected to Argentinian Congress: Rabbi Sergio Bergman, who was ordained through both the Reform and Conservative movements, was elected last Fall to Argentina’s lower SERGIO BERGMAN house of parliament, making him the only rabbi to serve as a member of parliament outside of Israel. A social activist, community leader, and educational innovator, Rabbi Bergman founded Fundación Judaica, a network of Jewish schools and educational projects; created the Arlene Fern school, which integrates children with disabilities into mainstream classrooms; and networks needy Argentinians with food and employment sources. After winning a PRO party’s seat for municipal legislature in 2011, he employed unorthodox methods to reduce tensions in the city, for example, organizing a day of meditation for legislative employees. He also installed a popcorn machine in his office, joking that “the struggles and also some projects are funnier than some movies.” He always appears in public in his trademark colorful kippah. Miriam Vasserman, chair of the WUPJ-Latin American region, notes that “This election is not only in recognition of who Congressman Rabbi Sergio Bregman is; it is also a turning point in the democracy of Argentina.”
First School of Jewish Theology: In 1836, Reform pioneer Rabbi Abraham Geiger called on the German government to estab-
Jews that would be viewed as “opinions” in the U.S, such as Holocaust denial, are illegal in France and punished with fines and jail terms. The French courts recently ordered Twitter to furnish personal details about everyone who has tweeted an anti-Semitic insult. And very precise statistics regarding anti-Semitic acts— which do occasionally occur, as they do in the United States—are maintained in coordination with the French police. Overall, France’s 500,000-strong Jewish community is thriving. Jewish classes, conferences, concerts, and cultural activities are held every day or night. And kosher restaurants are multiplying—in my neighborhood, in the 17th arrondissement, there are more than a dozen within a five minutes’ walk. How did Progressive Judaism ﬁrst come to your city?
The first Progressive synagogue, the Union Libérale Israélite de France (ULIF, ulif.org), opened in 1907. Its founding rabbi, Louis Germain-Levy, wanted to combine Judaism with science and philosophy, and the synagogue grew quickly. Nowadays, the majority of Jews in France think of themselves as traditionalists, but the Progressive movement is growing. Like in Israel, many French Jews think the Jewish choice is being Orthodox or nothing at all—but once they are exposed to the reality of Progressive Judaism, many realize this is what they have always wanted. Today we have four Progressive congregations in Paris, plus Progressive synagogues in Grenoble, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Toulouse, and Strasbourg. What is Progressive congregational life like in Paris today?
ULIF, led by Rabbi Yossi Kleiner and Cantor Armand Benhamou, is renowned for developing a musical liturgy derived from 19th-century “consistorial” music, with an organ and a mixed choir. Rabbi Pauline Bebe, the first woman rabbi in France, created Communaute Juive Liberale Ile de France (CJL, cjl-paris.org/ English), a warm and welcoming community with a participatory style which reform judaism
continued from page 30
lish a Jewish divinity school as evidence for the completion of Jewish emancipation in the nation. That milestone was finally reached 177 years later, when the first department of Jewish theology was established in a state university. On November 19, 2013, the University of Potsdam, working with the Progressive and Conservative Jewish Movements and financed by about $1 million annually by both the German federal and Brandenburg state governments, launched the School of Jewish Theology. Its BA and MA programs in Jewish Theology are components of gaining ordination at both the liberal Abraham Geiger College and the conservative Zacharias Frankel College, both co-institutes of the university.
GERMAN POSTAL COMMEMORATIVE STAMP OF THE NEW SCHOOL.
“Jewish theology will finally become a regular academic subject in Germany, putting us on a par with Christian denominations and with Islam,” says Rabbi Professor Dr. Walter Homolka, rector of the Abraham Geiger College at Potsdam University.
Beit Din in Barcelona: Last June, the beit din (rabbinical court) of the European Union for Progressive Judaism welcomed to the Jewish people 20 converts from all over Spain who were continued on p.35
2/19/14 8:32 PM
GLOBAL NEWS from p.34 educated in Jewish history, thought, and practice mostly via Skype. On Friday night they received their certificates of conversion, and, on Saturday morning, their first aliyot, in the medieval synagogue in the heart of former Jewish Barcelona. “About half the group said they were annusim, descendants of Jews converted to Catholicism back in the 15th century,” says beit din co-chair Rabbi Dr. Andrew Goldstein. “They shared accounts of grandmothers lighting candles on Friday night behind closed shutters, of never mixing meat and milk, and of never eating bread at Easter—practices that had once been explained to them as ‘old family customs,’ but they now share as evidence of their Jewish family origins.”
focuses on social action, welcoming strangers, helping the unemployed, collecting food and clothes for the needy, and supporting people with AIDS. Kehilat Gesher (kehilatgesher.org) is served by an American rabbi, Tom Cohen, and holds trilingual services (Hebrew, English, French). With its primary sanctuary in the 15th arrondissement , Mouvement Juif Liberal de France (MJLF, mjlf.org/ English) is led by a woman and a male rabbi, Delphine Horvilleur and Yann Boissière. MJLF has organized France’s Yom Hashoah commemoration, with the reading, over a 24-hour period, of the names of every Jewish child, man, and woman deported from France during WWII. All the worship services differ, but many of our congregations bestow a special place to music. Kehilat Gesher has its own choir; CJL has Shabbat Rock; MJLF has Shabbat Zimra, a musical Shabbat featuring musicians that mix traditional and new tunes; and Copernic hosts concerts featuring klezmer music, Israeli jazz, traditional liturgy, and choirs. What is unique about Progressive Jewish life in your city?
THE 2013 JEWS-BY-CHOICE.
Rabbi Goldstein explains that “Several candidates spoke of antiSemitism in Spain and of experiencing opposition to their conversion. All had prepared to face these problems, the expense, and, in some cases, the time to travel hundreds of kilometres to Barcelona to achieve their goal of joining a religion that gave them comfort and a feeling of belonging.” This was the third annual beit din in Barcelona. Thirty people converted in the first two beit din, bringing the total number of recent converts to 50, and a fourth beit din will take place in Summer 2014.
Along with Israel, France is one of the few countries with a strong Sephardi community. A large percentage of our Jewish families emigrated from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia in the early 60s, when these nations gained their independence from France. As a result, we benefit from a very interesting mix of traditions. For instance, we enjoy the more joyous Sephardi approach at the end of Yom Kippur, singing the Neila (closure) with an upbeat tune rather than the more solemn Ashkenazi melody. And many Sephardi foods are now part of our French Jewish experience, everything from traditional Friday night couscous to the specialty pancake Mofletta, which we eat at the Mimouna celebration beginning after nightfall on the last day of Passover when North African families typically consume all kinds of chametz (leavened food). I hope that you can visit us and enjoy the diversity and richness of Progressive Jewish life in France. A bientôt! (See you soon!). reform judaism
Historic Dedication: Last September, Congregation Hatikva in Kiev, Progressive Judaism’s flagship center in the Ukraine, joined with an international
CHILDREN’S PERFORMANCE CELEBRATING CONGREGATION HATIKVA’S NEW CENTER.
delegation of World Union for Progressive Judaism leaders to dedicate the synagogue’s new center. The congregation, which also runs two kindergartens, had been working out of very inadequate rental facilities for 22 years until three World Union families furnished the funds to purchase a new property; the “right” property was found within the historic Jewish neighborhood of Podol; and renovations made to accommodate a 150-seat sanctuary, spacious activity rooms, library, Netzer youth center, administrative offices, and a kitchenette. “Perhaps the most significant feeling shared by all present at the dedication was tikva (hope),” says Judy Smith in the WUPJ e-newsletter Connections. “In the context of the death and destruction of more than 70% of Ukrainian Jewry during the Shoah, it is nothing short of a miracle that Jewish life continues to flourish in the Ukraine.”
Read and share the RJ Insider’s Guide to World Travel on your computer, iPad, or smartphone. Go to reformjudaismmag.org.
2/19/14 8:32 PM
RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE
MELBOURNE: Culture & Community interview with Philip Bliss
Greetings from the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
the street for help or directions. You’ll see why several travel magazines have voted Melbourne the most livable city in the world. What are the best Jewish sites?
The Jewish Museum of Australia in St Kilda offers a very well-designed visual history of Australian Jewry. The Holocaust Museum provides personal testimonies and ever-changing exhibitions. Along Carlisle Street in East St Kilda you’ll find many kosher bakeries, food stores, and butchers as well as a good number of Jewish book and Judaica stores. And there are many Jewish festivals—an annual Jewish film festival, an Israeli film festival, a summer Jewish LGBT festival, and soon, starting in 2014, the first Melbourne Jewish Writers festival. We also have Jewish choirs and a Yiddish theatre. Can you give us a brief history of Jews in Australia?
Australian Jewry has a proud history downunder. Fourteen Jews were among the convicts on the first fleet aboard the Bounty that arrived on the shores of what is now Sydney Cove in 1788. The convict Esther Abrahams became the wife of one of Australia’s first governors (the British Queen/King’s representative). There have been two Jewish governor generals (representatives of the sovereign in Australia): former Chief Justice Sir Isaac Isaacs in 1926 and the much beloved Sir Zelman Cowan, who was called upon in 1977 to heal the nation after the divisive dismissal of the previous prime minister. His funeral two years ago at Temple Beth Israel, broadcast live on national television, was attended by govern-
Melbourne Cricket Club Photo © JanBran
robbers) is now a fascinating museum that displays the last used gallows. The beautiful Botanical Gardens in South Yarra will give you a wonderful glimpse into Australian native trees and flowers. Free tourist trams will take What do tourists ﬁnd most interest- you around the city. ing about Melbourne? Almost every month the city comes Melbourne is a vibrant city with alive as tens of thousands of locals and something visitors for every flock to person. our festiFamous for vals, such its steaks as the and fresh Mellocal fish, it bourne has worldInternaclass restional taurants— Film Fesamong tival, the them Vue MelGERSH LAZEROW INSTRUCTS PRE-B’NAI MITZVAH Du Monde RABBI bourne STUDENTS AT TEMPLE BETH ISRAEL. atop the Internahigh-rise Rialto Tower, a gourmet’s tional Writers Festival, the Melbourne delight second to none. And as home to International Arts Festival, The people of 138 different nationalities— Melbourne International Food and including one of the largest Greek popu- Wine Festival, the International Grand lations outside of Athens—the city offers Prix (motor racing), and the Australian cuisines from every corner of the world. Open Tennis Championships. Melbourne also has a rich theatre Melbourne is also the sports capital and music scene, art galleries and of Australia, with Australian Rules museums. Federation Square is full of Football the dominant winter sport and galleries, restaurants, and cinemas as cricket the main summer spectator well as the famous colorful artistic event. The Melbourne Cricket Ground graffiti-filled Melbourne laneways seats 100,000 sports-crazy fans, houses (narrow pedestrian walkways), many a sports museum full of interesting of which are populated with small bars memorabilia, and runs daily tours when and restaurants. Also, be sure to no matches are on. And the city is a explore the Arts Centre, encompassing golfer’s paradise, with many internathe newly renovated National Gallery tional level courses. and multi theater and recital centers on You’ll also find many friendly visithe bank of the Yarra River. The Old tor information booths around the city. Melbourne Jail that once held notoriAustralians are generally very welcomous villains and bushrangers (highway ing, so don’t be afraid to ask people in
Dr. Philip Bliss is secretary of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and former president both of the Union of Progressive Judaism and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Australia.
2/19/14 2:23 PM
ment officials, the current and previous living prime ministers, and the current governor general. Another Australian Jewish hero and statesman, General Sir John Monash, led the Allied forces in the First World War. Much has been named after him, including Monash University. Most of the Jews who first came to Australia arrived from England. Some were seeking a better life from the slums of London and other English cities; others were transported here by Her Majesty’s government to serve out criminal sentences, often for nothing more than stealing a loaf of bread. Next to arrive were Russian Jews escaping from pogroms and forced military service. Many of these immigrants went on to build successful businesses and professional careers as they assimilated into Australian society. It was not until after the Holocaust, when a huge influx of European Jews immigrated and created many Jewish day schools and community organizations, that the Jewish community revived. Notably, Melbourne has had the largest number of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel. Australia opened its doors soon after the Shoah, and many survivors wanted to get as far away from Europe as possible. Most of the Polish survivors went to Melbourne and the Hungarians to Sydney. Because of the very early Jewish involvement in Australian settlement and the number of highly respected and prominent Jewish personalities, anti-Semitism has been relatively minimal here. In 1947, Australia was the first country to vote in the United Nations for the establishment of the State of Israel. Today, Israel and Australia have very close relations in trade, research, and culture. How many Jews live in Australia?
Approximately 130,000, mainly in Melbourne and Sydney, although every state capital city has a Jewish community. In recent years there has been a large influx of Russian and South African Jews as well as upwards of 20,000 Israelis, nearly all of whom are seeking a better and safer life in Australia. ➢
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Progressive Jews constitute about 20% of the Jewish community. Melbourne has four Progressive congregations, the largest of which, Temple Beth Israel, has 2500 members and seats 1800+ in the main sanctuary during the High Holy Days. What is Progressive worship like?
Each of the four synagogues provides a slightly different ambiance. At Temple Beth Israel in St Kilda, which holds services every Friday night and Shabbat morning followed by a nice Kiddush, you might find a meditationbased service, one that is all music, an alternative lay-led service, or one geared for families. It’s well worth a trip just to see the temple’s beautiful stained glass windows depicting all the festivals and Shabbat. Friday night services generally attract 200 members and visitors, and this number can rise considerably on Shabbat morning if there is a bar or bat mitzvah or other simcha. At the Leo Baeck Centre in Kew and Ayz Chaim in Bentleigh, a warm, welcoming, rabbiled service is available every Shabbat morning and for all festivals. Occasional Friday evening services at both congregations are followed by a dinner in the shul hall attended by as many as 60 people. At Kedem in Armadale, all services are lay-led and held on alternative weeks. Most North American visitors would feel at home at any of Melbourne’s Progressive congregations. Our services have a good mixture of Hebrew and English, and our uplifting modern and traditional Reform music would be very familiar. All of our synagogues use the World Union for Progressive Judaism edition of Mishkan T’fillah, which has been adapted for Southern Hemisphere seasons and local sensibilities. It is customary for males to wear head coverings, and on Shabbat morning men and many women wear their own tallitot. Visitors are most welcome to worship with us. Please make yourself known to the members at the door and/or to the rabbi. And let us know if you are celebrating a special occasion, so we can celebrate with you!
2/19/14 2:23 PM
RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE
CAPE TOWN: Culture & Community interview with Alvin Kushner
Interview with Alvin Kushner, regional chairman of the Cape Town Progressive Jewish Congregation, vice chairman of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism, chairman of the SA Jewish Maritime League, and director of Cape Rainbow Tours
Greetings from penguins in Simon’s Town. marks 12:00 in Cape Town. Set against Table Mountain’s eastern slopes is Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, one of the great gardens of the world and the first to be devoted to a country’s indigenous flora. You’ll find more than 7,000 species, many of them
To experience a facet of Cape Town revealed to few tourists, consider exploring the townships with the help of a tourist guide, who can arrange insightful, fun-filled ways to experience the informal settlements while keeping safety paramount. By meeting and
FROM L. TO R.: SIMCHAT TORAH, TEMPLE ISRAEL, GREENPOINT; TASHLICH, TEMPLE ISRAEL, GREENPOINT AT MOULI POINT BEACH; PURIM, TEMPLE ISRAEL, WYNBERG.
Simon’s Town peng uins: Photo by Gui Stafford
What excites tourists about Cape Town?
Its beauty and grandeur. The 16thcentury explorer Sir Francis Drake declared Cape Town, situated in the Western Cape of South Africa, “the fairest we saw in the whole circumference of the earth!” Today the cosmopolitan, vibrant city, situated amidst the sea, valley, and mountaintops, is considered among the most breathtaking spots on the planet. What sightseeing is a must?
Table Mountain is a huge, flat-topped block of sandstone; after ascending the summit by cable car, you can take in magnificent panoramic views and stroll around on a wheelchair-friendly boardwalk. For excellent views of the city and harbor, visit Signal Hill, the northernmost tip of the terrestrial area of the park, where the noon-day gun
rare or threatened. Summer sunset concerts at the garden are a relaxing way to spend Sundays from November to April. Pack a food basket and enjoy picnicking on the soft grass that slopes downwards towards the stage. Just an hour’s drive from Cape Town, at the southwestern tip of Africa, is Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, where you can see zebra and eland (large, spiral-horned African antelopes) and hike or bike the scenic trails. About 10 miles north is the Boulders Penguin Colony in Simon’s Town, home to a unique, endangered, land-based colony of African penguins. If you visit between August and November (Winter/Spring), you can go whale-watching. Each year at this time, Southern Right whales and other species migrate into the Southern coastal waters by the quaint seaside village of Hermanus to calve and nurse their young. reform judaism
speaking with local people, tourists come to appreciate the townships’ vibrant culture and gain insight into challenges faced by the majority of South Africans. A visit to the District 6 museum facilitates understanding of how earlier classification laws had fragmented our society until about the last 20 years. During the dark years of apartheid, many people whom tourists assume were defined as black were in fact classified as Coloured or Indian and did not live in the townships, but in other designated areas, For example, Bo-Kaap, the oldest part of Cape Town, is largely comprised of a community of descendants of Malaysian/Indian slaves from Southeast Asia brought here in the 17th century by the Dutch East India Company to work the provision station that supplied ships bound for Malaysia. Notably, their descendants have maintained their unique culture, traditions,
2/18/14 11:38 PM
and recipes. Their Cape Malay cuisine is a careful blend of spices, turmeric being most important; and their homes are brightly colored. To learn more, visit the beautiful Bo-Kaap Museum. Are there safaris in the area?
Yes, there are three game reserves within a two- to three-hour drive. You’ll travel in an open four-by-four vehicle, with a ranger, through the bio-diverse natural habitats of elephants, lions, buffalo, giraffes, zebra, rhinos, ostriches, baboons, springboks, blesboks, wildebeest, and other animals. Is South Africa’s wine country near Cape Town?
Yes, wine farms are studded all over the Cape, and some are within a 40 minutes’ drive from Cape Town. Food and lifestyle blogger Tandy Sinclair suggests wine tasting at Vergenoegd Wine Estate, followed by lunch at 96 Winery Road (skip the coffee, but don’t miss the crème brûlée). You can sip freshly brewed coffee at the nearby Lourensford Wine Estate, which is also a coffee roasting company, and then enjoy chocolates and wine in the wine tasting center. About five miles down the road, stop in at Spier Wine Farm, dating back to 1692, where award-winning wines are paired with fabulous food grown on the farm or locally. Music and market events enhance the experience. One of the best wine experiences in the Cape is at Die Bergkelder, the famous “Cellar in the Mountain,” home to award-winning Fleur du Cap wines, wine tasting, and an audio-visual presentation about the winery. Can you share some of Cape Town’s culinary delights?
South Africa is well known for its exceptional meat cuts, and Chef Giorgio Nava serves up the real deal at Carne SA, one of the best steakhouses in the country. Local venison, ostrich, and kudu are often featured on the menu. One of Cape Town’s most soughtafter venues is Sevruga, on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Its extensive menu features world-class sushi and seafood and a temperature-controlled glass
wine wall housing 3,000 bottles of South Africa’s finest wines. I also recommend a visit to The Pot Luck Club, a tapas-style restaurant owned by Chef Luke Dale-Roberts, who has won the Eat Out Top Restaurant Award. He also runs The Test Kitchen, a fine-dining eatery popular with young South Africans. The team in the openplan kitchen move fast in their chefs’ whites, prepping and cooking for everyone to see. Dining alone here is easy— there’s plenty of entertainment. What are your top travel tips?
Dress is almost universally informal. Be cautious about walking in isolated areas at night. Tipping for service often starts at 10% of a bill. South Africans drive on the left, so the vehicles are all right-hand drive. The Cape Town roads are excellent, and we have a very good rapid bus transit system, but you may need taxis, as buses don’t run to all areas. Only use metered taxis. What Jewish sites are most worth visiting?
In the heart of Cape Town you’ll find a thriving Jewish center which includes the South African Jewish Museum and the Cape Town Holocaust Centre. At the museum you can delve into how South African Jews responded to the moral and political issues confronting them, and visit the nation’s first synagogue, an Egyptian-styled building built in 1863 that now houses rare Jewish artifacts of the period. The Holocaust Centre explores Cape Town survivor stories, the pseudoscience of “race,” anti-Semitism, and the institutionalized racism of apartheid. How long have Jews lived in Cape Town?
About three Jewish families, and a handful of individual Jews, first came to Cape Town in 1820 as part of a larger group of British settlers. Seventeen Jews founded the first congregation in South Africa, the Gardens Shul, 21 years later. Some of the early Jewish settlers were commercial pioneers. The Mosenthal brothers—Julius, Adolph, and James— traveled to Asia and returned in 1856 with 30 Angora goats, thereby becoming the originators of the mohair industry in reform judaism
South Africa. Aaron and Daniel de Pass, the largest ship owners in Cape Town, were leaders in the fishing industry. Jews were also among the first in South Africa to farm ostrich, and were players in the early diamond industry. What role did Jews play during the apartheid struggle?
A significant number of Jewish South Africans, both individuals and organizations, helped support the anti-apartheid movement. Many opposed the National Party’s apartheid policies, and the Union of Jewish Women sought to alleviate the suffering of blacks through charitable self-help projects. Five of the 17 African National Congress members who were arrested for anti-apartheid activities in 1963 were Jewish. Anti-apartheid movement leader Nelson Mandela wrote: “I have found Jews to be more broadminded than most whites on issues of race and politics, perhaps because they themselves have historically been victims of prejudice.” Today South Africa is a true rainbow nation where all religions and cultures thrive freely. Have Jews played prominent roles in political leadership?
Yes. Thirteen Jewish mayors have served Cape Town, from Hyman Lieberman (1904–1907) to, most recently, Patricia Sulcas Kreiner (1993–1995). Jews representing different political parties have also been elected onto town councils and served as mayors and members of the Provincial Administration and Parliament. The Jewish Board of Deputies–Cape Council, 30% of whose members are affiliated with the Cape Town Progressive Jewish movement, keeps watch on proposed legislation that could affect South African Jewry. What is the Progressive Jewish community like in Cape Town today?
The city has three Progressive (Reform) synagogues, in Wynberg, Green Point, and West Coast, all of which are under the umbrella of the Cape Town Progressive Jewish Congregation, also known as Temple Israel. They hold services in Hebrew and English, using Mishkan T’filah—World continued on page 42
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RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE
BUENOS AIRES: Culture & Community interview with Sergio Brukman
(Jewish Congregation of Argentina). In 2013 the synagogue celebrated the 150year anniversary of its hosting the first registered minyan in Buenos Aires. ForWhat should travelers not miss in your city? merly Liberal, it is now a Conservative congregation welcoming people from all Buenos Aires has so many great religious streams. In the same building cultural sites and activities, it’s hard to you’ll find the Buenos Aires Jewish choose what not to miss. Museum, documenting the Jewish experiAt Mayo Square, you’ll see the ence, and the Judaica Foundation, a network of Jewish institutions representing all religious streams in Buenos Aires: synagogues, a school, a Jewish gay organization, Jewish community development, social L.: SANCTUARY, NCI—EMANU EL CONGERGATION. R.: RABBI SERGIO BERGMAN (L., TODAY MEMBER OF ARGENTINIAN PARLIAMENT), RABBI services for the ALEJANDRO AVRUJ, & CARDINAL JORGE BERGOGLIO (TODAY POPE FRANCIS) LIGHT HANUKKAH CANDLES IN THE CONGREGATION, 2012. general community, etc. The Foundation enables organifamous balcony of the government the site of abandoned customs warehouse from which Argentinian President houses, has now become one of the most zations with very different ideologies to focus on common goals—a unique model Juan Peron and his wife Evita saluted beautiful and upscale areas of modern of cooperation in the Jewish world. the crowd in both the musical and the Buenos Aires, with many great restauWhile each institution is independent and movie “Evita.” The building and balcorants offering a wide variety of food. ny are open to visitors, so you can have And don’t miss Tigre, a beautiful river- autonomous, together they solve problems, share experiences, promote one a photograph taken of yourself in the side city about 20 miles north of Buenos another’s activities, and build community. guise of a beloved 1940s political leader. Aires, where you can visit an estancia In the Jewish neighborhoods of “VilThe portside neighborhood La Boca, (a local ranch), complete with traditional la Crespo” and “Once” you’ll see Jewwhich was the gateway for thousands of asado (BBQ), horseback riding, Argenish schools, synagogues, and Jewish immigrants—most of them Italian—in tinian folk music, dances, and demonresidents going about their daily lives— the early 20th century, is now the place to strations of “gaucho” (cowboy) skills. and police stations with Hebrew signs. go to see shows of live tango—our local Another neighborhood populated by dance—on the streets throughout the day. What Jewish sites are most worth visiting? Jews in the last couple of decades is Many people don’t realize that tango Belgrano, home to both the Progressive Start with the synagogue of Libertad started in the brothels here and originally NCI-Emanue El Congregation and the Street, which is what everybody calls it, was danced solely by men while waiting Arlene Fern Community School. although its official name is Congregafor “social services.” The houses still Other must-sees are the Israel ción Israelita de la República Argentina have the Italian imprint of those immiSergio Brukman is chairman of the Judaica Foundation.
Tango dancers: Photo © Hemis / A lamy
Greetings from tango dancers in La Boca. grant years, and you can visit the ones called “conventillos,” which served as small hotels for arriving families. Palermo Park, designed by the famous French architect and landscape designer Charles Thays, features lovely botanical gardens and the Palermo Zoo. After being refurbished in the ’90s, the Puerto Madero neighborhood, once
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Embassy square and the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) building, where the terrorist attacks took place in 1992 and 1994. Rebuilt on the original site, the AMIA building is now a cultural memorial featuring a work of art designed and donated by Israeli artist Yaakov Agam. Be sure to book your visit in advance, because for security reasons unregistered people are not allowed to enter the building. If you have time, leave the city and visit places such as Entre Rios and Santa Fe, where Jewish colonies funded by Baron de Hirsch were established in the 19th and 20th centuries. Eastern European Jews resettled there and farmed the land. They became known as “Jewish gauchos,” the Argentinian equivalent of cowboys. Today, 30 Jews still live and work as farmers in the very last settlement within the small town of Avigdor, 300 miles north of Buenos Aires, established in the early 1930s as a shelter for Jews escaping Germany. Our Judaica Foundation is working to rescue the colony by building schools, a cheese factory, a medical center, and a camp where youth can learn the story of Jewish immigration to Argentina. On the way to Avigdor, stop at the village of Dominguez and visit the Museum of the Jewish Immigration to Argentina, where you can learn about the immigrants’ daily life and their contributions to Argentinian society. What is your top travel tip?
Although Buenos Aires is safer than most cities in Latin America, some extra care won’t hurt. Try not to take personal valuables while you’re touring, and ask your hotel staff about recommended places to go and not to go. In Buenos Aires you don’t have to be afraid, but you have to be careful. What are great local dishes?
The asado (local word for a BBQ) is both tradition and a source of pride. I recommend the restaurants Cabaña Las Lilas, La Brigada, and La Cabrera. And because Italians are one of our largest immigrant communities, finding good pasta restaurants, such as La Parolaccia or Sottovoce, is as easy as finding good meat. Plus, don’t miss the pizza at Banchero, Güerrin,
or Las Cuartetas. Just don’t expect the pizza you’re are used to; ours is thicker, and no “extra cheese” is required! When did Progressive Judaism begin in Buenos Aires?
It started at Emanu El Congregation in the early 70s. About 12 years ago the community merged with NCI and today is known as NCI-Emanu El Congregation. We now have a second beautiful Progressive congregation, too: Mishkan. About 200,000 Jews live in Argentina, nearly 80% in the greater Buenos Aires area. Currently Conservative Judaism is the biggest religious stream, but I think Progressive Jewry has a lot of growth potential, as long as we continue to be welcoming, inclusive, and spiritual; encourage people to be actively involved; and adapt what we offer to the needs of Jewish families today. Jews are already drawn to our congregations because of the feeling of community: the personal relationship with the rabbis and the sense of living their Jewish lifecycle in community. We say that we build community through our actions, and we behave according to this saying. Our cultural tradition bids us to make sure that every person who comes to one of our synagogues feels a sense of belonging. People tell us it is easy to become part of our mishpuche (family). What are worship services like?
Music is an essential part of services. We mix Ashkenazi and Sepharadi melodies, using Shlomo Carlebach music as well as music composed by our own people. Keyboards, drums, violin, etc. are always present on Shabbat. Women can wear kipot and tallitot and of course we all sit together, as services are moments to share with the whole family. In our siddur (prayer book) all the texts are written in Hebrew and Spanish, and the Hebrew songs are transliterated. Our rabbis deliver strong divrei Torah and create an atmosphere of togetherness. Our lay leaders play an essential role as well, educating each new generation in the spirit of community service. As our grandparents used to say, our services are a mechayah (a great pleasure), and we invite any visitor to take part in them to confirm this! reform judaism
What are your most popular holiday celebrations?
The High Holy Days, for sure. At the end of Neila, the lights are turned off, and the children enter with Havdallah candles while the congregation sings niggunim (wordless Jewish melodies) in the dark. When the shofar is blown with t’kia g’dola, you can feel the energy of a community praying together. The service ends with everyone singing “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, as a symbol of our commitment to Israel and our hopes for the next year. What else is unique about Progressive Jewish life in your city?
We Argentinians are very passionate in everything we do, and being Jewish is part of this passion. You see this, for example, in our major identification with the State of Israel. We joke that the strongest religious stream in Argentina is Zionism. I hope you come to Argentina, as you will have a great vacation experience. And don’t forget to visit us. We’ll be honored to receive you.
continued from page 40 Union Edition, on Friday nights, and shiurim (study sessions) before the Shabbat service on Saturday mornings. Wynberg and Green Point feature a monthly “Shabbat Magic”; we call it magic because the shuls are full to the brim with congregants of all ages. Wynberg also hosts Shabbat Chessed, an inclusive, participatory, lay-led, alternative Shabbat experience. And, one Shabbat morning every quarter, all three communities join for a “Super Shabbat” or “Unity Shabbat.” The day begins with seven speakers, each presenting a seven-minute talk on a Jewish topic of his/her choice, followed by alternative concurrent services—traditional, family-friendly, yoga, or creative Torah telling—a joint Torah service, and then a festive meal. From my experience as a tour operator, I can say that Cape Town regularly exceeds the expectations of even the best-travelled tourists. Come visit us. You’ll enjoy our natural beauty, diverse cultures, and warm hospitality.
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...Jamaican Sands continued from page 29
ous traditions merged in the aftermath of the great Kingston fire. ♦♦♦
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Ainsley, founder of Jamaica’s Jewish Genealogy Society and chairman of the nation’s National Heritage Trust, walked us through the Jewish cemetery at Hunt’s Bay, which served the Jews of Port Royal until 1692, when an earthquake destroyed the city. Its 359 tombstones, which date from the 1670s to early 1700s, are inscribed in Spanish and Hebrew and oriented eastward toward Jerusalem. Among those buried here are “Snr. Moses Cohen Henriques (Esther),” believed to be the wife of one of the most famous Jewish pirate warriors, Moses Cohen Henriques, who aided the Dutch in capturing the Spanish silver fleet and in invading Brazil. Like other Jewish pirates of the time, Moses Henriques had a score to settle with Spain and Portugal: His parents had suffered under the Inquisition and had to flee to Amsterdam. We also visited the walled Jewish cemetery in the port city of Falmouth, where 113 Jews are buried. Its caretaker, Marina Delfos, told us that a cholera epidemic in the 1850s had resulted in dozens of deaths and the exodus of many of the city’s Jews. Among the probable victims of the epidemic was the physician Lewis Ashenhiem, who died at age 42. His descendant, Sir Neville Noel Ashenheim (1900–1984), served as Jamaica’s first ambassador to the U.S. after the nation won its independence from Great Britain in 1962.
♦♦♦ Despite many devastating natural disasters, generations of Jews have, through time, left indelible tracks on the Jamaican landscape. Today, serious challenges face the leaders of this dwindling community, but, hopefully they will find a way to join together, in Bob Marley’s words, in “one love, one heart,” and become a living model of how to integrate traditions and peoples in our increasingly multicultural world. reform judaism
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Since ancient times, the Jewish Quarter, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, has been home to a Jewish population.
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