Dear friends and colleagues in the Progressive movement, It has been a privilege to serve you as Movement Rabbi for the UPJ over the past three years. As the UPJ President Roger Mendelson announced in an earlier edition of the “UPJ Drash and News”, I’ve decided that this is the right time for me to retire from this position.
I’m doing this in part to make way for my rabbinic colleagues to take on key leadership roles in our movement. I also feel that I’ve accomplished most of my original goals and it is appropriate that others determine the next stages in growth of the UPJ.
I’ve derived immense enjoyment from meeting so many of you both in your home communities and at our international conferences. The work we’ve done together has brought great benefit to the movement. I believe today we are much stronger than ever before, a force to be reckoned with in the Jewish world extending from Auckland in the east to Mumbai in the west, Hobart in the south to Tokyo in the north, encompassing congregations and chavurot in New Zealand, Australia and across Asia.
I hope you can feel the excitement and confidence that is coursing through the veins of our corporate body, the UPJ. The enthusiasm and eager anticipation that exist now around our region were especially evident at the Biennial in Melbourne last November, when Rabbi Larry Hoffman introduced us to new ways of reigniting the spirit that originally inspired the founders of Progressive Judaism in our flagship synagogues around Australasia. I take great pleasure in having played an instrumental role, together with the Planning Committee, in bringing Rabbi Hoffman to the UPJ and creating the program for the Biennial Conference.
The role of the Movement Rabbi has been to foster partnerships among the communities that make up our movement, to promote the Progressive Jewish ethos and to explore new opportunities for developing leadership in our region. To this end I’ve worked with the presidents of communities across the UPJ and sought to maintain regular contact with colleagues who serve UPJ congregations in order to create networks of communication and support. I particularly value the more intensive interactions I’ve had as mentor, advisor and occasionally problem-solver with several of our synagogues. I’d make special mention of North Shore Temple Emanuel in Sydney; UHC Singapore and Kehillat Shanghai in Asia; Temple Beth Israel and some of the smaller minyanim in Victoria; the ACT Progressive community in Canberra; Wellington’s Temple Sinai; and Beit Or v’Shalom in Brisbane. There have been opportunities to work closely with presidents and rabbis of other shuls in the UPJ, too, as well as the leadership of the Moetzah and the UPJ Executive. It was an honour to advise some of our communities in their search for rabbinic staff, and to help our communities which are without rabbis to find suitable cover for the High Holydays. I was delighted to represent the UPJ on a number of occasions; I particularly valued the first Asian Progressive Summit in Hong Kong. I’ve learned a huge amount from being involved with these projects in ways that really matter, experiencing both the highs and the lows of Jewish life in the modern world. There have been a few communities with which my involvement was not as strong as I would have liked; I hope that my successors in positions of responsibility within the UPJ will make up for my lapses.
I am convinced that the UPJ should be headed by a team comprised of both rabbinic and lay leaders. The UPJ is a religious organisation with a deeply spiritual character, and even matters that appear to be business-like in nature often require rabbinic sensitivity and expertise if we are to avoid the risk of losing our way in the secular world. Both our Zionism and our tikkun olam(social justice efforts) must be spiritually, not politically, driven, and to accomplish this they require strong rabbinic direction. On the other hand, we are also continually challenged by Jews of other persuasions to defend our vision of Judaism, and Progressive rabbis are professionally trained to do just this. The Movement Rabbi is best placed to be the spokesperson for Progressive Judaism across Australia, New Zealand and Asia, and he or she should be provided with the resources (including administrative aid and an adequate travel budget) to fulfil this role.
Though I am retiring from the Movement Rabbi position, I am not retiring from Jewish life. I remain a committed Progressive Jew, and both Sue and I look forward to seeing you at UPJ gatherings of one kind or another over many years to come.
We wish the UPJ success and blessing in all its undertakings,
B’hatzlacha uv’vrakha, Rabbi Fred Morgan