Weekly News & Drash: 23/24 July 2021



Weekly News & Drash: 23/24 July 2021

UPJ congregations' online services and programs
Providing ways to celebrate Shabbat during the time of COVID-19 is a unique response offered by the Progressive Movement, and something of which we can all be proud. To view a listing of virtual Shabbat and daily minyan services, online courses, and a diverse range of interesting and innovative programs, CLICK HERE.

Rabbi offers fundraiser for Indonesian Progressive community
Rabbi David Kunin, who previously served the Jewish Community of Japan and currently is the rabbi of Congregation Beth Sholom-Chevra Shas in Rochester, New York, 
has created 25 limited-edition, impressionistic photographs of Bali that are for sale for US$200 per photo. Proceeds will support the United Indonesian Jewish Community. To view/order photographs, CLICK HERE.

Sign up to participate in "Reverse Tashlich"
Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, who served Beth Shalom in Auckland from 1987-91 and is currently the Executive Director/Campus Rabbi of Hillels of the Florida Suncoast, has created a meaningful program for Tashlich and is encouraging UPJ congregations to participate. Currently there are 59 teams registered from the US, Israel, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Sweden and Palau. To learn more, CLICK HERE to read the full article on the UPJ website, and to register, go to: https://www.repairthesea.org/our-members.

Intro to Judaism course features Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur
As part of this year's new 19-session online Introduction to Judaism course, Gesher Educational Services will offer two sessions on preparing for the High Holy Days on Monday 16 August (Rosh Hashanah) and Monday 30 August (Yom Kippur), both at 7.30pm and taught by Rabbi Gary Robuck. Attendance is welcome for those who only want to attend the two High Holy Days sessions and not necessarily the entire course. To find out more, CLICK HERE.


Rabbi Morgan's 6-week Lehrhaus course
Rabbi Fred Morgan will teach a six-week live, online course "Encountering the religious other: Modern Jewish thinkers on interfaith dialogue", beginning on 4 October through 8 November. The course, presented via Zoom by the Leo Baeck College, is open and accessible to Australian participants; cost is £90. CLICK HERE to learn more, and email Jarek at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to enrol. 


Helen Shardey OAM, ARZA President
UPJ Vice-President

MK Rabbi Gilad Kariv talked to Rabbis Lazarow, Conyer and Sadoff in Australia on the eve of Tisha b’Av about the meaning of sinat chinam or “baseless hatred”.

At the same time, Ultra-Orthodox teenagers were invading the egalitarian space of the Kotel, attempting to disrupt and shout down the annual Tisha b’Av service being conducted by the Conservative (Masorti) community. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid labelled their action as “baseless hatred”.

Gilad observed that sinat chinam seems to have dominated the social and political discourse in Israeli politics in recent years. It has been part of the Progressive community’s troubling dialogue with its ultra-Orthodox brothers and sisters, many of whom have attempted to delegitimise our Jewish theology, our way of life and our natural role in Israel.

The phenomenon of sinat chinam has also been a dominating factor in the relationship between Israel’s Jewish majority and Arab minority, as well as the tense relationship between the two main political blocks in Israel.

One of the main justifications for the formation of the new National Unity Government in Israel, in representing the political left and right, has been to deal with this troubling phenomenon and find an alternative to the current political discourse.

Gilad was asked about the reality of religious pluralism in Israel today. He commented that Israel is experiencing a complicated reality, one where we can celebrate the growth of Progressive, Reform and Conservative communities, which has provided the opportunity for more dialogue with the modern Orthodox.

This led to a public debate inside modern Orthodoxy as to whether their rabbis should have dialogue with non-Orthodox rabbis. The fact that this debate happened points to some progress being made. Gilad believes that segments of the modern Orthodox are starting to embrace the idea that, despite the theological disagreements with the Progressive movement, there may be benefit in accepting more than one way for Israelis to celebrate their Jewish identity.

He noted that as a Labor Reform Rabbi he has been appointed to chair the Constitutional and Law Committee of the Knesset, representing the government led by a modern Orthodox politician who belongs to the right side of the political map. This reflects a much more mature attitude to the concept of  religious pluralism and Jewish diversity.

He believes the task now lies ahead to see that this growing understanding is translated into concrete political, social and educational achievements. He does accept that the level of incitement by some segments of the ultra-Orthodox has been heightened and they are identifying the battle against the non-Orthodox stream as their main battle.

Finally Gilad talked about the importance of raising a seriously Jewish and passionate next generation and encouraging our children and grandchildren to spend time in Israel, so they can learn and know Israel and so the Israeli next generation can get to know their brothers and sisters from the Diaspora. This is fundamental to a strong Progressive Movement, both in the Diaspora and Israel



      David Knoll AM         Brian Samuel OAM


As I write this week’s column, both Sydney and Melbourne are in lockdown. This represents 80 per cent of our Australian Progressive community, and anxiety must be high amongst our members. At the same time last year, we were all lead to believe that by mid-2021 we would be over the worst of the pandemic, but with vaccination rates still low we are still many months from returning to normal. The unpredictability of Covid has justified our decision a couple of months ago to postpone our Biennial conference once again to November 2022.

However there appears to be plenty of activity around the region, with new boards being appointed and movement of rabbis from one state to another, as well as welcoming new rabbis into our congregation in Singapore.

Last week, I had the opportunity of participating in a forum on domestic violence at my congregation. Several years ago, we had the good fortune of inviting Assistant Commissioner Leigh Gassner to shule, along with representatives of the Jewish Task Force Against Domestic Violence. The event acted as a catalyst to my own involvement, initially as a White Ribbon Ambassador and now under the rejigged organisation a Community Partner. On this Shabbat morning, we had the pleasure of hearing from Assistant Commissioner Lauren Callaway, who is the current head of the Domestic Violence Unit within Victoria Police. She spoke with passion from the bimah, and this was followed up with a lunch and learn session following the service. Whilst the overwhelming number of incidents relate to physical male violence against partners, we were informed that abuse can also be in the form of control, both financial and psychological. There has not been a significant reduction within the community. This can be partly explained by the increased mandatory reporting which is now legislated in most states. When we hear the myth that this does not happen in our Jewish community, I refer them to statistics showing that domestic violence is just as prevalent in the Jewish community as the community at large. My personal belief is it will require a generational change to eliminate, and education should start at the earliest level of school. AC Callaway suggested that education should start even earlier at the kindergarten, where NZ research has shown that signs can be detected in the first three years if a child possesses the aggressive traits which may lead to later violence.

Jewish Care in Melbourne took over the running of domestic violence programs in the Jewish community, but they are also assisted by several additional organisations, including our own IMPACT run by TBI past president Kathy Kaplan OAM. If you should need further information, please feel free to contact Kathy or myself, and we would be happy to assist in complete confidence.

                                                                  Warm regards, Brian

 Drash on Parashat Va'etchanan  
Rabbi Allison Conyer
Etz Chayim Progressive Synagogue, Bentleigh, VIC

This week, in Parshat Va’etchanan, we continue reading Moses’ retrospective as he looks back on the Israelites’ journey that has brought them to exactly where they are at that moment. He laments his inability to enter the land, recalls the time they stood at Sinai to receive the aseret ha’dibrot (the 10 commandments), reminds the people to hear G-d wherever they are, not to turn away from G-d, but to love G-d with all their heart, their soul, and their might, in all their actions towards their loved ones at home and all who they encounter in the wider world. And, arguably, most importantly, Moses reminds the people to pass on these teachings to their children, for it is always in the hands of the next generation to uphold the covenant – the special bond between G-d and the Jewish people.

In addition to the Shema and the repetition of the aseret ha’dibrot, this week’s parsha mentions that when the people have gone astray, “If you search there for Adonai, you will find G-d, if only you seek G-d with all your heart and all your soul – when you are in distress because all these things have befallen you, and in the end, return to Adonai your G-d and obey G-d. For Adonai your G-d is a compassionate G-d and will not fail you or let you perish. G-d will not forget the covenant which G-d made as an oath with your ancestors” (Deut. 4:29-31).

As I read this, I could not help but think of the current lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne. Although there have been world situations far worse than this, many of us (or people who we know) have been distressed by the ongoing uncertainty and instability caused by the fast-changing COVID-19 variants and our government’s response. I know that our 2020 infamous 112-day Melbourne lockdown from June through October shook us to our core. However, after the shock factor, many of us settled into the lockdown.

CLICK HERE to read Rabbi Conyer's full drash on the UPJ website.

Hanukkah Homecoming to unite Progressives worldwide
Dr Ron Wolfson has issued an invitation for UPJ congregations to join a growing coalition of worldwide congregations and organisations to come together during the weekend of 3-5 December for a worldwide rededication of our relational communities post-pandemic. It's free, flexible and fun: Ron's organisation, the Kripke Institute, will provide the platform and our congregations will organise the gatherings to "recount the things that befell us" and share ideas about how we can rededicate our efforts and "turn the lights back on" after the pandemic. CLICK HERE to learn more and to sign up for your congregation to participate. A map of the world will indicate your participation and link to your website ... New Zealand will be the first!  





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