Weekly News & Drash: 14/15 May 2021


                                                                 Weekly News & Drash: 14/15 May 2021

View Rabbi Gilad Kariv's first speech at the Israeli Parliament,
in which he emphasises the importance of mutual respect
and recognition for Progressive Jews both in Israel and the Diaspora.

To support the important work for Progressive Judaism in Israel, click on the link below:

UPJ congs' 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.



Shavuot around the UPJ
Shavuot services, study sessions and events will be offered around the UPJ region - lots of learning and plenty of cheesecake! CLICK HERE to learning what's planned.

Two Sisters: A dramatic reading

Emanuel Synagogue and producer Adam Liberman are excited to present Two Sisters, starring renowned actress and comedian Jean Kittson. Set on a kibbutz in Israel in 1996, the dramatic reading of the comedy tells the story of two close and caring sister, about to discover a shocking truth about their past. Four performances will take place at Emanuel Synagogue between 19-23 May. CLICK HERE for more details and to book.

WUPJ Connections offers congregations "professional toolkit" 

to learn more about the program and register!


Helen Shardey, ARZA President
UPJ Vice-President

Just one week ago after Bibi failed to form a coalition to govern Israel, President Rivlin asked Yair Lapid to endeavour to form a coalition unity government, presumably with the support of Naftali Bennett. Since then, Israel has deteriorated into chaos.

Israelis must have thought there was just a chance that a fifth election could be avoided, and those with more moderate views hoped and prayed that it may be so.

But tensions have been gathering leading up to Yom Yerushalayim, with the threat of violence if religious youth conducted an Israeli Flag March through East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. The subsequent cancelling of the march has not stopped the violence: Palestinian rockets from Gaza are raining down on Israeli cities and Israeli Muslims are desecrating synagogues in cities like Lod.

Sadly the political outcome of the Arab protests and violence seems to be that the Arab parties have  been unable to control the anger of young Palestinians and have pulled back from negotiating a unity government with the anti-Bibi block. In the meantime, Bibi himself seems unwilling to find a solution. There is conjecture that the chaos suits his political ambitions.

All this came during the tragedy at Mount Meron, with loss of life and fears that with proper planning it could have been avoided. But will there be an investigation or will fear of offending the Ultra-Orthodox stand in the way?

As we always endeavour to be optimistic and look for light out of the darkness, I bring you a beautiful medley of Israeli music and songs about Jerusalem.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW to enjoy a beautiful medley of songs about Jerusalem in honour of the liberation and unification of the city, performed by the Harel Orchestra and the HaKol Yachasi Choir with participation by Mayor of Jerusalem Mr Moshe Lion.



      David Knoll AM         Brian Samuel OAM


Busy, busy, busy. As we complete the third book Vayikra, and we enter this Shabbat book four Bamidbar and the coming of Shavuot on Sunday evening, we find ourselves in strange times in our communities. Here in Australia and New Zealand, we are almost Covid-free and likewise with our families in the Pacific region. However, if we move a little to the West, we find that our cousins in India are suffering from a horrific second or third wave, which is concerning to all of us.

In the past two weeks, my synagogue has been packed with the celebration of b’nei mitzvot. Only a few weeks ago, we were limited to numbers: no kiddush, masks and all the other requirements for a safe venue. We still need to register on arrival, but otherwise one would guess that there is nothing amiss. The kiddush has returned to a format as in 2019, except we are now served instead of self-selection. And the Holy of Holies: we witnessed the throwing of lollies at the conclusion of the reading of the Haftarah by the student! With only 10 per cent of the population having had some form of vaccination, we are way behind Israel, the UK and the United States, which suffered multiple number of infections and deaths compared to Australia and NZ. And we approach the festival of Shavuot and the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai, we can be thankful that we live in safe and healthy countries.

In the past week, we commenced a series of learning sessions in the lead-up to our own Biennial conference in October. If you would like to participate in these wonderful workshops, please email Jocelyn at the UPJ who will add you to the list. They are free, so do not hesitate.

Finally, next week our roof body, the World Union for Progressive Judaism, will be presenting its international conference, Connections 2021. There is still time to register by CLICKING ON THIS LINK. The program has been developed from input from all over the world. In addition to the inauguration ceremony of Rabbi Sergio Bergman, there are some fantastic sessions to work your way through over a four-day period. The whole experience has been designed to accommodate all time zones, so please feel free to review the topics on the WUPJ website before registering.

On behalf of my Co-President David Knoll, we wish all of you a very happy Shavuot, and remember to eat plenty of cheesecake and blintzes before going to the gym to work it all off.


                                               Warm regards, David and Brian

Drash on Parashat Bamidbar      

Rabbi Aviva Kipen
Progressive Judaism Victoria

Trigger warning: this piece recounts a confronting episode relating to homelessness.

Two years out of Egypt, B’midbar begins by detailing the complex arrangements of a free people that created social structures out of nothing. That was great progress. They left slave quarters to become homeless and within two years had established a working tent society, bringing to mind the ma’abarot (tent villages) of the early days of the independent State of Israel. The size of the undertaking makes an impressive chronicle to launch this book of Torah. The military census identified men who were to fight and it’s tempting to focus on their names, clans and geographical placement by tribe, around the mishkan.

Even God’s tangible presence in the middle of the encampment, did not result in universal affirmation of the human leadership. There was disaffection, grumbling and outright rebellion. Having put middle management in place, grappling with the scale of individual/family needs (exemplified by the inheritance issue of the daughters of Zelophechad) we are left to wonder about the tens of thousands whose names and needs are never mentioned. Leaving aside the entire absence of women from the social overview at the start of Numbers, my concern is for the nameless, the young, the old, frail and infirm women and men, rather than those who could serve as soldiers. We see the census’s limitations as a social management tool, for which – to be fair - it was not designed!

Last week I found myself in an inner-Melbourne neighbourhood where the homeless gather on every corner. This is not a Covid phenomenon. Having lived in the neighbourhood, I recognised many who wait for businesses to close so they can settle into doorways for a modicum of shelter at night. Last week, in front of the supermarket entry under cover of the bus shelter, a young indigenous teenager sat with no possessions. I asked if he had eaten. I asked what he would prefer and asked him to remain there (sometimes the management moves people along) while I bought him some supplies. While I was shopping, I encountered a man my own age, begging inside the store. Asking for money, and explaining that he had cancer. He declined food. What he was really after was a toilet. I did not know where the nearest public toilet could be found and by the time I was able to give him the information, he had gone. I suspect that security had ejected him.

CLICK HERE to read the full drash by Rabbi Kipen on the UPJ website.




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