Weekly News & Drash: 30 September/1 October 2023


Weekly News & Drash 30 September/1 October 2023



UPJ congregations' services and events
Providing ways to celebrate Shabbat both in person and online is a unique response offered by the Progressive Movement, and something of which we can all be proud. To view a listing of Shabbat and daily minyan services, courses, and a range of interesting and innovative programs, including online opportunities, CLICK HERE.  

Sukkah Under the Stars: Thought-provoking conversations
Temple Beth Israel will present two nights of thought-provoking topics with Rabbi Gary Robuck: "Where have our children gone?" on Monday 2 October and "My Animating Force" on Wednesday 4 October, both at 7.00pm at the TBI Sukkah. CLICK HERE for more info.



Melbourne community invited to join peaceful protests
The Progressive and wider Jewish community in Melbourne is encouraged to join these peaceful protests in support of Israeli democracy each Sunday at 11.00am. The protests, which currently rely heavily on Israeli-born supporters, are held at Caulfield Park, at the corner of Hawthorn and Balaclava Roads, and usually last no more than an hour. To learn more, visit CLICK HERE.

Emanuel Synagogue launches new streaming service
A new and exciting streaming service, Emanuel Plus, has just been launched by Emanuel Synagogue, Connect with a warm and welcoming community and explore a range of content including services, meditations, enlightening discussions, theatrical productions and musical performances. To learn more, CLICK HERE.

SAVE THE DATE: Honouring Carole & Jay Sterling
Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto will host a special event to honour Carole and Jay Sterling for their dedication and leadership to the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) on Shabbat and the weekend of 13-15 October 2023, at which time they will be presented with the WUPJ International Humanitarian Award. For the last several decades, Carole and Jay have been actively involved in leading and volunteering for significant organisations throughout Canada, North America and the word. Recently Carole completed her term as Chair of the WUPJ. Together, Carole and Jay have supported and worked to ensure the viability and strength of the organisations and institutions that mirror their shared values and goals. If you would like to attend the special Shabbat and celebration in Toronto, CLICK HERE. To make a meaningful donation in support of the WUPJ in honour of Carole and Jay to help advance the mission and sacred work to the WUPJ around the world, CLICK HERE. An honour role of donor will be published for the tribute. 


SAVE THE DATE: JCN Climate Shabbat on 17-18 November

The Jewish Climate Network is planning a Climate Shabbat on 17-18 November, and invites all UPJ congregations to include this in their planning diaries. The idea is to raise aware of the issue of climate change, especially in the lead-up to their year's international climate conference - COP28 - taking place in December. 

Free online course: "Talking About Our Judaism"

The UPJ is proud to offer a free online course to all UPJ members: "How do we interpret halakha (Jewish law)?" on 24 October; and "Gender and sexuality inclusion" on 14 November. All times are 1900 Sydney/Melbourne. This is currently 1700 Singapore/Perth and 2100 Auckland/Wellington. Sessions will be oranised by Rabbi Kim Ettlinger and Associate Professor Josh Keller. CLICK HERE to register and you will be emailed a secure link. Please RSVP at least one week before each event. Contact Josh Keller (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with any questions. 


Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet

With great sadness, the UPJ mourns the passing of Henry Jacques Ninio z"l, who passed away last Friday in Adelaide. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Lynette and daughter Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio, and send our wishes to his entire family for long life, filled with loving memories.


      David Knoll AM          Brian Samuel OAM


What a pleasure it was to sit through all of Yom Kippur. Whilst some prefer the occasional break, I find it easier to sit the whole day and focus on each of the services from the Shacharit through to Musaf, Mincha, Yizkor and finally Ne’ilah. The crowds fluctuated during the day, but the regular diehards remained all day.

It was a poignant reminder of the passing of time for this Yom Kippur is the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, where over 2,500 soldiers lost their lives in the battles to save Israel. I suppose it is difficult for a non-Jewish person to understand the emotional appeal that we have to Israel. The loss of one life to a terrorist is like losing a member of our immediate family. Whilst we continue to support the Israel Progressive Movement’s protests against the “judicial reforms”, we will continue to advocate strongly for Israel’s right to exist in peace and with secure borders. Comment was made over the High Holidays that the mood has changed over the last decade. We have seen a seismic shift both in Israel and in the diaspora to open criticism of the government in general and the democratic system in particular. Twenty years ago, if I attended a Zionist Executive meeting, all hell would break loose if I criticised Israel in any way. Today that appears to be the norm with ongoing demonstrations both in Israel and just down the road from my residence every Sunday morning.

Let’s hope the New Year brings peace and a return to calm for the sake of all. Wishing everyone a Shana Tovah.

Warm regards, Brian

Drash on Parashat Yom Rishon shel Succot     
Rabbi Sam Zwarenstein
Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra, NSW

A few years ago I was introduced to a wonderful and hilarious parody that discusses “If Xmas were a Jewish holiday…” (there are a number of editions of this parody, but they all deliver great entertainment value). I asked some of my non-Jewish friends if they had ever read or even heard of the parody, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that none of them had. Of course, this led to a series of discussions concerning the contents covered in these made-up laws and customs. I quickly realised that while they could identify with the elements discussed, particularly around the tree (acquisition, placement, decoration), they were not able to fully grasp the Jewish nuances and language around each of these laws and customs. 

I, on the other hand, was in hysterics whilst trying to read aloud and then explain some of the content in relation to Jewish laws and customs. It was so relatable that I could visualise each of the points mentioned being discussed by a group of learned scholars. 

You may ask what this has to do with the festival of Sukkot, and its significance in our traditions and practices. Well, firstly there is the sheer quantity of laws and customs regarding the festival itself, the building of a sukkah, dwelling in the sukkah, the practices during each of the days of Sukkot, welcoming guests (including our biblical ancestors) into our sukkot, lulav and etrog, Hoshanot and Hallel. While these laws and customs are rabbinically decreed, they are, like all of our other laws and customs, based on our texts, specifically the Torah itself.  While we’re on the topic of quantity, it should be noted that Sukkot and its associated practices (mainly the korbanot brought on each of the days of Sukkot) get far more coverage than any other festival.

Secondly, whilst reading through the carefully crafted “laws and customs” in the parody, a lot of it reminded me about two key components of Sukkot - building a sukkah and the arba minim (four species - lulav, etrog, hadas and aravah). There are pages and pages of instructions, do’s and don’ts, practices and other minutiae relating to every conceivable component of the sukkah itself, detailing what materials can be used, where it can be built, how to “dwell” in the sukkah, etc. The requirements for the lulav bundle and etrog are just as complex, with instructions around the quality of the components, examining them, how to assemble them, when and how to use these the lulav bundle and etrog, and so on.

We place a great deal of emphasis on the laws and customs of the festival of Sukkot, and for good reason. We strive to make sure that we treat our traditions and heritage with the utmost respect, and honour those traditions through learning about them and engaging in them.

This is an excerpt from Rabbi Zwarenstein's drash; to read the full drash on the UPJ website, CLICK HERE.

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