Weekly News & Drash: 14/15 January 2022


Weekly News & Drash: 14/15 January 2022


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 Sergio Bergman, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, will be our special guest speaker for the 2022 UIA Progressive Appeal on Monday 7 March at 7.00pm at Emanuel Synagogue in Sydney, and online. 

Rabbi Bergman:

  • Served as Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development in the Argentinian Federal Government from 2015-2019;
  • Named one of the world's 100 most influential leaders in the fight against climate change;
  • Distinguished speaker on issues of social justice and human rights, and a strong exponent of civil discourse.

Rabbi Bergman said: "Support for Israel is a matter of common sense, and the Progressive Jews of Australia stand tall in their support for Israel. On my visit to Australia this March, I look forward to setting out our vision for a strong Jewish future."

CLICK HERE to register to attend the event on Monday 7 March at 7.00pm at Emanuel Synagogue in Sydney, or via Zoom.

UHC Singapore member's children's book award
The UPJ is delighted to wish mazal tov to Tammar Stein, member of the United Hebrew Congregation in Singapore, whose book, Beni's War, recently won the Middle East Book Award from the Middle East Outreach Council. To learn more, CLICK HERE. Tammar has also led the PJ Library in Singapore; for those who would like to learn about it and utilise it, contact Tammar at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA President and UPJ Vice-President


ARZA AUSTRALIA wishes all in the Progressive Jewish Movement a Happy New Year with every wish that this year will bring good health and safety in Israel and at home.

The past year was full of challenges for Israel in relation to the spread of Covid and the altercation with Hamas from Gaza. Israel is leading the world in Covid treatment with the introduction of a fourth Pfizer vaccination and vaccinations for children being
given in the Diaspora.

At home we are still planning for our Progressive Movement Appeal combining with a special Appeal through Progressive Jewish Women in Australia. This will be a firstand we hope to bring you an exciting special project to support.

In the meantime, our best wishes go to Rabbi Gary Robuck with Jocelyn, as he takes up the role of temporary Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne and the entire Progressive community in the hope that despite the spread of Covid, you can
enjoy the summer holidays as much as possible.



      David Knoll AM         Brian Samuel OAM


One of the most interesting learnings from engaging with our pilot group of young adults last year was that they yearned for authentic Jewish meaning in relation to the issues that matter to them.  In his wonderful book entitled “Next Generation Judaism”, Rabbi Mike Uram tells a story about sitting down with a group of university students to study texts together for the first time.  He says:

They didn’t seem excited. Jewish learning evoked memories of tedious nights in Hebrew school or studying for their Bar or Bat mitsvah ceremony.  I began by asking them to tell me what they remembered me from the synagogue services of their childhoods.  One student said she remembered counting the dust particles floating in the sky that were lit up by sun streaming the stained glass of the sanctuary.  Another student expressed guilt that he never liked services even though he always wanted to feel something.  Yet another student said that she loved services.  It was a time to think and reflect and a time when she felt close to her grandparents.  Then I passed out a selection from Abraham Joshua Heschel about prayer in synagogues.  A lively discussion erupted.  Students reflected on what Heschel had to say, on their own thoughts and experiences, as well as on those of their friends in the room.

I share this extract from Rabbi Uram’s excellent book so that 2022 is a year in which we all become willing to engage and wiling to learn.  We must also be willing to take some risks. 

Repeating the same activities over and over again hoping to get a better result is not likely to grow our communities or to strengthen them. 

Committing to Relational Judaism, sharing ideas and resources and empowering our young adults to take action in our name on climate change are just a few of the ways your UPJ will work to empower each of our communities across this enormous geographically spread region to grow and become stronger as we move forward in ever more challenging times.

                                               Warm regards, David

Drash on Parashat B'shalach          

Rabbi Adi Cohen
Temple Shalom - Gold Coast, Queensland

Parashat B’shalach, also known as Parashat Shira, holds several famous themes. The Crossing of the Red Sea, the pillars of smoke and fire, Divine food falling from the sky and with it, the first Mitzvah relating to Shabbat.

A few weeks ago, the co-chairs of the UPJ challenged me to put into words my core beliefs and share them with our members. One verse in the Parasha reminded me of  this challenge in Exodus 14:31: “And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of God displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared God and put their trust in God and in Moses, God’s servant.”

While Judaism’s understanding of One omnipotent, omnipresent, amorphic deity, our tradition offers many different ways to conceptualise God. I will cluster them mainly as Biblical, Rabbinic, Medieval, Kabbalah and Modern.

While Judaism’s understanding of One omnipotent, omnipresent, amorphic deity, our tradition offers many different ways to conceptualise God. I will cluster them mainly as Biblical, Rabbinic, medieval, Kabbalah and modern.

My personal faith and my personal understanding of God, is that I am allowed and encouraged by my religious heritage, to constantly change the way I relate to God over time. I believe in a God of becoming and relationship (an amazing book by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson), a God that is the breath of life in every living thing, a God that cannot be understood by the human mind yet God’s presence, K’dusha (holiness), can be felt by the human heart through our actions and our relationships.

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

To read the drash written by Reverend Sam Zwarenstein on last week's Parashat Va'eira, CLICK HERE.





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