Weekly News & Drash: 8/9 January 2021


Weekly News & Drash: 22/23 January 2021

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.

Tu b'Shvat Zoom Seder with Kedem
A seder celebrating the New Year for the Trees, featuring mystical interpretations by Rachel Ward, will be hosted by Kedem on Tuesday 26 January, 1.30pm to schmooze, 2.00-3.15pm. The seder will be about the symbols of Tu b'Shvat (fruit, nuts and wine/grape juice) - no bitter herbs or matzah! RSVP to Ruth and find out how you can prepare your own Tu b'Shvat table: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hobart congregation presents "Jerusalem, Down Under"
Join the Hobart Hebrew Congregation for a fascinating presentation  "New Jerusalem, Down Under: The Search for a Jewish Homeland in Australia" on Sunday 31 January at 2.00-3.15pm AEDT, via Zoom. Dr Adam Rovner, Director of the Centre for Judaic Studies and Associate Professor of English and Jewish Literature at the University of Denver, Colorado, will detail the cultural context and legacy of proposals to create mass settlements of Jewish refugees in Australia before, during and after the Nazi era. CLICK HERE to learn more and complete the necessary registration form.


UHC Singapore invites UPJ community to special program
On Sunday 31 January, the United Hebrew Congregation in Singapore will present “The Untold Story of How the Stories Are Told” by Louis Schmidt, a Shoah Foundation interviewer and three-time Emmy Award Winning Producer for the National Football League. Louis will share his personal journey to becoming a Shoah Foundation interviewer and share powerful and dramatic stories that were told to him. Beginning with opening words by H.E. Sagi Karni, the Ambassador of Israel to Singapore, and a 4-1/2 minute video produced by Steven Spielberg explaining the creation of the Shoah Foundation and the role played by Schindler's List, the UHC program will take place from 9.30-10.30am (Singapore time) = 12.30-1.30pm (Melbourne/Sydney time). To learn more and register to attend, CLICK HERE.

New Israeli Reform Siddur international unveiling
Join MARAM (Rabbinic Council of Reform Rabbis in Israel) and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, for the international unveiling of the new Israeli Reform Siddur, Tfillat HaAdam, and the holiday of Tu b'Shvat, on Thursday 28 January at 8.00pm (Israel time, which is 9 hours behind Melbourne/Sydney time). CLICK HERE to register.

KSZ hosts multi-faith event in Malmsbury
Kehillat S'dot Zahav (KSZ) Progressive Jewish Congregation of Bendigo and the Central Goldfields has shared an open invitation to attend a multi-faith event in Malmsbury Botanic Gardens on Saturday 13 February, from 11.00am. Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black of the Leo Baeck Centre for Progressive Judaism will lead the shared religious celebration of nature, and faith leaders are invited to share a prayer, song or reading; a vegetarian lunch will be provided by KSZ. RSVP to Dr David Kram: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 0412 114 725.

2020 Report on Antisemitism published
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry's 2020 Report on Antisemitism, authored by Julie Nathan, has been published. CLICK HERE to read and download the report.

Save the date for WUPJ Connections

The World Union for Progressive Judaism will host its first virtual conference from Wednesday 19 May to Saturday 22 May. The event will feature the installation of its new president Rabbi Sergio Bergman, along with a host of eminent presenters, a chance to "travel" to the city of your choice to learn more about Progressive Jewish communities around the world, and of course the opportunity to connect, engage and network with old friends and new via the virtual platform and mobile app. Registration will launch in early April; keep updated on the WUPJ website (www.wupj.org) and follow on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using the links at the bottom of the website, or #wupj.

Dr Ron Wolfson honoured by Jewish Educators Assembly
The Jewish Educators Assembly (JEA) will honour Dr Ron Wolfson at its annual conference on 31 January 2021. Ron, who has twice served as the UPJ's scholar in residence at Biennials in 2012 and 2016, will be recognised for his tremendous impact on Jewish education and Jewish communities throughout his career, including his transformational work in teaching "Relational Judaism". A link will soon be provided to view the online event. If you'd like to place an ad in the JEA tribute book to honour Ron, CLICK HERE


Baruch Dayan HaEmet
With great sadness, we share that Steve Stux z"l, husband of Mrs Ruth Stux, passed away last week. Mr Stux was a pillar of the Sydney Jewish community, a dedicated member of Emanuel Synagogue and a true mensch. We send our deepest condolences and wish long life to Mrs Stux and her family.



      David Knoll AM         Brian Samuel OAM


The money dilemma.

Throughout the western world, synagogues are sustained financially by a combination of membership fees or dues, and donations.  

Often large congregations have foundations which build up capital that goes well beyond a rainy day fund.  As new challenges arise, the wise, yet hardened leaders of the foundation, rather than the newer, recently elected congregational leaders, make the decision about when and how any of that fund can be expended.  Having tried one strategy with less than stellar success, the purse strings are drawn ever tighter, and gradually, as decline sets in, the rainy day fund is used to “save the furniture”. In other congregations the wise leaders of foundation use it to invest in growth, knowing that not every initiative will succeed.

The alternative is that which Rae Ringel, a fantastic leadership expert and coach, loves to remind people of the quote: “If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.”

Some small congregations invest in their building on the back of one or a few major donors, but those families cannot be relied on to keep the congregation going long-term.  Other small congregations use some of their building to generate income that is reinvested in growth, and often as not, begin to reap success. Still others without physical building harness the amazing and inspirational power of their volunteers.

Investing in outreach through Relational Judaism where there is no financial return in the short to medium term is risky.  Not investing is even more risky. 

Yet well managed innovation and outreach can be done on an initial small financial outlay. Once there are small wins on a pilot project, donors can be convinced to invest in expansion. 

Running a pilot project in parallel to the existing structures, led by the empowered neshama of a congregation (including some next-gen leaders) is more likely to succeed that bolting it on to existing programs.

As Rabbi Mike Uram explains:

In the business world, there seems to be one essential strategy for achieving this goal: continue to run your existing programs while simultaneously creating a separate, autonomous organization charged with building a new and independent set of offerings built on disruptive innovations.  Free of the rules, the limits, and the boundaries of the existing organization, this new division can try totally new things, take bigger risks, and develop a plan to reach new markets. Essentially, it can act like a startup even though it’s not.[1]

The biggest investments required are time and passion for adapting the idea, and then building a sustainable and caring Jewish community.  If the president and rabbis support initiative and innovation, success becomes a realistic possibility.


[1]          Next Generation Judaism . Turner Publishing Company. Kindle Edition

                                                         Warm regards, David


Drash on Parashat Bo
Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black
Leo Baeck Centre for Progressive Judaism
East Kew, Victoria

The plagues in this portion are especially problematic because "God hardens Pharaoh’s heart" (so the suffering brought on the innocent Egyptians seems like collective punishment against Pharaoh, extended by God’s actions). By the middle of the portion, the plagues are nearly over (we can wish!). But the final plague is of course the worst of all, the only one that kills people rather than significantly inconveniencing them.  By the end of the portion, the Israelites are finally free, and if the numbers are to be believed (Ex.12:37), and we pick a low average of four children per family, then about six million Israelites start their journey from Ramses towards Sukkot, aside from the mixed multitude who went out with them! 

But before the final plague, the Israelites are told to prepare themselves for their departure, including preparing a lamb, and using its blood to mark their doorposts so the angel of death should "pass over" their houses, and eating as much as they can, dressed with their sandals on and their staffs in their hands, ready to leave. They are also told that this should be observed for all time.  Finally the terrible last plague arrives, and does its job – Pharaoh now summons Moses and Aaron and demands that they leave, with all the people and their flocks and herds. And the portion concludes with a repeat of the instructions to observe the annual seven-day festival of the Exodus (13:6-10).  

Congregants are often puzzled by the fact that we read about the Exodus from Egypt several months before Pesakh.  

CLICK HERE to read the full drash by Rabbi Keren-Black on the UPJ website. 




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