Mourning the passing of Shimon Peres

The UPJ joins in mourning the sad passing of Shimon Peres (1923-2016), picutred at the 2009 WUPJ CONNECTIONS Conference when he was honoured with a World Union International Humanitarian Award. We are grateful to the World Union for Progressive Judaism for providing the following tribute:

It is with great sadness that the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) joins the world in mourning the passing of Shimon Peres. His many titles befit a legend who is now no longer - former President of Israel, former Prime Minister, one of the youngest Defense Ministers in Israel's history, founding father of Israel, statesman, politician, activist, advocate and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

His many titles befit a legend who is now no longer - former President of Israel, former Prime Minister, one of the youngest Defense Ministers in Israel’s history, founding father of Israel, founding fighter for Israel, statesman, politician, activist, advocate and Nobel Peace Prize winner. 
 
Mr. Peres was, in his own words, a dreamer, who foresaw in Israel's technological innovations its chance to bridge peoples and nations, in the Middle East and around the world. He devoted over 70 years of his life to Israel and Jewish communities around the world, advancing economic, defense, cultural and social platforms through his various initiatives in the private and public sectors. 
Shimon Peres was a man of extraordinary vision, great passion, and great eloquence who brought much honor and respect to each of his roles and to the country of Israel. His love for Israel and of all Israelis, no matter their background or faith, knew no bounds. His genuine belief in peace, stemming from mutual respect between warring parties, led to his shared Nobel Prize for his work on the Oslo Peace Accords.
 
In 2009, the World Union for Progressive Judaism had the privilege of honoring Shimon Peres with its International Humanitarian Award (IHAD) at the celebratory closing gala of its CONNECTIONS international convention. This World Union honor celebrates an individual's extraordinary contribution to advancing Progressive Judaism and its values. Presented by former Chairman of the World Union, Austin Beutel, the award recognized Mr. Peres' "lifelong vision and leadership in building the State of Israel and [his] commitment to peace, humanitarian causes and the timeless values of democracy, pluralism and freedom".
 
Rabbi Richard Hirsch, Honorary President of the World Union and close friend of Mr. Peres, reflected: "Shimon Peres was the premier statesman of the State of Israel, and the vibrant symbol of the highest values of the Jewish people. While other political leaders, frustrated by the complexities of the Israeli-Arab conflict, projected pessimism, he remained the persistent optimist. In keeping with Jewish tradition, he not only sought peace, he 'pursued' it."
 
In this week's Torah portion, Nitzavim, we read, "It is not in the heavens... neither is it beyond the sea... No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart." Devarim 30:12-14: לא בשמים היא... ולא מעבר לים היא... כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשתו
 
Shimon Peres (pictured left with Honorary Life Executive Board Member of the World Union Austin Beutel in 2009) lived the message of this parasha: for him, the safety of Israel was not found in the heavens, nor was it for some other country or politician to ensure. Peres took the responsibility of visioning the future of Israel into his own hands. Let us honor his memory by carrying his dream forward.
 
 We in the world movement of Reform and Progressive Judaism extend profound sympathy to his family. 
 
May his example continue to inspire us to forge the State of Israel into an exemplary society.
 
May his memory be for a blessing.
 
יהי זכרו מבורך
 
Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President Carole Sterling, Chair

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