Weekly News & Drash: 20/21 May 2022


Weekly News & Drash 20/21 May 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.  

Kabbalah Tour of Israel

Rabbi Dr Orna Triguboff will be leading this tour from 16-25 October 2022. 
We begin by experiencing an authentic Festival of Tabernacles, Sukkot, in Jerusalem. From there we travel around Israel visiting key sacred sites such as the mystical city of Tsfat, spiritual springs of the desert; learning kabbalah and meditation with the best teachers in the world, and gaining insights into other cultures such as Bedouin wisdom. This tour will be accompanied by guest teachers and musicians such as Netanel David Goldberg - kabbalah kirtan, Avraham Leader - Kabbalah text study, Torah Yoga: Experiencing Jewish Wisdom Through Classic Postures with Diane Bloomfield, Gad Levy - kabbalah tai chi, Cantor Lisa Levine - song and chant, kabbalah art with David Friedman. In conjunction with Keshet Educational Journeys. Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to express your interest and ask any questions you have. CLICK HERE to view the tour brochure.



Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA President and UPJ Vice-President



The Progressive/Reform Jewish world was shocked and distressed to see young Ultra-Orthodox women who were brought to the Kotel last Rosh Chodesh on buses branded with the logo of the World Zionist Organisation, violently attack women who had gathered to pray.

Australian and British Jewish leaders expressed their distress at the role played by the World Zionist Organization in these attacks last week. Additionally, a large number of Jewish Federation leaders across the United States called an emergency conference with WZO Chairman Yaakov Hagoel seeking an explanation.  

Concern has been raised that WZO Chairman Yakov Hagoel is also acting chairman of the Jewish Agency. The particular concern is because it was the Jewish Agency that  spearheaded the Kotel deal to stop the very attacks against Women of the Wall that have now occurred.

While it is accepted that the WZO represents many different religious and political parties and movements, the Jewish Agency on the other hand is meant to be a non-partisan organisation set up for the benefit of the Jewish people.

Response by the World Zionist Organization Chairman and Executive

In response to the outrage expressed both within Israel and the Diaspora over the involvement of WZO departments in the Kotel attack, the WZO Executve met and subsequently published the following adopted resolution.

The World Zionist Organization strongly condemns the conduct displayed at the event held at the Western Wall on Monday, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, in collaboration with the Liba Center while using WZO symbols. This behaviour does not represent the WZO's fundamental values and runs completely against the ethos and ethics of the Zionist movement which is committed to pluralism and mutual respect between all streams of Judaism . The World Zionist Organization shall not partner, either directly or indirectly, with organizations whose values, goals and/or activities showcase any aspects that demonstrate contempt, harassment, violence, and/or harm to the legitimacy of members and/or entities of the Zionist movement . If any member of the Cooperation Committee wishes to propose a partnership with an entity which demonstrates any of the above conduct, this partnership shall not be approved. Management members may submit their suggestions for discussion at management meetings, yet only the Management is authorised to make decisions on this matter.



      David Knoll AM         Brian Samuel OAM


You are not alone

Our communities have a wealth of resources amongst them. They include religious, pastoral care, education, and communal life resources. There are Board policies, processes, and procedures and possibly checklists e.g., on how to run successful events. Congregations and other UPJ organisations face many similar issues such as integrating new Jews by Choice or bringing people back together now that Covid is no longer the subject of lockdowns but still a danger to the health of many; an issue about which Brian wrote last week.

We surmise that the “wheel” might be being re-invented many times within the region. 

It is often the case that smaller communities have practical solutions to issues which can be adapted by larger ones, and the larger ones often have broader experiences and even written policies and procedures which can assist smaller communities. Creating a mutually supportive network is at least as important if not more important than the particular issues that need to be addressed!

Sometimes a specific issue crops up and, through collaboration with other shuls, an answer is readily available. 

One of a number of initiatives we are rolling out in 2022, a Resource Sharing Network Forum, has been established on the UPJ website, and technology is being harnessed to notify and connect our geographically disparate shuls.

Our team will be in touch to help our shuls both contribute to and learn from each other.

The federal election

With the Federal election this weekend, ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim AM has analysed the choices faced by Australia’s Jewish voters on a number issues of concern to our community. CLICK HERE for the analysis.

                                                        Stay safe and well, David

Drash on Parashat B'har  

Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black
Leo Baeck Centre for Progressive Judaism
East Kew, VIC

Israeli Jews arrived at the mountain last week, and most Progressive Jews worldwide did as well, for the same reason, whilst the Orthodox community is not reading Parashat B’har until this Shabbat. The reason is that in Israel and for Progressive Jews, Pesakh only lasts the biblically ordained seven days. Starting this year on Friday evening, it finished before Shabbat on Friday 22 April, so we read Akharei Mot on that Shabbat. For the Orthodox Diaspora community, marking the last day on Friday 22 AND (just in case of error) on Saturday 23 as well, they only resumed the normal cycle the following Shabbat – so we have been a week ahead since then (and will be until 30 July when the Orthodox world will read the double portion of Mattot/Masei but we will already be on Masei, having read Mattot the previous week).

Parashat B’har

The Israelites learn that a year of rest is to be added to the calendar, so that, when they enter the promised land, it can truly reveal its full promise by having a fallow year to regenerate after every six productive ones.

And so, even today in the land of Israel, a year of sabbatical or release is marked – called Shmita, running from New Year to New Year – and Israel is marking a Shmita year at present.   That means the land is not supposed to be cultivated or harvested. 

But most Jews I know love their food and, not surprisingly, ways have been found around this problem. Although good organic practices may utilise a fallow year for some crops, famers worldwide know that this is not economically very competitive, so other methods such as crop rotation are more frequently used.  The sabbatical rules only apply to land in Israel, and furthermore, land owned by Jews.  So some landowners and institutions make a technical transfer to a non-Jew.  They will draw up a contract that says for example ‘for a shekel, you will buy my land for a year, and I’ll be free to buy it back at the end of the year’!  This is similar to the idea of temporarily selling all Chametz during Pesakh.

I would prefer to say ‘We do not understand that every word of Torah was literally dictated or written by God – rather that Torah is our human attempt to answer the question ‘What does God require of us?’.  We do not accept that God gave the impractical rule that the land across all of Israel should lie fallow for the same year.  Rather it was seen at the time it was written over three thousand years ago (and, according to its own chronology, it was written before they had even entered the land!) to be a good idea to preserve the productivity of the land, but is no longer the only way to proceed today.

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




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