Weekly News & Drash: 9/10 April 2021


                                                                 Weekly News & Drash: 16/17 April 2021

Nicole Maor, Director of the Israel Religious Action Centre's Legal Aid for Olim
(pictured with colleague Orly Erez-Likhovski at Israel's Supreme Court)

successfully led the charge leading to the historic Israel Supreme Court decision
recognising Progressive and Masorti conversions in Israel. 

Nicole will be with us in person for a UIA Progressive Appeal campaign event

on Tuesday 27 April at 7.00-8.00pm, at Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra.

Click here to register to attend.

To make your donation to support the important work of the UIA Progressive Appeal, 
go to: https://upj.org.au/progressive-appeal/donate

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.

Beth Shalom featured in WUPJ's Shabbat Around the World
Rabbi JoEllen Duckor and a team of services leaders at Beth Shalom in Auckland will stream its service to the world on Friday 16 April at 6.30pm (Auckland time), as part of the World Union for Progressive Judaism's program. To learn more about the WUPJ's program, CLICK HERE.

Invitation to attend WRJ Shabbat event
Join the Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) Midwest District for a Zoom experience on Sunday 18 April, with the Australian component beginning at 10.0am (AEST), 9.30am (ACST) and 8.00am (AWST). Dr Sue Silberberg will speak about the history of Australian Jews in the 19th Century and Professor Suzanne Rutland OAM, PhD will present on post-Holocaust immigration to Australia, followed by virtual tours around Australia. At 12.00pm AEST, grab your latte or drink of choice for an open forum with lay leaders, including Maureen Barten, Ellen Frajman, Bev Gelbart, Joanne Loewy Irons, Sue Morgan and Pam Spiegel from our region. There is no charge; CLICK HERE to register (registrations close on 15 April USA time); for more information contact Joanne Loewy: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Jewish cancer survivor to 'give it 100%' at Sydney show
Following his recent appearance at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Jewish comedian Michael Shafar will bring his show "100%" to Sydney's Enmore Theatre on 29-30 April, as part of the Sydney Comedy Festival. He recently chatted about his who on The Project - CLICK HERE to watch on YouTube, and CLICK HERE to learn more and book.


The UPJ Biennial Conference will be held in a blended format via Zoom and face-to-face in Sydney on Friday 15 October to Sunday 17 October 2021. “Progressing Judaism Eight Days a Week” will offer a diverse range of topics to be discussed, dissected, challenged and debated, in a friendly and inclusive space, concentrating on values in our daily lives and the religious and spiritual aspects of our Jewish identity. Be on the lookout for more details coming soon!



Helen Shardey, President


In remembrance and celebration of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, ARZA Australia and the UPJ would like to share with you a beautiful musical rendition of The Prayer for Israel by Australian musicians CHUTNEY. Please click on the link below and enjoy.

CHUTNEY violinist Ben Adler (pictured centre) said: "We've produced a sequel to our Jerusalem of Gold video (which you can view and listen to it by CLICKING ON THIS LINK), this time to commemorate Yom Hazikaron / Yom Ha'atzmaut. We've recorded our own heartfelt arrangement of The Prayer for Israel, Avinu Shebashamayim, in Sydney's Central Synagogue.

CLICK HERE to watch and listen /to CHUTNEY performing The Prayer for Israel on YouTube.



      David Knoll AM         Brian Samuel OAM


Over the weekend, we were advised of the passing of Prince Philip, just short of his 100th birthday. The UPJ, along with other community leaders, have expressed our sympathy to the Queen and the Royal Family on the passing of her husband, and the father and grandfather of the extended family.

There are a couple of interesting connections to the Jewish community in Great Britain. Prior to the Second World War, Prince Philip was forced to leave Greece, his birth country. His father and the family were exiled, and his father moved to Monaco with his mistress; his mother was committed to a home, suffering from a mental breakdown. After early schooling in Germany, Prince Philip was sent off to England by his sister; as a 13-year-old in 1934, he was enrolled in Gordonstoun in the Scottish Highlands. The school was established by Kurt Hahn, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. It was at this school he developed his lifelong association with the Jewish community. He also insisted his own three sons attend the same school, instead of the traditional Eton.

His mother, Princess Alice of Battenburg, remained in Athens during the war and was recognised for sheltering numerous Jews during the Second World War. She was honoured as a "Righteous Among Nations" by Yad Vashem. At the conclusion of the war, she founded a Greek Orthodox nursing order. She spent the last two years of her life in London and, upon her death, her remains were buried at a Russian Orthodox Church on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

In 1994, Prince Philip became the first British Royal to visit Israel. The visit was deemed a private visit to the graveside of his mother, Princess Alice, but more importantly it marked the end of an unofficial boycott of the Jewish State by British monarchy.

                                                              Warm regards, Brian


Baruch Dayan HaEmet

We are enormously saddened to learn of the passing of Isi Leibler AO CBE z”l and extend our deepest sympathies to
Mrs Naomi Leibler and their children, grandchildren, to his brother Mark Leibler AC and his family, and ZFA President Jeremy Leibler and his family.


Drash on Parashat Tazria-Metzora  

Rabbi Gersh Lazarow
Temple Beth Israel, St Kilda, Victoria

The Jewish practice of circumcision as a demonstration of the covenant with God dates back to the Book of Genesis (in Parashat Lech L’cha), when God commands Abraham to circumcise himself and his offspring.

Circumcision, however, does not come up as a commandment for all Jews until we begin this week’s sidra, Parashat Tazria, when we are told; “on the eighth day, the flesh of the foreskin should be circumcised” (Leviticus 12:3). In this particular passage, the Torah offers us a commandment but does not seek to justify or explain it. As a result, there are few other commandments that have been as debated throughout our tradition.

Taking a medical approach to the commandment, Israeli biblical scholar and commentator Nechama Leibowitz cites Isaac ben Moses Arama, a Spanish rabbi, when saying that ‘evidently, timely circumcision prevents diseases.’

Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, in his work ‘Ha’amek Davar’, disagrees.  Drawing on a verse from Genesis ‘And it shall be a token of the covenant’, Berlin suggests that circumcision should be understood as a ‘mark of the Almighty’s alliance with you, and not as a prophylactic remedy.’ David Kimhi, a medieval biblical commentator and philosopher, compares the Jewish commandment of circumcision to tzitzit and t’fillin suggesting that ‘mitzvot shall be a token of remembrance. However, being imprinted on the human body, it is the strongest sign of all.’ Maimonides sees circumcision as ‘the physical sign as a unifying factor for all those who believe in the One God’.

Altogether we can see a wide range of understanding of the same commandment – medical, covenantal, ethical and social. Despite these traditions, by the 19th century, leaders of the then-nascent Progressive movement objected to circumcision. One such leader, Germany’s Abraham Geiger, described it as a “barbaric, bloody act” before our movement ultimately re-embraced the practice – as we continue to do today.


Nevertheless challenges from the outside world to circumcision are not a new phenomenon, and not a few Jews have been influenced by the ongoing arguments condemning it.

CLICK HERE to read the full drash by Rabbi Lazarow on the UPJ website.




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