Weekly News & Drash: 18/19 June 2021



Weekly News & Drash: 25/26 June 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.

V-PJV Online back for Season 2
The second session in Progressive Judaism Victoria's events series, "Our conflict of identities: How to resolve the clash between our Zionist identity and human rights trends in Australian politics", will be held on Sunday 11 July at 4.45pm for 5.00pm start, via Zoom.

Launch of Mazon's Soup Bag Campaign
This month, Mazon Australia will begin its Soup Bag Campaign. Last winter, Mazon distributed over 400 bags of fresh ingredients, along with a soup recipe, to singles and families facing food insecurity. These bags were distributed through Jewish and non-Jewish organisation. This year, with a grant from the Bendigo Bank - Caulfield Park, they plan to deliver 500 bags. Mazon is seeking volunteers and organisations to pack the bags; Mazon will provide all of the food and the bags. Volunteers will be asked to provide a recipe, pack and deliver the bags, and record a video to post on social media. The person cooking the soup in the video will receive one of Mazon Australia's new aprons! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to email Mazon and let them know you can help, or if you know an organisation who has a need for the bags.

Temple David's "Neighbourhood Mensch" program
You may have heard of "Neighbourhood Watch"; Temple David in Perth has now introduced "Neighbourhood Mensch", a program that asks Jewish people to go and talk with their Jewish neighbours in order to engage more deeply with the community. Temple David president Jane Figgis said: 
“Neighbourhood Mensch identifies congregation members who live near one another and invites them to get together at someone’s home.” To learn more, CLICK HERE to read the article about the program that was published on Plus61J.

Mazel tov to UPJ members on Queens Birthday Awards
Emanuel Synagogue member Philip Feinstein OAM and Temple Beth Israel member Helen Shardey OAM (who is also UPJ Vice-President and ARZA President) were awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the recent Queens Birthday Awards presentations. Mazel tov to these very worthy recipients!

Hanukkah Homecoming to unite Progressives worldwide
Dr Ron Wolfson has issued an invitation for UPJ congregations to join a growing coalition of worldwide congregations and organisations to come together during the weekend of 3-5 December for a worldwide rededication of our relational communities post-pandemic. It's free, flexible and fun: Ron's organisation, the Kripke Institute, will provide the platform and our congregations will organise the gatherings to "recount the things that befell us" and share ideas about how we can rededicate our efforts and "turn the lights back on" after the pandemic. CLICK HERE to learn more and to sign up for your congregation to participate. A map of the world will indicate your participation and link to your website ... New Zealand will be the first!  



Helen Shardey, ARZA President
UPJ Vice-President

Progressive Jews around the world are probably breathing a sigh of relief, because regardless of their political persuasion there seems to be the chance of a more moderate government in Israel, which may recognise the desire for Israel to be a more tolerant, pluralistic State, giving equal status to all streams of Judaism.

In a sense, this is the Progressive/Reform dream, even if it does take time. For the first time since 2015, the controlling ultra-Orthodox parties are not part of the ruling coalition.

Additionally, it is the first time a Reform/Progressive Rabbi (Gilad Kariv) joins the Knesset, the ruling Coalition government, and has been appointed Chair of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. All legislative changes, including to Basic Laws or status of the judicial system, pass through this committee. So this is a very significant position for him to occupy, giving him a say in the democratic structure of Israel.

What gives us the greatest degree of hope is that Israel’s new Diaspora Affairs Minister “vows to fight for equal status for all Jews”.

Minister Nachman Shai, who is a Labor colleague of Rabbi Gilad Kariv and will be working with him, has pledged to work for equality and mend the rift with Diaspora Jewry over Israeli religious policies “in these efforts to bring everyone into this big tent of ours. It can include, and should include, everyone” (Ha’aretz 17/6).

The kind of equality Minister Shai talks about is between men and women, between the centre and periphery of Israel, between Jews and Arabs, and greater equality for all Jews of all denominations and communities. He recognises that Israel’s religious policies, such as prayer space at the Kotel and conversion, have alienated many non-Orthodox Jews and communities around the world, some of whom have distanced themselves from Israel.

Civil marriage, the power of the Orthodox Rabbinate, gay rights and buses running on Shabbat may not see change any time soon, but with the head of the secularist party, Avigdor Lieberman, becoming head of Israel’s Finance Ministry, we may see an end to the preferential budgetary treatment of the ultra-Orthodox, giving special government funding to allow male adults to study rather than work and other preferential funding.

We all pray for Israel to move forward providing peace and equality to all.



      David Knoll AM         Brian Samuel OAM


Amidst all the doom and gloom of Melbourne’s fourth lockdown there has been plenty to celebrate over the last couple of weeks.

Our very own UPJ Vice-President and ARZA President, Helen Shardey, was awarded an OAM in the recent Queen’s Birthday National Honours list. I would need a whole chapter to elaborate on Helen’s devotion to the Progressive Movement, as well as her commitment to justice in Israel in her role as head of ARZA.  Helen comes with strong passion in both these roles and on behalf of the entire Executive, we wish Helen a hearty Mazeltov on this well-deserved award.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the Leo Baeck Centre to present the Ner Tamid Award to Ruth Taft (pictured centre, with Helen Shardey on the right). Ruth has been a stalwart of the LBC community for many years and her citation covered three pages of activities for her congregation. Although the numbers were limited due to Covid-19 restrictions, a lovely service was enjoyed by those in person and the many who joined by Zoom.

On Friday evening, David Knoll presented awards via Zoom to Lorraine Jacobs and Mervyn Rudd of Beit Or v'Shalom in Brisbane. They both truly exemplify the unsung heroes, for whom recognition of their service is so important.

Straight after, David also had the opportunity to join the United Hebrew Congregation in Singapore for pre-Shabbat drinks (in their time zone) via Zoom to welcome their new rabbis, Beni and Miriam Wajnberg, who have finally made to Singapore from New Jersey with their two sons.

On Sunday, we ran a widely called-for workshop entitled: “Responding to Antisemitism and anti-Zionism”. The workshop was well attended, with close to 100 participants. If you missed the event, please feel free to contact Jocelyn, as the session was recorded and can be viewed upon request. We are grateful to Bren Carlill of the Zionist Federation of Australia and Lynda Ben-Menashe of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (and an Emanuel Synagogue member) for joining with our Associate Professor Josh Keller and David Knoll AM in presenting the workshop.

Progressive Judaism Victoria (PJV) also ran the first of their winter series of workshops, which are available on Zoom once a month. You can find the link on the PJV Facebook Page, or alternatively contact them and ask to be added to their mailing list.

                                                                             Warm regards, Brian


Rabbinic couple welcomed to UHC Singapore
The UPJ joins in celebrating with the United Hebrew Congregation the long-awaited arrival of Rabbis Beni and Miriam Wajnberg, who arrived with their sons Rafael and Shai to Singapore on 16 June. The family is now in quarantine for the required 21 days. The congregation is coordinating ways to reach out to the Wajnberg while in quarantine, and to assist them in settling into their new home. B'ruchim Haba'im (a warm welcome!)

Drash on Parashat Balak  
Rabbi Esther Jilovsky, PhD
2021 High Holy Days Rabbi,
Temple David, Perth, WA

In the early days of the Covid pandemic, rainbows began to appear in front windows across Australia. As shops, schools, offices and airports closed indefinitely, much of our everyday lives suddenly disappeared. Our new reality comprised of lockdowns, home-schooling, working from home, and the ubiquitous online platform Zoom. The freedom to travel, which until so recently had allowed us to traverse our planet in 24 hours or so, was reduced to our house and our street, maybe our suburb if we were lucky.

It was a strange feeling. Confined in a way that many of us were not accustomed to, separated from loved ones interstate or overseas, and not knowing when, or even if, the freedom we had enjoyed pre-pandemic might return.

Yet, as I walked around Melbourne last winter, I found myself noticing small details I might otherwise have missed. The stark beauty of trees as they shed their final autumn leaves. The quiet of the mornings absent of rush-hour traffic and the school run. The sound of the world taking a deep breath.

We don’t always see what’s right around us, unless we take the time to look. In the Torah this week we read Parashat Balak, which tells the story of the prophet Balaam. We read: “He [Balaam] was riding on his she-donkey, with his two servants alongside, when the donkey caught sight of the angel of the Eternal standing in the way” (Numbers 22:22-23). The donkey swerves, but Balaam, blind to what is right in front of him, beats her to continue straight. 

CLICK HERE to read Rabbi Jilovsky's full drash on the UPJ website.





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