World Union Connections Conference April 2017 Jerusalem

The World Union for Progressive Judaism’s (WUPJ) CONNECTIONS conference was held in Jerusalem in April, providing me the opportunity to visit Israel and to have some meaningful meetings with Progressive Zionists from around the world. However, beyond that, it was an outstanding conference that provided inspiration and support for all of us seeking to ensure that Israel fulfills its own commitment to be a democratic and inclusive society.

It also provided a very strong reminder that Progressive (aka Reform / Liberal) Judaism is the largest denomination of Judaism in the world and possibly the fastest growing religious community in Israel.

As well as sharing and learning in an atmosphere of positive commitment to Israel and religious pluralism with the 450 other participants, it was also an opportunity to hear some outstanding speakers. This included Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, who at that time repeated his commitment to ensure that there is a permanent egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel. Also the CEO of Sodastream, Daniel Birnbaum, and his story to develop a world-wide business based in the West Bank, where, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians and Jews all work together in harmony.

We also heard Yosef I. Abramowitz, co-founder of the Arava Solar Company that is adding to the development of renewable energy in Israel, and across East Africa, particularly to places that previously had no electricity. As if that wasn’t enough, the final speeches of the conference were by Professors Tsvia & Rafi Walden, who were as outstanding then as they were when they visited Australia a short while ago.

If you combine this with a Bat Mitzvah Service at the Kotel for 13 adult women from South America; an open air Kabbalat Shabbat for 1,000 people hosted by all of the Progressive congregations in and around Jerusalem; musical contributions of the highest standard; and a series of important resolutions on key issues in the Jewish world – it can be seen that this was a vibrant and important event.

One of the key resolutions for the WUPJ was to hold their conferences every 4 years in Jerusalem, and to combine that with participation in the Progressive / Reform / Liberal events around the globe. This means that any member of the Australian Progressive community who wants to participate in, and enjoy, being part of the world movement will be able to do this in numerous countries and venues.

As many people plan their holidays to visit Jewish communities this opportunity should be considered, as should being sure to visit the fantastic home of Progressive Judaism, Mercaz Shimshon, when you next visit Jerusalem and Israel.

Steve Denenberg
ARZA President

Australian Representatives at the conference Steve Denenberg, Barbara Simon, Joel McCarroll