From the 5th to the 14th of July, the WUPJ’s traditional Bergman and Beutel seminars were held. Respectively, programs are dedicated to educators and volunteer leaders from the world’s progressive communities. For the first time, both seminars shared the program and experiences. The 16 participants came from Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, the United States, Israel, Italy, the Czech Republic, Russia, and South Africa. After being selected, we started online a few months ago, a modality that will be maintained until the end of the year. On this occasion, participants were able to share 10 days in Israel.
The program designed by Rabbi Stacy Blank and Rabbi Shlomo Zagman was extremely valuable. On the one hand, we were able to see the historic beauty of Jerusalem and the contemporary strength of Tel Aviv. On the other hand, we were exposed to the tension that is felt in the territories inhabited by Israeli settlers on the West Bank. We were in Modi’in, a city that grew up planning along with the largest reformist community in the country. At the same time, we find rabbis of our movement who are struggling to face a state that does not provide them with the same tools as their orthodox colleagues. We were surprised by everything they do in the different realities and geographies of the country. Also, the valuable possible alliances between religious denominations among themselves, and with the social and human rights movements of the components of Israeli society. In addition, we learn tools for social entrepreneurship, visit museums and walk through cities and deserts.
On those days, in turn, activities were carried out aimed at creating bonds between the participants. Dinners, musical and liturgical activities, among others. It is perhaps the most beautiful flavour in our mouths that is at the end of this beautiful experience. We knew how to create a community. We had captivating moments of laughter and camaraderie. We knew how to take care of those in the group who had to isolate themselves due to COVID. We were there after finishing the seminar, helping each other out when our flights were delayed, or we needed some paper to leave the country. We miss each other, and we act inspired by all we’ve been able to experience together.
Hernán Rustein es rabino en Templo Libertad, Buenos Aires.
After two – almost three – years of isolation, with great frustration at the beginning of 2020 (with a regional conference cancelled by the pandemic), and practically only virtual events since then… I can say that it was a remarkable experience to participate in the Beutel seminar, from the World Union for Progressive Judaism. I make an aside to say that it was not because of this “hangover” of virtual events, but that the seminar in itself is already an experience beyond incredible.
We were able to share moments, learning sessions, visits to indoor and outdoor museums, crowded museums, and places that are museums in their own right. Every community, every rabbi we met, every professional, and every volunteer we spoke to – the program created by Rabbis Stacey Blank and Shlomo Zagman was very cohesive from start to finish.
These experiences, practices, and exchanges bring us closer to people, communities, and institutions around the world, between Reform and non-Reform Jews, between Jews and Arabs, and between Latin Americans and the other regions of the WUPJ. At the same time, this dialogue shows us that each of us has our own identity, our community, and our own taste in Reform Judaism – and it is precisely this plurality of challenges and details that enriches our movement and our personal and community experience.
David Britva Beraha is Executive Director of UJR-AmLat.