Achievements and Challenges at South African Biennials

The critical role of rabbis, the renewed spirit of Zionism and support for Progressive Judaism in Israel, and the adoption of a new siddur for the country’s congregations were among the highlights of the June 13-15 biennial conference of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism in Cape Town.

The South African Union of Temple Sisterhoods (SAUTS) held its own biennial starting the day before the SAUPJ biennial got underway.

Rabbi Joel Oseran, the World Union’s vice president for international development, was the keynote speaker. He told participants of many lessons he has learned in helping to promote and foster Progressive Judaism around the world, including the central role played by Israel.

“Israel is our home,” Oseran said, “and even though we Jews have established ourselves in incredible and successful ways throughout the Diaspora ? including a rich and mutually beneficial history here in South Africa – we dare not forget that our family’s historic and covenantal home is in one place and one place alone ? the land of Israel.” [Click here to read Rabbi Oseran’s speech.]

Oseran spent additional time in South Africa and prepared a report, which appears at the end of this article.

Another special guest at the biennial was Dalya Levy, director of ARZENU, the international roof organization of Reform and Progressive religious Zionists, who spoke at the Friday night gala dinner. [Click here to reach Dalya’s speech.]

During its National Assembly, the SAUPJ unanimously endorsed its slate of officers for the next two years. Steve Lurie, who was re-elected to serve an additional term, greeted conference-goers with a report on the movement’s activities during the previous two years. He specifically cited the arrival of three new rabbis – Robert Jacobs, Robert Ash and Ann Folb (see WUPJnews #309) ? and the movement’s new Web site: www.saupj.org.za.

From 2008 to 2010, Lurie will chair the SAUPJ’s executive committee, which will include Professor Antony Arkin and Greg Lyons, vice chairmen; Eric Meyer, treasurer; Rabbi Malcolm Matitiani, chairman of the South African Association of Progressive Rabbis; Monica Solomon, president of the South African Union of Temple Sisterhoods; Professor Antony Arkin, chairman of the South African branch of ARZENU; and Meghan Finn, national chairman of the South African branch of Netzer Olami, the international Progressive Zionist youth movement.

Other activities at the biennial included Shabbat services at Cape Town?s three Progressive congregations, led by all the country’s spiritual leaders; a Havdallah service at Temple Israel, Green Point, led by members of Netzer Olami; a panel discussion on Progressive Judaism and Israel; an opportunity to meet the movement’s rabbis over tea; and an SAUPJ executive committee meeting. A rabbinic kallah preceded the conference.

The meeting of the SAUPJ?s National Assembly also included greetings from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the South African Zionist Federation, the South African Union of Temple Sisterhoods and ARZENU. In addition, Rabbi Hillel Avidan, immediate past chairman of the South African Association of Progressive Rabbis, was honored for his years of service to the rabbinic body, and to the movement as a whole.
(Tags: South Africa, Synagogues, Meeting)

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