The conference begins Wednesday May 3 and concludes with Havdalah on Saturday May 6. Keep checking here for updates to the program. In all facets of the program we will be engaging in lessons learned from the Coronavirus pandemic, the crisis in Ukraine and examining the Israeli reality and our Progressive Zionist values. If you are not subscribed to the WUPJ newsletter to receive regular updates, click here.
This year’s conference will be based on the innovative “Unconference” model – our focus is on interactive collaboration through roundtable discussions and facilitation of one-on-one and small group conversations both during the formal programming and during free time.
Surveys have been sent to registered participants to sign up for the aspects of the conference that provide options.
This program is subject to change at any time and will be updated in the coming weeks.
WEDNESDAY, 3 MAY at Beit Shmuel
14:00-18:00 — Registration → Floor 1, Foyer
Welcome to Connections 2023! It is so wonderful to be together. Register, pick up your credentials, visit with longstanding friends and connect with some new friends. Enjoy registration-adjacent gatherings:
- 15:00-18:00 — Beit Café | Join for a randomly assigned coffee date. → Floor 1, Patio and Dining Hall
- 15:00-18:00 — “Trees of Knowledge” Garden | Join a discussion with thought and community leaders from within our movement to learn about latest trends and best practices. → Floor 1, Patio and Dining Hall
1. Young leadership in action: What’s new with Netzer, Tamar and the Shnat Netzer gap year program in Israel
Led by Carla Neimarkas, Director of the WUPJ Youth Department, and the new Hanhaga of Netzer: Bea Rubinsztain, Naomi Tamir and Vicky Richards
2. Ukraine update: What is happening on the ground and how the WUPJ Ukraine Crisis Fund is helping
Led by Rabbi Alex Duchovny, leaders of the Ukrainian communities and WUPJ Ukraine Crisis Fund Co-Chair Rabbi Igor Zinkov
3. Jewish Effective Giving: The philanthropic philosophy of maximizing donations and saving lives
Led by Project Director Adam Azari
4. Relational Judaism: Transforming institutions and inspiring communities to engage and connect people in meaningful and lasting ways
Led by UPJ Chair David Knoll and Rabbi Evon Yakar, Temple Bat Yam and North Tahoe Hebrew Congregation
5. Innovation in Training Prayer Leaders
Led by Cantor Sheila Nesis (North America), Director of the Shlichei Tzibor Training Program, Sonja Guentner (Europe), Co-Chair of the EUPJ, organizer of the Baalei Tefila Program, Avishai Conyer, Federal Chair of Netzer Australia and leader of Kol Nefesh, and Rabbi Leonid Bimbat and Cantor Dmitry Karpenko (Moscow Reform Synagogue)
6. Women’s leadership today: The Opportunities and the Challenges
Led by Sara Charney, President of the Women for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Marla Feldman, Executive Director of the Women of Reform Judaism, Miriam Olchansky, Secretary of Fundacion Judaica and Chair of Congregation NCI Emanuel in Buenos Aires, Rabbi Pauline Bebe, the first woman rabbi ordained in France and the director of École Rabbinique de Paris
7. Jerusalem and beyond: Visions for Progressive Education and Leadership Development
The WUPJ and HUC campus sit in the center of the Jewish world. How can this translate into leadership for Israel and Progressive Judaism around the world? Led by Rabbi Stacey Blank, WUPJ Director of Education and Leadership Development, and Rabbi Talia Avnon-Beneviste, Director of the HUC Israeli Rabbinic Program
8. Engaging with Israel: Progressive Values and our local Zionist Federations
Led by Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, Head of the Department for Organization and Connection with Israelis Abroad, Ben Fantini, Secretary of FIEP Italy and WUPJ Board Member and Andrew Keene, Vice-Chair of the WUPJ
17:00 – International Assembly → Floor 4, Blaustein Hall
18:00 — Dinner Reception → Floor 1, Dining Hall
19:00 — Opening Ceremony → Floor 1, Hirsch Theater
After too long apart, we celebrate coming together to acknowledge our achievements and the sacred work of our diverse communities. We will honor and pay tribute to Arthur and the late Betty Roswell. We are delighted that Arthur and members of his family will be with us as we rededicate the newly refurbished Blaustein Hall, completing the first stage of renewal of Beit Shmuel/ Mercaz Shimshon. Our opening ceremony will be accompanied by the Israeli Reform movement’s newest ensemble “Be’ain Mizrahit”.
We are delighted that Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur, rabbi at MJLF in Paris, author and editorial director of Tenoua Journal of Jewish Thought, will join and lead us for a special presentation of her innovative program, “Beit Midrash Tenoua”.
THURSDAY, 4 MAY
- 7:15 — Buses leave Beit Shmuel
- 8:00 — Shacharit at the Egalitarian Section of the Western Wall
Led by Rabbi Ruben Sternschein and Cantor Irena Altshul
- 10:30 — Connections goes to the Knesset
As an international movement, we are proud to offer the opportunity to visit the Knesset led by Israel Religious Action Center’s Liaison to the Knesset Lauren Puris. Over these last months, our democratic and progressive values have been challenged. It will be our privilege to learn from MK Rabbi Gilad Kariv (Labor), MK Idan Roll (Yesh Atid), IRAC Director Orly Erez-Likhovski, and WUPJ Chair Carole Sterling.
- 12:30 — Boxed lunches and departure to site visits which will expose us to Progressive Zionism in action and spark discussion and debate on the following topics:
TRACK 01 | Jerusalem of Collaboration: A City Knit Together
On this track, we will learn about best practices that harness new resources to facilitate change, empower communities of learners, promote justice, peace and compassion and advance equality in leadership and in interfaith and intra-faith relations.
We’ll travel to the Blender Innovation Center of Hadassah College located in downtown Jerusalem on the border of diametrically opposed communities — secular Jews, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, new immigrants, Arab Israelis and Palestinians — all studying and teaching together. The Blender Innovation Center provides lectures, workshops, labs and accelerators for entrepreneurship to help diverse populations and organizations develop creative ideas that are also economically sustainable.
Dr. Tali Blank, Founding Director of the Blender, will share her personal story as well as successes and challenges as a Jewish woman of Middle Eastern background in academia.
Small group sessions with Blender entrepreneur graduates
Panel of Activists from Reshut HaRabim
Reshut HaRabim is an umbrella organization for more than 35 Jewish renewal initiatives in Jerusalem — from secular to Orthodox — promoting pluralism, tolerance and a city for all residents. The organization provides a space for cooperation, collaboration, professional support and resource-sharing.
Rabbi Inbar Bluzer-Shalem, Reform Rabbi and Director of Reshut HaRabim.
Rabbi Aharon Leibowitz, Orthodox Rabbi, former Jerusalem City Council member and founder of Hashgacha Pratit for private Kashrut certification, and Chupot, private religious services challenging the monopoly of the Israeli Rabbinate.
Moshe Shriki, Educator and activist; Founder of “Memizrach Shemesh”, a beit midrash and center for Jewish social activism and leadership drawing especially from the Sephardi and Mizrachi heritage.
Estimated conclusion at 17:30
TRACK 02 | Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl: Tools for Combating Antisemitism and Promoting Progressive Zionist Activism
We aspire to model a community of learners that engages in idea sharing and integrates study and discussion with tikkun olam and social activism, including advocating for Progressive Zionist values.
Master Class on 21st Century Antisemitism – Rabbi Moshe Cohn, Head of the Jewish World Section, International Seminars and Jewish World Department, International School for Holocaust Studies, will guide us through recognizing Antisemitism today, including the difference between Antisemitism and disagreement with Israeli policies. We will discuss how we as individuals and communities can combat Antisemitism.
Yad Vashem Synagogue — Designed by architect Moshe Safdie, the synagogue displays items from destroyed places of worship of European Jewry. We will explore the place of objects in education and memory and conduct a short ceremony.
Mount Herzl — “From vision and ideals to today’s State of Israel: How we continue to be supportive of Israel when the reality is complicated.”
Discussion with Uri Zachi, Chair of the Herzl Center, Israeli political activist, and founder of the Front for the Protection of Democracy.
Walking tour of Herzl’s grave and the graves of the Great Leaders of the Nation: Between vision and reality.
How much was Herzl’s vision in Altneuland a basis for the establishment of the State and the past 75 years of its existence? We will explore the ideas and ideologies propagated by past leaders and what we take from them — together with our Progressive Zionist values — to shape the future of Israel.
*The walking tour may be challenging for people with mobility issues
Estimated conclusion at 17:30
TRACK 03 | Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue: Israel Update with the Leaders of IRAC
We will explore the legal and political issues that the Reform Movement in Israel has been engaged in for years — and that have recently shaken the State of Israel to its core and sent hundreds of thousands of protestors to the streets.
Tour of the Israeli Supreme Court to learn about the values reflected through the architecture of the building as well as the history and structure of the Israeli legal system.
There we will hear from Adv. Orly Erez-Likhovski, Director of the Israel Religious Action Center. IRAC works to advance freedom of religion, ensure state recognition of and equal status for Reform and Conservative rabbis, synagogues and institutions, advance equality and strengthen Israeli democracy. We will return to Beit Shmuel to meet with:
Adv. Nikki Maor, Director of the IRAC Legal Aid Center for Olim
LACO is a leading advocacy organization for new immigrants and deals with such issues as registration of Jewish status and citizenship, complex family situations, family reunification, and cutting through governmental bureaucracy — most recently with the wave of immigration and refugees as a result of the Russia-Ukraine War. Major legal achievements include the recognition of Reform and Conservative converts in Israel as eligible for Aliyah as well as non-Jewish partners in same-sex marriages under the Law of Return.
Samah Darwish, Director of the IRAC Racism Crisis Center
The Racism Crisis Center (RCC) was founded to change Israel’s perception of racism through research, public awareness campaigns, and advocacy. RCC also provides direct support to victims of racism — including Arabs, immigrants, Ethiopians, Jews from Arabic countries, asylum seekers and migrant workers.
Ori Narov, Director of the Legal Department
Estimated conclusion at 17:30
TRACK 04 | Muslala: A Model of Young Leadership Making Social Change through Urban Renewal and Art
Muslala is a community of artists operating an active meeting and study center. It was founded on the belief that art is the only multi-cultural and international language and a key tool establishing effective dialogue between peoples, groups, communities and nations.
Tour: Up the Spiral, The Clal Center as a symbol of Israeli optimism
The tour will combine the story of the Clal center — a gigantic commercial center built in the 1970s that became the white elephant of Jerusalem — with the story of the Muslala Artists Collective which made its home in the building in 2014. We will ascend the famous spiral stairs, passing through many public artworks until we reach the rooftop and the Muslala Terrace — an “urban oasis” in the making and a combination of a park, a studio for art and sustainability, a public space and a laboratory for alternative urban life.
Meet Matan Israeli, Co-CEO and Founder of Muslala who will share his vision and the challenges of urban renewal, environmental justice, making social change in Jerusalem and young entrepreneurship. An artist and creator, he is the winner of the Ministry of Culture Young Artist Award (2013).
Workshop: Tools for social change through imagining sustainable rooftops
We will acquire tools for making social change through learning about different types of rooftops that exemplify “urban sustainability.” We will then dream and plan ourselves a rooftop that benefits both people and the environment.
*This tour can be made accessible for people with mobility issues
Estimated conclusion at 17:30
TRACK 05 | If you are a member of the WUPJ outgoing or incoming MC & EB, you will tour the buildings of Israel’s national institutions in Jerusalem and participate in a working session with Rabbi Sergio Bergman.
Dinner – We encourage you explore the many restaurants in Jerusalem and share a meal and conversation with new friends. The conference app can help facilitate connections.
21:00 — Open-mic night in the garden of Kehilat Har El / WUPJ offices Wind down from the long and eventful day. Come by for dessert and drinks. Share a story or a poem or a great tradition from your community. Sing a song. Karaoke Israeli favorites. Organized by Netzer / Tamar.
FRIDAY, 5 MAY
Co-Working in Community, Building Our Future Together
- 8:30 — Shacharit overlooking the Old City. → Floor 4, Rooftop Terrace
Led by Rabbi David Gelfand and Cantor Sheila Nesis
- 9:30 — Keynote – Rabbi Sergio Bergman → Floor 1, Patio and Dining Hall
Values Propositions for Progressive Judaism in the 21st Century and Beyond (please read the Mission and Values Proposition Statement on the WUPJ website).
- 10:00 — Facilitated roundtable discussions – We will hold three rounds of 45-minute discussions. In each round, participants will be assigned to a table at which will be discussed one of the seven values of the Values Propositions. Each round will have two parts: an ideological discussion followed by the sharing of practical experience. Together, we will envision and work on future collaborations to deepen the impact of our values in our communities and worldwide.
- 13:00 — Lunch with your Region
- 15:00 | Preparation for Shabbat: Refresh at your hotel, participate in a Shabbat spiritual preparation workshop or enjoy a L’chaim on the Floor 4 Rooftop Terrance looking out over Jerusalem.
“Sailing towards Shabbat” with Rabbi Benny Minich, Kehilat “Daniel” in Jaffa
A text study exploring HaRav Kook, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Chassidim nigunim. → Floor 1, Hirsch Theater
“Beit Midrash Zehut” – with André Liberman and Rebecca Orantes
Experience the spirit of the Recife, Brazil, study group established by young adults. Bring your authenticity and your creativity to this workshop that integrates song with study. → Floor 1, Dining Hall
- 15:30 — Music on the Rooftop Terrace | “HaHamishiya HaKolit – The Vocal Quintet” A Cappella renderings of some favorite Jewish tunes.
- 16:30 — Cantors on the Roof | Our cantors from around the world sharing some of their favorite melodies.
- 18:00 — Kabbalat Shabbat → Floor 1, Patio
Music, prayer, inspiration, and joy led by Rabbi Esteban Gottfried and Rabbi Allison Conyer accompanied by the Beit Tefila Yisraeli Band.
Shabbat Dinner → Floor 4, Blaustein Hall
Birkat HaMazon and Shabbat songs led by Shnat Ramah Netzer
SATURDAY, 6 MAY
- 9:30 | Shabbat Shacharit → Floor 4, Blaustein Hall
Led by Rabbi Sergio Bergman and Rabbi Stacey Blank, accompanied by the Niggunim Ensemble featuring Rabbi-Cantor Shani Ben-Or and Boaz Dorot. We will celebrate the tradition of the WUPJ Torah exchange, with several scrolls being presented to communities who currently do not have one.
Multi-lingual Beit Midrash
וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲנִי יְהֹוָה מְקַדִּשְׁכֶֽם
I will be sanctified among the Children of Israel – I am the Lord who sanctifies you
How do we as Progressive Jews elevate the Divine in our communities, the Jewish people and the world? How do we truly bring honor to our Creator?
Led by Rabbi Marc Goldsmith (English), Rabbi Gershon Kwasniewski (Portuguese), Rabbi Adrian Fada (Spanish), Rabbi Leonid Bimbat (Russian), Rabbi Pauline Bebe (French), Rabbi Sivan Navon-Shoval (Hebrew) and Rabbi David Benyamin (beginners Hebrew).
12:30 | Festive Kidush → Floor 1, Dining Hall
14:00 | Shabbat Afternoon – Optional participation in affinity group programs.
Graduates of WUPJ Leadership Programs (Beutel, Bergman) – with Paul Liptz → Floor 1, Dining Hall
Graduates of WRJ Wilkenfeld Seminar – with Sally Klein-Katz → Floor 1, Foyer
Gathering of Netzer / Tamar Participants → Floor 1, outside of Hirsch Theater
Open discussion on the situation in Israel and involvement in local Zionist Federations – Rabbi Sergio Bergman and Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman → Floor 4, Blaustein Hall
Alumni of URJ Camps and Immersion Programs with Melissa Frey, Managing Director of URJ Camps & Immersive Programs → Floor 0, Foyer of ground floor entrance
17:30 | Seudah Shlishit → Floor 1, Dining Hall
18:45 | Closing program and Havdalah → Floor 1, Patio
We will install the new WUPJ leadership, reflect on our meaningful time together and share our last spiritual moments together accompanied by the Spirit of the Galilee band led by Feliza and Rabbi Or Zohar.
*We are prepared to join our Israeli brothers and sisters in the weekly protest in Jerusalem, which can affect the times of our closing programming.