By Rabbi Yael Splansky.
We at Holy Blossom Temple are very proud of Carole Sterling’s commitment and leadership in advancing Reform/Progressive/Liberal Judaism across the continents.
Our congregation’s commitment to World Jewry was further confirmed when Les Rothschild and Rabbi Jordan Helfman were also elected to the new WUPJ Board.
Kol HaKavod and B’Hatzlachah!
For the news release, please click here.
WUPJ Installation Speech
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I am here this evening, honoured and humbled, as I assume the role of Chairperson of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
I am grateful to the Nominating Committee for their faith and confidence in me, and I promise that I will be much more qualified for this position in two years!
I stand on the shoulders of my predecessors who served with great distinction. Their tireless efforts, vision and dedication have strengthened and sustained our organization. Tonight we think of them with respect and admiration. They are: Dr. Claude Montefiore, Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck, Hon. Lily H. Montague, Rabbi Dr. Solomon B Freehof, Rabbi Dr. Jacob K. Shankman, Rabbi Dr. Bernard J. Bamberger, Rabbi Dr. Maurice N. Eisendrath, Rabbi Dr. David H. Wice, Gerard (Gerry) Daniel, Donald Day, Austin Beutel, Ruth Cohen, Steve Bauman, and
Tonight we add Mike Grabiner’s name to this illustrious list.
Mike, you have served the World Union for the last four years with a full heart and endless devotion. Although the circumstances may have been challenging at times, your surrounded yourself with capable and caring lay leaders, worked closely with our professional staff and made sure that things were running smoothly.
On a personal note, Mike, I am grateful for your friendship and support over the last few years. I have learned much from you and I hope that I can continue to count on your support. We thank you for your leadership!
Our son, Cory has travelled extensively throughout the world. Jay and I enjoy meeting up with him and feel privileged to see the world through his eyes. We have always enjoyed visiting our progressive/reform/liberal congregations, and several years ago, we found ourselves in Santiago, Chile – the week that Debbie Friedman (z’l) died. We attended services which were filled with Debbie’s music, at once we felt very comfortable and at home.
Rabbi Chaim Koritzinsky and his wife (then pregnant with their first child) welcomed us warmly and invited us to their home for Shabbat dinner. We never forgot their gracious hospitality, so it is especially wonderful to see Rabbi Koritzinsky here in Rio.
Rabbis Gary Bretton-Granatoor and Joel Oseran helped us connect to some folks when we visited Australia a year later.
We arrived in Sydney in the midst of Chanukah and enjoyed latkes and lighting the Chanukiah with Steve and Sue Denenberg, Shabbat the following week in Melbourne with Andrea and Phillip Bliss and in Auckland, NZ we were hosted by Maureen and David Robinson.
In each place we visited, we attended services, were introduced to members of the community and were made to feel so welcome and so at home, despite being half a world away. It was like being with family!
As Jews, we innately understand these moments of connection and a sense of belonging is crucial to us. Opening our homes and our hearts and welcoming the stranger is what we do.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to be inspired, mentored and nurtured by Nani and Austin Beutel. They have always modeled exemplary leadership and philanthropic generosity ~ throughout the world!
Their love and devotion to the World Union is legendary – I remember attending many WUPJ lunches at URJ Biennials with them. Although I know how much they don’t want or need public recognition, I do want to acknowledge and thank them for their confidence in me.
Upon our return from Australia, it was my intention to call the Beutels and tell them how special our trip had been thanks to the WUPJ connections that had been made for us.
Austin happened to call me first and I began to relay the stories of our heartwarming experiences.
In true Austin fashion, he said “Great! This will make our conversation that much easier. You have been nominated to serve as Senior Vice of the World Union for Progressive Judaism”.
We never know where one “yes” will lead. It can chart new paths and begin new journeys that we never even dreamed of!
This evening, I find myself here in Rio de Janeiro, surrounded by so many dedicated, talented people who are here, too, because of their deep concern for and love of the Jewish people and our beloved Israel. We are in the “together” business, collectively committing ourselves to our shared purpose. We see our potential for impact as a gift, a challenge, and an opportunity.
As my own rabbi, Rabbi Yael Splansky of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto recently noted, “ A Jew steps into leadership because he or she feels duty bound to offer up his or her best efforts in order to make G-d’s world more whole. It takes chutzpah to step into a leadership role, but for those who anchor their leadership in Jewish values, it’s never about “me”. It’s about the task, the need and the mitzvah at hand”. The lesson of Jewish history is that people like you and me CAN make a difference. So thank you…for all that you have done and for all that we will do…together.
Rabbi Dick Hirsch, a much admired and visionary leader in our movement, who himself served as Executive Director/President of the World Union from 1972 – 1999 notes in his book “For the Sake of Zion” – “A fundamental premise of Judaism is that ideas and deeds are inseparable”.
Fortunately for us, we recently selected that amazing leader who can help us combine ideas and deeds.
Rabbi Danny Freelander, I have had the good fortune and privilege of working with you over the years during your tenure at the Union for Reform Judaism.
You are a much beloved Jewish leader who stands with the people, stands for the people and draws out the best in people. I am optimistic and excited about our possibilities, especially with the talented leadership team we have assembled.
You are an uber mensch and a thought leader and I am confident that together ~ all of us ~ we will accomplish great things that none of us can do alone. Our diversity in culture, geography, minhag and language is the dialogue of K’lal Yisrael – a vision which you have so clearly articulated as our leader.
Our goals and dreams will help to be realized by our dedicated professional staff in Jerusalem and New York.
Shai Pinto – as our COO, you have held us together over the last eight years through transition and turmoil. Please know that your tireless energy and leadership is acknowledged and much appreciated!
Special thanks to you – and Phyllis Dorey and Raoul
Gottlieb – for pulling together this incredible conference. You can feel the spirit and the connection everywhere. You have enabled us to meet and greet our brothers and sisters from all across our progressive world, and the learning and friendships we have acquired here will last a lifetime.
I would like to acknowledge and thank all of our professional staff for their support and dedication to our sacred tasks and for their ability to be supportive and helpful in seven different time zones! Thank you for everything. You are an integral and essential part of the WUPJ family / team.
My own leadership path and indeed my life has been paved with exceptional role models, teachers, friends and individuals who have nurtured, inspired and transformed me.
I am indebted to my grandparents, whose deep love for the Jewish people was palpable, my beloved father, whose 14th yahrtzeit I will observe in a few weeks, my mom in Montreal who you can probably feel kvelling and of course my amazing husband Jay and our children Lauren and Cory. Their unconditional love, encouragement and confidence in me has given me the foundation to grow and thrive. I am so blessed to have you in my life – and I am so grateful. I love you so much! I can never thank you enough!!
I am delighted that Rabbi Jordan Helfman is here with us as well as my dear friend, Les Rothschild, himself a leader in our movement. Thank you both for your continued support and friendship.
There are (at least!) two other rabbis whom I would like to thank and honour this evening.
Rabbi Lenny Thal – everyone’s best friend – who I am delighted will be the recipient of the World Union for Progressive Judaism International Humanitarian Award at the URJ Biennial in Orlando, Florida on Thursday, November 5, 2015.
Having had opportunities to travel with Rabbi Thal and his wife Linda, I have personally witnessed his reach across the world. He has nurtured, encouraged and enabled many people in far away places to embrace and enjoy progressive/liberal Jewish life in a most meaningful way. The good works of his hands and heart will endure for generations and I am so proud to call him my “friend” (not yet cousin!!).
Unfortunately, Rabbi Richard Address couldn’t be with us in Rio as scheduled. We are so grateful for his efforts in translating “The TORAH, A Modern Commentary” edited by Rabbi Gunter Plaut to Portuguese.
On a personal note, I will always be grateful to Rabbi Address for teaching me about the “theology of relationships” – the importance of connecting, reaching out and caring for and about others. They are lessons I have taken to heart and try to incorporate in my own life every day.
Next week, Jews around the world will celebrate the Festival of Shavuot. We will recount standing at Mt. Sinai together and receiving our sacred and holy text.
We will read these words from Megillat Ruth (ch.1, v.16)
“Don’t urge me to leave you or turn away from you. Wherever you go, I will go. Where you make a home, I will make a home. Your people will be my people.
And your G-d, my G-d”.
In the spirit of these words spoken by Ruth, I’d like to ask the members of our Management Committee and Executive Board to join me as we are installed as the leaders writing the next chapter for the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
Thank you !!
Carole Sterling, Chair: Canada
Stephane Beder, Sr. Vice Chair: France
Charlie Rothschild, Secretary: USA
David Robinson, Treasurer: New Zealand
Phyllis Dorey, Vice Chair: Australia
Yaron Shavit, Vice Chair: Israel
Gordon Smith, Vice Chair: UK
Miriam Vasserman, Vice Chair: Brazil
Nani Beutel: Canada
Dora Lucia Brenner: Brazil
James Cherney: USA
Paula Edelstein: Israel
Sonja Guentner: Germany
Sharene Hambur: Australia
Rabbi Jordan Helfman: Canada
Andrew Keene: USA
Miriam Kramer: UK
Alvin Kushner: South Africa
Lynn Magid Lazar: USA
Yair Lootstein: Israel
Anne Molloy: USA
Rabbi Danny Rich: UK
Les Rothschild: Canada
L.Tadd Schwab: USA
Maria Sheinin: Russia
Mike Grabiner , Immediate Past Chair: UK
Rabbi Larry Englander, ARZEINU: Canada
Rabbi Richard Hirsch: Israel, Honorary Life President
Steven M. Bauman: USA
Austin Beutel: Canada
Dr. Philip Bliss: Australia
Stephen Breslauer: USA
Ruth Cohen: Israel
Gerry Daniel: USA
Betty Golomb: USA
Dr. Arthur Roswell: USA
Betty Roswell: USA
Jerry Tanenbaum: USA
Dolores Wilkenfeld: USA