Thoughts From the EUPJ Conference in London: We're All In This Together!

by Sandy Abramson

I was lucky enough to attend the Biennial Convention of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ), which took place in London April 14-17. The theme was “Building Bridges, Spanning the Jewish World and Beyond.” As a new WRJ representative to the UN, a former WRJ board member, and a frequent visitor to Paris, going to this convention was a great first-hand look at the accomplishments and challenges that characterize European Progressive Jews today.

My husband Steve and I were among participants from 29 nations attending the conference. They ranged from Argentina and Belgium to India, South Africa, Italy, the FSU, Hungary, Spain, Denmark, France, Germany, the UK, Israel, and more. Our own WRJ leaders, Marla, Blair, Susan, and Lynn, were there, and it was great to be with them!

I learned some simple truths with complex ramifications: The European Progressive Jewish community is thriving; but, Israel and the Diaspora Jews in North America and worldwide need each other more than ever! Many Jews from France are moving to England or making aliyah to Israel; but, the reasons may be more economic than because of anti-Semitism. Furthermore, those that do leave because of anti-Semitism are predominantly Orthodox.

More simple truths: We in North America have many more resources than most other countries; but, we need to share those resources and support smaller, struggling communities. We in North America are organized with established leadership models; most other countries, except England, perhaps, are in need of structure and leadership ladders.

Here are a few of my conference highlights:

The opening plenary for the 400 attendees was held in the stately Guildhall, a magnificent City of London 12th Century building.  Speakers were preceded by several loud fanfares given by four trumpeters in Royal Guard dress, stationed in the balcony above us. Ve-ry British!

The next plenary featured three very dynamic women (out of 4 panelists), who made me very proud:

  1. Anat Hoffman of IRAC spoke about the cracks in the Wailing Wall as places where plants grow without water and where wonders never cease, including the recent victory of Women of the Wall’s new prayer space. She also spoke about Jewish racism toward the Arabs, as well as Orthodox ‘racism’ toward the Liberal community.
  2. Rabbi Delphine Horvellieur, of Paris, expounded on how Jews are lumped together as just one entity, not as individuals, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, or sons. She says that we are all impacted by each other and must work together, among the contrasts and contradictions to battle outside perceptions.
  3. Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger, the senior rabbi of the West London Synagogue (also of the House of Lords, mind you!), apprised us of the mayoral election in London. A Muslim man, who has reached out to the community at large, including Jews, faces a Jewish man, who has only complained about anti-Semitic acts in London. She feels the Muslim man has a better chance.

The sing-along on Saturday night after hours was spectacular! Three EUPJ rabbis and cantors, accomplished guitarists of a certain age, got us all going. Our Blair, Susan, and Marla were among them (with great voices!) Even my husband, usually not the first to join in, loved it!

Sandy Abramson is a representative to the United Nations for WRJ and a former member of the WRJ Board of Directors.

Published: 5/03/2016

Categories: Affiliates, Global Stories, Our Partnerships, Reform Movement