Rabbi Laura and I just attended the first ever gathering of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) in northern California on the occasion of the WUPJ International Humanitarian Awards Celebration.
It was certainly an evening not to be missed, but my primary motivation in being there was to support one of the honorees, Rabbi Roberto Graetz of Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, my home congregation.
For those not familiar with the WUPJ, this is the organization’s mission:
World Union for Progressive Judaism
•Strengthens modern, pluralistic Jewish life throughout the world by establishing supporting congregations and other communal institutions
•Actively participates in building Israel as a democratic and pluralistic Jewish state
•Unites Jewish religious tradition, inclusiveness, gender equality and individual autonomy
•Advances social justice in the spirit of tikkun olam (repairing the world)
Rabbi Graetz was honored for his work in support of the union and his tireless efforts for social justice while serving as a rabbi in South America both in his home country of Argentina and in Brazil. When it was perilous to speak out against the Argentine government as citizens disappeared, Rabbi Graetz was one of the few who continued to challenge the system.
In addition to Rabbi Graetz, Lorry Lokey and Joanne Harrington were honored for their support of the World Union’s mission. Their generous contributions have helped the WUPJ further its mission throughout the world, especially in areas of education.
We were treated to remarks from several dignitaries including Rabbi Uri Regev, the president of the WUPJ, Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Hebrew Union College, Rabbi David Saperstein, executive director of the Religious Action Center and Rabbi Gilad Kariv, associate director of the Israel Religious Action Center.
Sitting there listening to all the inspiring work going on throughout the world reminded me of all the great opportunities we have to connect to Jewish communities in other lands. It also reminded me of how important it is to reconnect with our friends in Baranovichi. Though the Yad l’Yad program that helped us connect is gone, we can and must do more to maintain our friendships. We did not do enough to make time with our young friends who visited this past summer. We can make up for that. Let’s renew our efforts and explore all the possibilities.