Masorti Olami & MERCAZ Olami Update

November 2017/ Kislev 5778

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The Jewish Nation and the Struggle for Identity Message
The days grow shorter and night falls earlier. In the air there is feeling that Hanukkah is near.  While there are many aspects to this festival of lights, this year I'd like us to explore a particularly significant one: Hanukkah and the struggle for Jewish identity. 

The Maccabees waged a grueling war against an occupying force that sought to scatter the Jewish nation amongst the other nations of the world. They did not opt for the physical annihilation of the Jewish people, but rather for an entirely different method: our spiritual destruction and the eradication of our values system. They sought to methodically indoctrinate our nation with a new cultural and belief system that would distance the Jews from our roots.
The Maccabees revolted against the Hellenization of society and this loss of identity and fought to protect what they saw as the truest and most complete form of Judaism. When they were prohibited from studying Torah, performing brit milah, or observing Shabbat, they understood that their Jewish identity stood to lose all its distinct characteristics, ending any hope for national survival.

This struggle has never ended. While today we do not live under an oppressive rule as we did then, we still face threats from within and from without that endanger our identity as a Jewish nation and require us to confront them on a daily basis.

Today, globalization brings its own set of external threats to Judaism. Voices in the media constantly urge us to shift our system of values and abandon the unique traits of our tradition in favor of a new set of universalist values that obscure the Jewish spirit.

Internally we face the rise of fundamentalist Jewish streams that react to outside threats by shunning modernity and retreating into a self-imposed ghetto. They claim that our only course for survival is to abandon all change, rejecting Zionism, pluralism, egalitarianism and democracy.

There are even those who would offer a version of Judaism void of tradition and stripped of its rich heritage.
Lastly, there is one additional threat which depends entirely on us, which is our own indifference. There are also groups who suggest that we erase any semblance of Jewishness and that we all live in a world without nations of religion.

I believe that we have one clear answer against all these claims, and that is to live Jewish lives in a different manner-one that is traditional, modern and relevant.

As in the generation of the Maccabees, we stand at a crossroads that will define the fate of our nation and what form of Jewish identity we transmit to our next generations. The struggle has not ended and we must wage a multi-front campaign against the external forces of assimilation, the internal pressures of fundamentalism and the ever present threat of indifference.

My wish is that the light of the menorah will enlighten each one of us and guide us to find a way to build a modern Judaism that is democratic, pluralistic, egalitarian, Zionist and rich in Jewish values. A Judaism that will speak not only to our generation, but also to generations to come. Therefore, we as the Masorti movement have an important role in the daily life of the Jewish people.

Wishing you a joyous festival of lights!
Rabbi Mauricio Balter
Executive Director Masorti Olami and MERCAZ Olami
Va'ad HaPoel - Israel Vaad

From October 31 st  - November 2 nd  members of  Masorti Olami  and  MERCAZ Olami  from the United States, Chile, Argentina, Israel, UK, Australia, Canada and Ukraine gathered for the annual meeting of the Va'ad HaPoel of the  World Zionist Organization. Members voted on amendments to the  WZO  Constitution set to strengthen the positions of  Masorti Olami  and  MERCAZ Olami  and our coalition partners, discussed challenges to the Zionist movement in today's Jewish world and celebrated the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. Pictured above is MERCAZ USA President Dr. Marilyn Wind voicing her opinion on one of the amendments. 

First Conservative Ordination in Germany Germany
Masorti Olami join  Zacharias Frankel College  in celebrating the ordination of  Rabbi Nitzan Stein Kokin , the first Conservative/Masorti Rabbi ordained in Germany since before WWII. This marks the first ordination of a rabbi from the  European Rabbinical Seminary  and is a significant milestone marking the rapid growth of Masorti Judaism in Europe. Rabbi Mauricio Balter represented Masorti Olami at the event. We wish Mazal Tov and Hatzlacha Rabah to  Rabbi Stein Kokin  (photo by Margrit Schmidt) and the Masorti Germany community led by  Rabbi Gesa Ederberg 
(photo by Tobias Barniske).

Masorti Europe Conference in Madrid Madrid
Participants gathered from across the continent to discuss the growth of  Masorti Europe in their conference "Facing the Future Together" held at  Congregation Bet-El in Madrid on November 3 rd -5 th . Panel discussions were held on the direction of Judaism in Europe and participants also remembered Spain's rich past with a tour of Jewish Toledo. The emotional highlight of the conference signifying the return of the Jewish presence in Spain was the completion of the first Sefer Torah to be written in Spain in over 500 years. Rabbi Mauricio Balter attended the conference along with Masorti Olami President Gillian Caplin who wrote a letter in the Sefer Torah in honor of Masorti Olami. Pictured here is Mario Stofenmacher, the spiritual leader of Bet-El Madrid and his family writing a letter in the Torah with the Sofer Stam (scribe) Rabbi Gustavo Surazski from Israel.

Masorti Olami Tribute Event Tribute
Masorti Olami's 2017 Gala Tribute Event will be held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park in New York on Sunday December 10 th .  The Tribute event will honor pioneers and visionaries of the movement who have dedicated their lives work to the advancement of Conservative/Masorti Judaism and its institution: Rabbi Philip Scheim of Toronto, Claudio and Penny Pincus of New Jersey and Lena and Rabbi Reuven Stamov of Kiev. Come join Masorti Olami as it celebrates our honorees' great accomplishments and as we embark on a year of renewal, growth, and expansion. 
Buy your tickets and place your journal ad/donation here. Ticketholders are invited to attend a private guided VIP tour of the museum prior to the Tribute Event.     

Letter from Rabbi Adam Baldachin, Masorti Olami Executive CommitteeBaldachin
" Mangu mangu baana !!" Hurry up children! Kabbalat shabbat is about to begin!" I walk behind a Ugandan mother of six, leading her children into the synagogue, a single room building, perched on the top of Nabugoye Hill, in Mbale Uganda.
The synagogue is surrounded by green hills and red winding roads, which catch the setting sun as Yom Kippur quickly descends upon us. Men, women, and children quietly but hastily make their way into the synagogue and find seats or a place to stand. Women wear traditional fancy dresses called gomezi and men wear button down shirts and kaki pants. Children sit respectfully next to their parents and wait for the services to begin.
Sitting in the crowded synagogue, I am thrilled to experience the prayers of a community very unlike the one I grew up in in America. The Abayudaya, the Jews of Uganda have beautiful rhythmic African tunes for each psalm in the service. I find myself dancing, clapping my hands and circling the  amud behind the guitarist, smiling at the energy and feeling of connection that overwhelms me.

I am moved by the experience of praying with a community of Jews who are building a vibrant, musical, and dedicated Masorti community. Throughout the year I spent living in Uganda and working with this community, I gained a new perspective on the importance of supporting Masorti communities around the world. And in subsequent years I had the pleasure of visiting Masorti communities in other locations including Ukraine, Argentina, France, England, and Hungary. Each has its own particular flavor, yet is similar to others in its great ruach and zeal to build connections between the members' lives and our ancient traditions in a way that feels fluid and is filled with meaning. Masorti Judaism offers that to Jews in pockets around the globe and I am honored to dedicate my time to support its mission.

Rabbi Adam Baldachin serves as the rabbi of
Shaarei Tikvah in Scarsdale, NY. Prior to that
he was rabbi of Montebello Jewish Center in
Rockland County, NY. Rabbi Baldachin lived
and volunteered in Uganda in 2007/2008.
He currently serves on the executive committee
of Masorti Olami.

Support Uganda's Jewish Community Uganda

Darkei NOAM Argentina Winter Camp NOAMArgentina
On October 15-16  NOAM Argentina  held a winter camp for madrijim. An incredible 280 madrijim from 13 communities in Buenos Aires convened at  Congregation Lamaroth HaKol  in northern Buenos Aires. The participants belong to  Darkei NOAM , a two year program which trains madrijim for the  NOAM Argentina  chapters. Sessions included developing hadraja skills, creating meaningful learning spaces and integrating technology for educational purposes into  NOAM Argentina

Masoret Kiev Community arranged nightly "ushpizin" in which their partner organizations in Kiev were invited to visit their Sukkah. The first day of Sukkot was marked by a community celebration which drew over 100 participants who enjoyed a festive dinner in the sukkah and learned about the meaning of the four species and participated in the mitzvah of netilat lulav, for many of whom this was a first time experience. During Chol HaMoed Marom Kiev participants from the synagogue partnered with Hillel and Moishe House to host a musical wine and cheese night in the sukkah, which was attended by over 50 young adults who sang songs, socialized and participated in a hevruta study session.

Click here to read more about their work.

From October 26 th -30 th members of  Marom Europe gathered for an international seminar in Madrid where they spent five days discussing ideas, sharing knowledge, listening to stories from all over Europe, discovering Madrid and making new friends from around the continent.
The main topics of the seminar were the rise of nationalism around Europe, how it affects the Jewish communities and how the spirit of Tikkun Olam can be used to combat this problem. The participants listened to personal stories and took part in spirited discussions as well as participating in a study session led by Bet El community leader Rabbi Mario Stofenmacher from Madrid and Rabbi Oliver Joseph from London.
Participants came to Madrid from Berlin, Paris, London, Budapest and Israel and were particularly excited to welcome first-time attendees from Stockholm, Barcelona and Nice.
If you are interested in founding a chapter of Marom for young adults in your city, we would love to hear from you. For more information please contact the Director of Marom Europe  Ge rgely Morvay (Gergo) at
WZO's 'Mochileros' Project partners with Masorti Communities Mochileros
Masorti Communities in Guadalajara, Mexico and Bahia Blanca, Argentina are participating in the  World Zionist Organization's 'Mochileros' project. Young Israelis embarking on their post-army travels are hosted by communities around the world, and in turn they volunteer, teach Hebrew, and provide communities around the world with personal contact with Israelis which is a vital component to strengthening ties between Jewish communities in Israel and abroad. In return, many of these young Israelis experience egalitarian Judaism for the first time in their lives. 

Illustrated Torah Project Uniao Israelita Porto Alegrense in Porto Alegre, Brazil Torah
Hiddur Mitzvah is the Hebrew term for the beautification of a Mitzvah. The  União Israelita Porto Alegrense Synagogue in Brazil has exemplified this concept with their  Community Illustrated Torah Project . Each of the 54 parashiot of the Torah were divided amongst the members of the entire community, from children to the elderly. Drawings were submitted by students at the Jewish School, Talmud Torah and youth movement as well as womens' groups such as  WIZO and  Na'amat . The drawings were joined together into a scroll as a complete illustrated Torah. 

Kivun Project in Chile Kivun

How do you engage young adults in the Jewish community? Just ask them!
Kivun is a new forum designed to focus on the needs of young adults in Chile's Jewish community. Focus groups are held in which young adults discuss their ties to Judaism, Israel, tradition, the Masorti movement, and their views on the community's future. The goal of Kivun (Hebrew for direction) is to use the information learned from these sessions to help orient the community in a way that will incorporate the needs of the younger generation and maximize their current and future involvement.

MERCAZ Olami Update MERCAZupdate
Under the dynamic leadership of Rabbi Mauricio Balter, MERCAZ Olami is intensifying its global agenda for our Movement. 

High Holiday Day Zionist theme sermons were sent to rabbis throughout the International Rabbinical Assembly. 

MERCAZ Olami is partnering with Marom Olami in seeking to coordinate the spread of Marom (currently in Israel, Europe and Latin America) to North America. The goal is to best engage young adults, ages 18-29. To that end, MERCAZ Olami and Marom Olami met in NYC with representatives of Reshet Ramah [Camps], Masorti On Campus, USY and Nativ Alumni, SSDS Upper School of West Orange [Golda Och Academy] and will seek to coordinate with Alumni Directors of JTS and AJU. 

MERCAZ Olami has deliberated upon and submitted a framework to the World Zionist Organization for the 2017 KKL funds to be distributed among Masorti Olami, Masorti Israel, Marom Olami, our five Rabbinical Schools, Fuchsberg Center, USY, NOAM Israel and NOAM Olami, and Hanaton. 

MERCAZ Olami is also upgrading contact with fifteen MERCAZ chapters around the world. To that end, Zionist activities materials are being developed for the 70 th anniversary of Statehood, a retreat for chapter activists is being planned for late January, and Mauricio is visiting communities throughout the globe. 

May 5778 be a year of growth and strength for our Movement's Zionist arm.    

Rabbi Alan Silverstein
President, MERCAZ Olami
Help Design Our Masorti/ Conservative App App
MERCAZ Olami is in the process of creating an all-inclusive Masorti/Conservative app for your mobile device. The aim of this app is to provide users with information about the movement in Israel and  around the world, provide updates on Jewish pluralism in Israel, prayer services and candle lighting times, the weekly Parsha, our Siddur and Mahzor and many more features.  Before we go ahead with the planning and creation process, we would like to hear your feedback on this project and what you would like to see included. Please fill out the survey at the link below.

Our goal is for all Masorti/Conservative Jews around the world to have the most updated information relating to the movement- right in their pocket. We thank you for your input and participation. For any questions, please feel free to email us at .
Get to Know Our Staff! Staff

Meet Suzanne Farber, the most senior member of the staff at Masorti Olami and MERCAZ Olami. Suzanne has kept the books for both organizations for the past seven years, and works closely with our communities around the world as well as the World Zionist Organization and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael. Originally from Palmers Green, London, UK, Suzanne made Aliyah in 1983 and lives in Givat Ze'ev with her husband, Michael.  She is the proud mother of Eliyahu (& Hodaya), Arieh, Yishai and Navah and even prouder Savta of Eitan and Neta.  In her spare time she enjoys cycling with friends, tiyulim with her family and reading books in English and Hebrew. Suzanne is grateful for all the wonderful friends she has made from Masorti communities around the world.

Upcoming EventsEvents
"Hitjadshut" Masorti AmLat Meeting
Santiago de Chile.

For more information click here

Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano Ordination Ceremony

MAROM AmLat Seminar
Sao Paulo, Brazil

For more information click here

USCJ Covention 2017
Atlanta, USA

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Masorti Olami Tribute Event
New York, USA

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NOAM Olami Int. Seminar
Nice, France

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Masorti Israel 40th Celebration

Yom Haatzmaut 70th Celebration

For more information  click here 

Onward NOAM Olami 2018

For more information click here