(JTA) — A new association of egalitarian Jewish congregations has launched in Germany, in the latest consequence of a scandal that has been unfolding within German Judaism for nearly a year.
The Jewish-Liberal Egalitarian Union, or JLEV according to its German acronym, marks a split with the existing body representing liberal Judaism in Germany, the Union of Progressive Jews.
The two groups both represent non-Orthodox synagogues in Germany, but the UPJ was created as a subsidiary of the World Union of Progressive Judaism, based in the United Kingdom. The new group, on the other hand, is overseen by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, whose role includes distributing government funding to Jewish institutions.
“A liberal association under the umbrella of the Central Council strengthens the idea of diversity in unity,” a spokesman for the organization told JTA in explaining the motivation behind the move.
The crucial difference between the two groups, however, is not who oversees them but that JLEV has no association with Walter Homolka, the rabbi at the center of the ongoing scandal.
Homolka was a founder of the UPJ in 1997, as well as of several other German Jewish organizations including its progressive seminaries. Since allegations broke last May that he had abused his power as the rector of the liberal Abraham Geiger College rabbinical school, Homolka has stepped back from his many roles in German Jewish organizations.
But after the embattled rabbi declined to run for another term as UPJ chair in the last election in December, a new board was elected that, critics said, was friendly to Homolka and showed little sympathy for those who claimed they had been harmed by him.
“We feel we are not represented any more by the UPJ,” Rebecca Seidler, head of the liberal Jewish communities of Hanover and chair of the State Association of the Jewish Communities of Lower Saxony, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the time.
Now, Seidler is a cofounder of the new organization, and her community is one of the nine to join it. The new group says it will offer adult education and youth programs. It also requires members to comply with a strict ethical code.
Seidler and other JLEV founders said in a statement that they determined it was “necessary to set up a separate umbrella organization” after the UPJ responded “in a strange way” to the accusations against Homolka.
“They trivialized, relativized and took a one-sided approach, failing to consider and pay attention to the critical voices of member communities,” the group’s statement said.
Exactly what it means for Germany to have two progressive Jewish congregational associations is uncertain.
The Germany split is not the first change in European progressive Jewish communities this week. Earlier, Britain’s liberal and Reform Jewish organizations merged into a new “Progressive Judaism” movement within the World Union of Progressive Judaism.
But while the group welcomed that development, a spokesperson told JTA in an email that it “isn’t making any comment at this time” about the changes in Germany.
It is estimated that, out of about 90,000 registered members of Jewish communities in Germany, about 5,000 affiliate with liberal or egalitarian congregations. There may be as many as 100,000 more people who identify as Jewish but don’t belong to a formal community.
The UPJ currently lists 32 member communities, including the nine defectors. It will continue to represent liberal communities across Germany — at least for now, and as long as communities choose to ally themselves with it.
“From an organizational logic, it does not make sense for communities to be members of both organizations,” the Central Council spokesperson told the JTA, adding that while the council has no legal obligation to support the UPJ, “as an organization of liberal Judaism, in which some member congregations of the Central Council are also members, it will continue to be supported according to the principles of the Central Council.”
Talks are underway about a formal funding agreement for JLEV.
As for the UPJ, concern about the competing organization appears to be slight.
“Every liberal Jew has the freedom to organize himself,” UPJ chair Irith Michelsohn told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an email, noting that she had known about the launch of the new group “for some time already.” She added, “There are no changes for us.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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