Temple David

Temple David is the home of the Durban Progressive Jewish Congregation. Established over 60 years ago the synagogue serves the needs of a small but vibrant community. Weekly Shabbat and festival services as well as life-cycle events are conducted by the serving rabbi, Rabbi Hillel Avidan.

The Sisterhood of Temple David cater for congregational functions, dinners and festival celebrations. In addition they are renowned for their many social outreach projects, in particular the Mavela Project which feeds about 120 child headed families and cares for terminal AIDS patients in the Nwedwe area of KZN.

Conversion classes are conducted by Rabbi Avidan during which candidates complete an Introductory Hebrew course.

Rabbi Avidan together with Dr Elaine Goldberg hold monthly bereavement group meetings for Temple David congregants as well as bereaved people from the wider Durban society.

The Religion School holds weekly classes for children from the age of ten preparing the younger members for B’nei Mitzvah and living meaningful Jewish lives.

Netzer is an integral component of the congregation providing informal Jewish education, a platform for younger members to meet socially and leadership development opportunities for the youth of the congregation.

 

ARZENU SOUTH AFRICA : THE 37th WORLD ZIONIST CONGRESS

I have just returned from an exhilarating few days in Jerusalem the 37th World Zionist Congress. Since Theodore Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland on March 29, 1897, the gathering of world Jewry has been the forum to move forward the Zionist enterprise, the national liberation of the Jewish people. While the work of nation building continues, much of the focus has shifted from building Israel the state to shaping Israel the society.

The Congress, made up of 500 delegates from Israel, North America and all around the Jewish world, ( 6 from South Africa) met in Jerusalem in the midst of the current wave of violence and incitement. At the Congress, delegates vote on resolutions that range from constitutional and budgeting procedures to passionate statements of values that reflect the diversity of Jewish community, practice and beliefs. The Congress then serves as the vehicle whereby the budgets and positions of influence in Israel’s national institutions are determined. These resolutions impact future priorities, programming and practices.

This matters as the Congress is a vehicle that allows Arzenu’s values, democracy, religious equality, religious pluralism, human rights, peace and social justice to be reflected in the policies of Israel’s government and its national institutions.(Jewish Agency, World Zionist Organization, the Jewish National Fund and the Israel United Appeal)

Arzenu’s pre-Congress Program surrounding the WZC gave us the opportunity to meet with high level individuals that left significant impressions. During the opening session we were challenged by Rabbi Michael Melchior, the former Cabinet Minister to raise the level of discourse in the Congress. Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the IMPJ took us through the growth of the Israeli Reform Movement and its impact on Israeli society. We spent an afternoon in the Knesset, meeting with MK’s from across the political spectrum. This was inspiring and challenging as they pulled no punches. We benefited immensely from meeting MK Michal Biran -Labour (Zionist Union) MK Michael Oren -Kulanu MK Ayman Odeh – Joint Arab List MK Benny Begin – Likud MK Tammy Zandberg – Meretz

The keynote address of the Congress was delivered by Prime Minister Netanyahu. He described the “ten lies that the Palestinians are telling”. Included in his remarks was a statement about the second World War, claiming that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem convinced Hitler to annihilate the Jews rather than simply expel them. We heard from the leader of the opposition, Yitzhak Herzog, who offered a more conciliatory message, and Minister of Defence Yaalon, whose address on the situation facing Israel was a highlight.

Yet the most important messages coming out of the 37th Zionist Congress were those delivered by the delegates themselves. Their votes indicated that Zionism has entered the 21st century with increasing focus on the character of Israeli society. The defining is enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. By passing resolutions that called for the combatting of racism and hate crimes, fostering democracy and equality, promoting religious pluralism and supporting protections for the LGBT community, the delegates gave a clear message that the work of Zionism has entered a new phase.

RESOLUTIONS:

With a vote of 359 – 190. we passed an historic statement supporting the LGBT community. It called for the World Zionist Organization and the Education Minister of Israel to support and develop educational programming for the LGBT community and to “enforce complete equality of their admission to Zionist entities and within National institutions”.

We insisted ( 382-163) that the government recommit its efforts to building an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. The ARZENU group stood on that new platform by Robinson’s Arch on Wednesday, and envisioned what it will look like in the near future – it will be an incredibly proud gift to the Jewish people.

We overwhelmingly (525-24) passed a resolution against hate crimes committed in our name. After a summer that saw the rise of “price Tag” retributive violence committed by small groups of Jewish terrorists, this resolution was profoundly important.

Several resolutions were passed, sometimes by disturbingly narrow votes, reaffirming the Declaration of Independence’s vision of an Israel committed to the values of democracy and freedom for all its inhabitants.

We echoed the US Congress’s call for the recognition of the rights of Jewish refugees historically expelled from Arab lands and northern Africa..

We passed vital resolutions regarding the protection of Israel’s environment and precious water resources.

We affirmed classic Zionist mandates of promoting Aliya, supporting the best practices of absorbing immigrants into Israel, and promoting education and outreach to the communities of the Diaspora, especially in the face of growing worldwide anti-Semitism.

We also passed critical resolutions for transparency and clean government within the Zionist organizations and under this umbrella.

With our coalition partners, we also beat back some resolutions that proposed an alternative, and deeply troubling, vision of Zionism. While we all oppose BDS, attempts to combat the BDS movement can be twisted to suppress real democratic debate. Thus, there were resolutions that would sanction legitimate left-wing organizations within the Zionist tent, or would stifle the right to dissent and debate within our own community. I am proud to say that we stopped those resolutions in their tracks.

Clearly resolutions do not immediately establish realities on the ground, but they do give the indication to the direction in which Zionist thought and Israeli society, is trending. I came out of the Congress aware that our vision of a strong, proud, pluralistic and inclusive State of Israel is alive and well.

Acknowledgements

My thanks go to Arzenu Executive Director Dalya Levy in Jerusalem, for all her assistance, to my deputy, Reeva Forman, and to the following : JAKAMaR Trust, The Victor Daitz Foundation, and the Lazzarus Family Trust.

Prof Antony Arkin

 

2015 Annual Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture

21 Cheshvan 5776
3 November 2015

Vatican 1The 2015 Annual Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture held at St Joseph’s Church hall in Durban on the evening of Thursday, 29 October featured Rabbi Hillel Avidan, Cardinal Wilfred Napier and Sheik Saleem Banda addressing two Vatican statements, “Nostra Aetate” (from Pope Paul VI in October 1965) and “Laudato Si” (from the current Pope Francis).
Rabbi Avidan praised both papal declarations and gave credit to Pope John XXIII and Cardinal Bea who, between 1958 and 1963, did the groundwork for “Nostra Aetate”. Rabbi Avidan recounted how this declaration recognized the validity of non-Christian religions and repudiated the doctrine of ‘no salvation outside the Church’. The charge of ‘Deicide’ was lifted from the Jewish people and all negative references to Jews and to Judaism were to be expunged from the Catholic liturgy. He went on to say that this was particularly pleasing to the Jewish people because negative Catholic prayers and statements in the past had done so much harm. Rabbi Avidan gave credit to the many popes who had denounced the forced conversion of Jews (as in Iberia from 1390 onwards) and the infamous “blood libel” which first appeared in the English city of Norwich in 1144 and persisted in to the 20th century.

Vatican 2Despite papal protection of the Jews the Roman ghetto was the last one in Western Europe to be dismantled (in 1870) and during the Nazi period, while thousands of Jews were saved and sheltered by individual Catholics and Catholic institutions, there was no public papal condemnation of Nazi policy.

Turning to “Laudato Si” Rabbi Avidan, as a committed environmentalist since 1961, praised the commitment of Pope Francis to environmental care. Pope Francis, he said, is the single most important figure in the struggle to save our planet from further degradation at the hands of industrialists, arms dealers, multi-national companies and uncaring or shortsighted governments.

 

SAUPJ Press Release: No meeting with Hamas

Press Release on behalf of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) and the South African Association of Progressive Rabbis (SAAPR)

20 Oct 2015

It has been reported in the media that Hamas representatives will meet with a “Progressive Jewish Group” during their visit to South Africa. We have no knowledge of the source of this notice and have no dealings or intentions of meeting with Hamas.

We call on Hamas to distance themselves from anti-Semitism and terror and to remove from their Charter the aim of killing Jews.

Rabbi Greg Alexander
Chairman
SA Association of Progressive Rabbis

Alvin Kushner
National Chairman
SA Union for Progressive Judaism

 

Muslim scholar talks on progressive Islam

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Muslim scholar talks on progressive Islam

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The South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity (SACRED) recently hosted Professor Taj Hargey (pictured at left), a distinguished Oxford-based academic on Islam and the Middle East, at Bet David in Johannesburg, with a lecture on “Progressive Islam: Tolerant or Intolerant?”

by OWN CORRESPONDENT | Jul 07, 2015

Prof Hargey, who hails from South Africa, is also the director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, which promotes a progressive, pluralistic Qur’anic Islam and runs a newly-formed think-tank called the Oxford Centre for British Islam.

clip_image004Prof Hargey spoke about perceptions of Islam in the modern world and with his push for a more egalitarian, pluralistic way of practising Islam, talked about resisting the covert imposition of the patriarchal shariah or Muslim religious law into modern society.


RIGHT: SACRED chair Rabbi Julia Margolis with Professor Taj Hargey


He has publicly opposed Wahhabi-Salafi theological propaganda, and has courageously led a national campaign to ban all forms of facial masking, including the non-Qur’anic burka and hijab in the United Kingdom.

Prof Hargey also spoke about The Open Mosque, launched in Cape Town last September where he was invited to deliver a sermon. The mosque calls itself Qur’an-centric; gender-equal; non-sectarian; inter-cultural; and independent. It was subject to attacks from local Muslim clergy, as well as several arson attacks, but has gained widespread publicity and international praise, he says.

He serves as the imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, the most progressive body of Muslims in the UK. It made European history a decade ago by welcoming women to conduct sermons and leading the weekly Friday prayers in mixed-gender assembly.

This was Sacred’s second evening of interest” this year and gave its audience a much needed, different take on Islam.

“We had guests from other synagogues, as well as the broader Jewish community,” said Rabbi Julia Margolis. “Muslim and Christian friends joined us too.”

Next month Sacred will host a discussion on why different faiths and religions pray over food and beverages, specifically investigating the subject of water and prayer. 

The South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) welcomes the decision of the US Supreme Court to legalise same-sex marriage across the country.

In his immediate response to this court decision their president, Barack Obama, proudly declared to the world, “This ruling is a victory for America.  This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts…when all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.”  We wholeheartedly agree and as a worldwide movement of Progressive Jews we have for many years made similar statements in regard to same-sex marriage in Judaism. 

In December 2006, South Africa became the fifth country in the world to grant same-sex couples the same status and rights as heterosexual marriage partners. The SAUPJ, encouraged by the World Union for Progressive Judaism, was in fact one of the first faith groups in the country to allow its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages. The first Jewish same sex marriage took place in Cape Town.  In a press release at the time we marked that event with our statement “The SAUPJ honours the divine within all human beings, and their right to live with dignity.”

In celebration of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and of the many couples of all faiths who will finally be able to legally marry, the SAUPJ calls out to all Jewish same-sex couples who wish to get married to take up their place under the chuppah.  Please feel free to contact our office at saupj@worldonline.co.za to get more information or to book your rabbi for the event..

 

Alvin Kushner

National Chairman

South African Union for Progressive Judaism

 

Rabbi Greg Alexander

Chairman

South African Association of Progressive Rabbis

 

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SACRED Talk: SACRED kicks off exciting new series

On May 27, Beit Emanuel Progressive Synagogue in Johannesburg hosted a talk by the South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity (SACRED) entitled ‘SACRED geometry’.

SACRED Geometry: Greg Margolis speaks at organization's monthly talk

SACRED Geometry: Greg Margolis speaks at organization’s monthly talk

This was the first event held under SACRED’s new Chair, Rabbi Julia Margolis, and was very well attended. SACRED Geometry was the first in a series of monthly ‘Evenings of Interest’ planned by SACRED to deepen Progressive Jewry’s knowledge of the organization’s work in furthering interfaith co-operation and progressive religious ideas.

Motivational speaker Greg Margolis delivered the ‘SACRED geometry’ presentation, during which where he analyzed the links between the sacred geometry of many religions, both ancient and modern.

The next SACRED gathering  in the beginning of July will be given by a representative of the Open Mosque, South Africa’s progressive Islamic place of worship.

 

SAAPR response to arson attack on Benedictine Monastery Tabgha

The South African Association of Progressive Rabbis (SAAPR) has reacted with dismay to the alleged arson attack on the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes (attached to the Benedictine Monastery Tabgha) at the Sea of Galilee, Israel. The monastery has been the target of repeated attacks by radical religious Israelis in recent years. Two people suffered smoke injuries, while graffiti containing passages from the “Aleinu” Prayer was scrawled on the walls of the monastery.

The chairman of the SAAPR, Rabbi Greg Alexander (Cape Town), stressed that attacks against members of other religions are contrary to the spirit of Judaism. It was especially inappropriate to invoke the Aleinu Prayer, which contains the eschatological vision in which all religions respect each other, by recognizing God’s dominion.