Rabbi Joel Oseran of the World Union (l.) and
members of the Rodef Shalom Jewish Religious
Union build a sukkah in Mumbai.
In 43 countries around the world, there are people like you and me who strive to create warm, welcoming, egalitarian, pluralistic Jewish communities. Rabbi Larry Milder’s popular NFTY song, “Wherever You Go,” beautifully expresses this truth:
Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish
You’re never alone when you say you’re a Jew
So when you’re not home and
you’re somewhere kind of newish
The odds are don’t look far,
’cause they’re Jewish too….
In North America we are called Reform. In other parts of the world, we are known as Progressive or Liberal (in most of Europe, if you ask for a Reform congregation, you’ll be directed to a Protestant church). But we are all one family.
How do you find your larger Progressive/Reform/Liberal family when travelling outside of North America? The process is different than what you find in North America, where synagogues generally have an “open-door” policy. Elsewhere, there is a pervasive security consciousness. Synagogues do not publish their street addresses, return phone calls or emails, or openly declare their presence. A random visitor, even one claiming affiliation with a Reform synagogue in the U.S. or Canada, is likely to be turned away if visiting unannounced.
The best way to connect is to have the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), the institution that serves, nurtures, and supports 1,700+ Reform/Progressive/Liberal Jewish congregations worldwide, make the connection for you.
Several weeks in advance of your vacation, go to the World Union for Progressive Judaism website. On the main page, use the dialogue box to search for WUPJ congregations by country and then city. Once you verify the presence of a congregation in the area you plan to visit, email or call me, Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor (firstname.lastname@example.org or 212.452.6531), at the WUPJ’s New York office. Provide your travel dates, where you plan to stay, when you would like to visit the congregation, the number of people in your party, and a way to contact you once you are there (to make sure you are advised of any last minute changes in the synagogue’s plans). If given sufficient time, we can arrange a personal visit.
Connecting with your “cousins” is a great way to experience a country and a Jewish community. You’ll get insight into the challenges and the triumphs of living as a Jew in that place—and, most of all, you will see that we are all a part of one extended family. “Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish. You’re never alone when you say you’re a Jew.”
Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor is the Vice President—Philanthropy at the World Union for Progressive Judaism.