AT its annual leadership meeting, the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) has elected David Knoll of Sydney and Brian Samuel of Melbourne as its joint presidents for a two-year term, succeeding outgoing president Roger Mendelson.
The Adelaide gathering saw Helen Shardey become the UPJ’s vice-president.
She was also elected president of the Australian Reform Zionist Association (ARZA), creating a closer link between the UPJ and ARZA.
Samuel, an immediate past president of the UPJ, and a former president of Progressive Judaism Victoria and Temple Beth Israel (TBI), began his Jewish community involvement as vice-president of Maccabi Victoria in the 1960s.
He told The AJN that significant growth within the UPJ, both in its Australian regional congregations and in its Asia-Pacific congregations from Japan to India, has led the organisation to identify a need for a joint presidency, which gives it a deeper footprint.
“The region the UPJ now covers includes about one third of the world’s population,” he noted.
While congregations in Hong Kong, Singapore and China are full affiliates, other Asian communities are nascent but emerging, he said.
Meanwhile, the focus remains strong on what the UPJ calls its “big three” congregations – Sydney’s Emanuel Synagogue and North Shore Temple Emanuel, and Melbourne’s TBI, as these congregations seek new members across a diversity of age groups, said Samuel.
“There will also now be a closer collaboration between the UPJ executive and congregational presidents and with the Moetzah [the Rabbinic Council of Progressive Rabbis],” he added.
Strengthening ties to Israel will be a major goal, said Samuel, and this will be achieved through ARZA and its new executive, and a greater involvement of UPJ in the UIA Progressive Appeal.
Knoll, who is honorary secretary of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and a past president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, said, “Brian and I are very keen to facilitate collaboration across congregations to help grow and develop them. This has already begun at our Adelaide conference, where we put into practice the principles of relational Judaism as espoused by [US synagogue analyst] Dr Ron Wolfson at two of our biennials.”
He said workshops at the Adelaide leadership meeting explored issues such as best practice in developing synagogue databases and utilising social media, strengthening the movement, ARZA membership and WZO elections, and the power of relational meetings.