|History of European Union for Progressive Judaism|
The establishment of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in 1926 was an event of historic importance. It confirmed the universal appeal of the Progressive Movement in Judaism, uniting kindred organisations across the globe to further their ideals, both in thought and practice. Diversity among Progressive congregations has not prevented an effective unity developing, and this has been one of the strengths of the World Union throughout its history over more than 75 years. It has continually turned its attention to the problems of the day. During its first 25 years, when the developing problems in Germany came to the fore, it was able to encourage many rabbis to leave and settle elsewhere, building communities all over the world. It is especially fitting that today several Progressive communities have been re-established throughout Germany.
First meeting – 1926
At the first gathering in London in 1926, there were representatives from France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, America, Canada and India. Dr. Claude Montefiore was the first President and Rabbi Israel Mattuch the first Chairman. Lily Montagu became the Secretary, devoting an immense amount of her time and effort in establishing contacts and networks and making the organisation thrive, even if financial resources were limited (a situation still prevailing today!). Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck succeeded Claude Montefiore as President in 1939.
World Union on the move
In 1959 the administrative headquarters were transferred to New York and Rabbi Hugo Gryn became the General Secretary, working closely with the Joint Distribution Commission to rebuild European Jewry. In 1971 the Head Office was moved to Jerusalem under Rabbi Dick Hirsch.
The European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ)
In 2010 the European Region of the World Union for Progressive Judasim changed its name to European Union for Progressive Judaism to bring us in line with the other WUPJ regions. The EUPJ is active today throughout Europe from Amsterdam to Zürich, supporting growing communities and helping new ones. In the United Kingdom alone, there are over 80 congregations, mostly constituents of the Movement for Reform Judaism (formerly Reform Synagogues of Great Britain) and Liberal Judaism (formerly the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues), both of which are members of the EUPJ. Outside the United Kingdom there are substantial congregations in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, as well as smaller ones in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland and Spain. Currently significant activities include the development of several congregations in Germany, particularly to serve the needs of a large number of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. The major work in activating congregations within the Former Soviet Union is organised from the World Union headquarters in Jerusalem but the EUPJ co-ordinates affinity groups in the UK and provides support under the Exodus 2000 programme.
The EUPJ, like the parent World Union, endeavours to strengthen established congregations and to support emerging groups by helping with finance to obtain premises, setting up synagogue infrastructure, training and employing teachers and rabbis and providing rabbinic support. In addition, both bodies provide great networking opportunities for rabbis and lay members to work together on similar problems in different areas of the world. The EUPJ holds regular conferences and other meetings, encouraging rabbis and lay people to attend in order to discuss specific topics and problems of mutual interest and concern in a friendly Jewish atmosphere.
Managing the European Union for Progressive Judaism
The EUPJ is governed by a Board on which all members are represented. The Board appoints an Executive which is responsible for carrying out the policies laid down by the Board. Day-to-day management is carried out by the Honorary Officers, who operate from London where the administration is based. The EUPJ is funded partly by membership fees from the longer-established communities, and partly by donations (it is registered as a charity in the United Kingdom). It receives regular payments from the Friends of Progressive Judaism in Israel and Europe.
Taking pride in Progressive Judaism around the World
In America today there are over 1500 synagogues affiliated to the World Union, making a total of over 1.8 million affiliated individual members which, with others around the world, brings the total number of members to close to 2 million – making the WUPJ the largest movement of affiliated Jews in the world. The World Union has travelled far from its initial meeting in London in 1926, and has moved firmly along the path of creating a worldwide family movement which can make a major contribution to Jewish life in the 21st century.