|Opening Address Leslie Bergmann|
Opening Generations 2012 European Union for Progressive Judaism Biennial Conference
Speech in the Nieuwe Kerk on 15 March 2012
Leslie Bergmann, President of the EUPJ
Welcome to the conference of the European Union for Progressive Judaism in Amsterdam. This is the largest EUPJ conference ever with over 250 delegates plus at least 50 additional local participants – a sellout. We come from 18 EUPJ member countries and from the US, South Africa, Australia, Israel, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. 25 countries – well over half the constituents of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
It is a particular pleasure that we find ourselves in The Netherlands. Through the centuries, from the Inquisition to Shoah, this country with its liberal traditions and open society, has given refuge to Jews.
Here in the 1930’s, a Dutch liberal Jewish congregation was founded – and after the war this gradually expanded into a National Movement with congregations in 10 towns and cities– Nederlands Verbond voor Progressief Jodendom. We are delighted to be here and to have our conference in the beautiful new Amsterdam Liberal Synagogue.
Dear Friends – Progressive Judaism in Europe, in most countries known as Liberal Judaism, is multifarious. Europe is multifarious. The European Jewish legacy is not homogeneous – but richly varied from the Golden Age in Spain to the yeshivot of Eastern Europe – and everything in between. And so it is with our movement. Liturgically we are subject to the influences of the countries in which we live. From highly “classical Reform” worship to very traditional services, from community singing to the use of choirs and ensembles – we each give different expression to Judaism in the way we worship.
BUT if to the outsider this appears somewhat anarchic, it is because he or she may not understand the basic tenets of Progressive Judaism. Progressive Judaism is a prism, through which is reflected the practice of our faith at different angles. But the prism is rock solid – it is the ethical tenets of prophetic Judaism as we live them in the 21st century. And if can quote from a different prophet (Kalil Gibran, “The Prophet”): “Your daily life is your temple and your religion”
Thank you all for being here. In our conference over the next few days, I hope you will learn, be inspired but don’t forget to make your own contribution– just as in this week’s parashah Veyakhel, each member of the tribe of Israel individually contributed what they could to the building of the sanctuary.