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November 6, 2009

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 06, 2009 By Sue Fishkoff SAN FRANCISCO (JTA)-- A newly restructured and slimmed down Union for Reform Judaism will focus on interfaith relations and the rights of Israeli Arabs at its biennial convention Nov, 4-8 in Toronto. Addresses by former Brit- ish Prime Minister Tony Blair and Jordan's King Abdullah IL both urging greater interfaith dialogue as a condition for Middle Eastpeace, will bookend a packed five days expected to draw 5,000 attendees from Re- form congregations worldwide. King Abdullah's pre-taped video address from Amman on Nov. 8 during the convention's closing session marks a bien- nial focused strongly on Israeli politics and current events, as will Blair's live video conversa- tion Nov. 5 with Rabbi David Saperstein of the movement's Religious Action Center. This is in contrast to the more inward focused, reflective fiature of the past two biennials, where topics such as making Shabbat meaningful, urging conversion of non-Jewish World Economic Forum/Creative Commons King AbduUah ll of Jordan will address the Union for Reform Judaism's biennial convention Nov. 8. spouses and introducing the movement's new Hebrew- friendly prayer book took center stage. Avishai Braverman, Israel's minister of minority affairs and a Iongtime proponent of full rights and duties for the country's non-Jewish citizens, will speak during the opening session Nov. 4 about the ongo- ing challenges facing Israeli Arabs. Braverman, the former pres- ident of Ben- Gurion University, was instrumental in bringing Bedouin students, particularly women, to his campus. At a New Israel Fund gala last month in San Francisco. he outlined a proposal to bring American Jewish youth to Israel to work on social justice projects together with their Israeli Arab and Jewish peers, a theme that he is expected to touch upon in Toronto. "The union has long held that Israel should live up to its Jewish values and its demo- cratic values for all citizens," said Rabbi Elliott Kleinman, director of Advancing Reform Judaism, a position created this summer to coordinate Union for Reform Judaism activities worldwide, Kleinman noted that one of the resolutions under consider- ation during the biennial urges Israel to improve conditions for its Arab minorities. "This focus could not come at a better time," he said. Israel's ambassadors to the United States and Canada will address the convention, dis- cussing foreign policy issues, particularly the nuclear threat posed by Iran. "We're trying to articulate a very pro-Israel, pro-peace position," Raid Rabbi Dan Freelander, the union's senior vice president. This is the first time in 30 years that the Union for Reform Judaism, the synagogue arm of the largest Jewish stream in North America. representing 1.5 million Jews in 920 congre- gations, is holding its biennial in Canada. Taking advantage of the set- ting, a health care roundtable session will contrast the health care system in the United States with the Canadian model. The Religious Action Center is a strong advocate of health care reform and has been urging passage of the health care reform bill making its way through the U.S. Congress. Despite the outward focus of much of the biennial, a strong undercurrent still will be devoted to Jewish ritual, a personal interest of Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the presidentofthe URJ. In 2007, during his biennial sermon, traditionally delivered during Saturday's Shabbat services. Yoffie called upon Reform Jews to wrest control of their synagogue services back from the b'nai mitzvah crowd. Two years earlier, he had urged "talking gently" to non-Jewish spouses about conversion. This year's sermon, kept under wraps until its delivery, "will include comments on food issues, what we eat and how we eat, along with new technology, Israel and other issues of concern to Reform Jews." Kleinman said. Kashrut, broadky conceivedas an approach to food production and consumption based on Jew- ish values, has been garnering increased attention in Reform circles the past few years. The conversation gained urgency with last year's immi- gration raid and arrests at the Agriprocessors kosher slaugh- terhouse in Postviile, Iowa. The Union for Reform Judaism quickly signed on to the Con- servative movement's Hekhsher Tzedek food justice initiative when its initial guidelines were released in August 2008. Reform Jews interested in adopting some form of tra- ditional kashrut often clash, however, with proponents of a more classical Reform attitude. with its traditional hostility toward ritual observance. The Society for Classical Reform Judaism, asmall 2-year- old coalition of congregations dedicated to the unifersalist goals ofthe early RefoCm move- ment, including its rejection of certain Jewish rituals, will host several sessions at this year's biennial, urging continued respect for their viewpoint. Attendees will have the chance to meet staff in charge of the four new North American districts, consolidated from the former 14 regions. While current financial woes were the immediate impetus for the reorganization, Freelander said, the changes themselves had been under discussion for more than five years. "The motivation was how do we best serve our congre- gations, not how do we best sustain a bureaucratic system that has been in place for 50 years," he said. 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To learn more about the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute, and whether proton therapy may be right for you, visit www.floridaproton.orUjn, or call (877) 686-6009. ~00 ~N~VER~TY OF FLOriDA @@@I@ '*-- PROTON THERAPY 66eQ I@OOO INST~T~Tt 2015 N.Jefferson St.,Jacksonville, Florida By Steve Lipman New York Jewish Week Pundits have warned for decades that water--or the scarcity thereof may be the issue that brings the Middle East to the brink of war, more than ideology or territory. Israel. Jordan, and Syria and the Palestin- ians are united by common, fast-disappearing sources of water, and a desire to control those sources. Aaron Wolf, a professor in the department of geo- sciences at Oregon State Univer~ty who spent his childhood in California and Israel, spends his time think- ing about water scarcity,and applying a conflict resolution model to water issues. His doctoral research focused on the Jordan River's role as "a flashpoint and a vehicle for dialogue," he has served as a mediator in water disputes around the world, including the Middle East, and he is the author of a new, "dry" book, "Managing and Transform- ing Water Conflicts" (Cam- bridge University Press). Question: Water prob- lems fights over wells are as old as the Bible. What's changed in 5,000 years? Answer: In a way, not much. We still have a ten- dency to compete over water. there's still too many people and too much need for water resources. Q: Will Israel and its Arab neighbors make war or peace because of water? A: Water has certainly been an underlying subtext in the Arab-Israeli conflict; it has helped define the shape of the political boundaries--but has also been an excuse for conversation. This goes back to the 1950s; either implicitly or explicitly there have been negotiations and accom- modation over shared water resources, even as terrific tensions and conflict were happening over other issues. Q: Experts have been predicting for years that the water supply in the Middle East is drying up. Is the situ- ation getting worse? A: The amount of water doesn't change. The amount of water we have now is basi- cally that same amount we've had since time immemorial. What has changed is that our needs are going up. Populations go up, econo- mies require more and more water, and the water that we have we pollute more. So there's effectively less water available. Q: Israel's hydrological focus in the Dead Sea. How close is the Dead Sea to re- ally dying? A:The Dead Sea has always been dead. Ecologically, there's not much of an eco- system there. What's been happening because both Israel and Jordan have been diverting water upstream, the level of the Dead Sea's been dropping. It will never entirely disappear. More serious is the health of the Jordan River Valley that feeds into the Dead Sea. Q: How does an academic from the Northwest get so interested in water problems of the Middle East? A: I grew up in San Fran- cisco primarily, where water is also subject to politics. I went back and forth to Israel several times; there it was much clearer, a sub-issue in the [regional] conflict. As I got more and more involved in the Middle East, it became clearer and clearer that this was a new and better way to talk about politics. If we focus on the tangible issues, like water, we are often able to find creative solutions. Q: Jews in shul pray for rain every year at the end of Succot. Is that the answer? A: I think all we do, we do with God's help. Praying for rain, praying for peace. praying for a healthy planet are all noble causes. Steve Lipman is a staff writer for the New York Jewish Week from which this article was reprinted by permission. 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