First WUPJ president from South America asks Jews to ‘fix our world and to do it better’
JERUSALEM — Rabbi Sergio Bergman — an Argentinian social activist, public servant and Jewish community leader — was installed as president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) this week, becoming the first-ever head of the global movement from South America and immediately advancing bold initiatives to drive impact and change.
“It is an honor and privilege for me to take the presidency of the global Progressive Reform movement,” Rabbi Bergman said to a worldwide online audience attending WUPJ’s Connections 21 conference. “We are a global extended family, faithfully serving shared Jewish values.
“The World Union translates the sacred values of our prophets of Israel and our sacred text in a new context addressing and facing new challenges. As we march toward the first 100 years of WUPJ, we build together the unity and diversity – the strength of the Jewish people – and fulfill our shared vision to fix our world and to do it better.”
As the new WUPJ president, Rabbi Bergman will lead the international network of the Reform, Liberal, Progressive and Reconstructionist Jewish movements, serving 1.2 million members worldwide in more than 1,250 congregations in over 50 countries.
Rabbi Bergman used his installation to name four initial priorities for WUPJ: The Jewish Effective Giving Initiative, equipping rabbis with tools to advance support of life-saving charities working in the developing world, and grow young Jewish activists committed to tikkun olam, repairing the world … Hebrew 2030, using educational platforms to promote the study and use of Hebrew and grow connections to Israel … Values Education, bolstering WUPJ’s educational programming and partnerships to reach young Jews and bring them into the Progressive movement … and Israeli by Choice, strengthening global Jewry’s connection and ties to Israel through citizenship.
“We will launch an incubator for projects that seek high social impact in the Jewish world,” Rabbi Bergman said. “We will learn from the already existing incubators and accelerators and craft our own. Some of these projects are likely to be developed and others might not be fully realized. But what is important is that we create a mechanism for sincere exploration of new ideas.”
The son of Polish Holocaust survivors who found refuge in Argentina, Rabbi Bergman was ordained at the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary of Buenos Aires and Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem. He serves as clergy at Templo Libertad, the oldest and largest synagogue in Buenos Aires, founded in 1862 and based on the tenets of Progressive Judaism and known worldwide as a space where choice, debate and interpretation are central.
In 2011, he became the first rabbi ever elected to public office in Argentina, serving as representative of the City of Buenos Aires. In 2013, he was elected to represent the city in the Argentinian Congress, and in 2015, President Mauricio Macri named him Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, a position that gave him a platform to advance the fight against climate change – an issue for which he is known, along with human rights and social justice causes in Argentina and around the world.
Carole Sterling, Chair of the WUPJ Board, said Rabbi Bergman’s devotion to the ideals and promise of Progressive Judaism – and his passion for building community and advancing progressive Jewish values – will strengthen the WUPJ network and its impact locally and globally.
“It is highly significant that Rabbi Bergman is the first WUPJ president from South America, a continent with a Jewish community that is a model of progressive Jewish values and practice due in no small measure to his vision and impact. By elevating his voice, WUPJ is recognizing that the strengths and ideas that come from each part of its global network are invaluable to the whole of Progressive Judaism.”
World Union for Progressive Judaism
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