A Global Community
My summer travels this year took me to Paris, where I had a wonderful time visiting museums, touring, and spending time with family. Emblematic of our increasingly international community, my French cousins are involved in the Reform/Progressive community in Paris. During my visit, they introduced me to Rabbis Pauline Bebe and Tom Cohen. Rabbi Bebe, the first female rabbi in Europe, was a former WRJ scholarship recipient during her student days at Leo Baeck in London. She and her husband, Rabbi Tom Cohen, spend summers at URJ camps, introducing French Reform Jewish youth to the American camping system.
Through rabbis Cohen and Bebe, I learned a lot about the Jewish community in Paris. I was not aware that France has the third largest Jewish population, next to Israel and the U.S. On a personal walking tour of Jewish Paris, Rabbi Cohen shared many insights about the long, proud history of this Jewish community, stemming back to the Roman era.
Walking through Le Marais, the historic Jewish quarter, revealed a vibrant Jewish community, with synagogues, Jewish schools, and delightful Jewish delis and bakeries. The past also is ever-present, with a Jewish museum and Holocaust memorial raising awareness of the Jewish community’s place in Paris history. Throughout the neighborhood one can see many plaques on schools memorializing the thousands of children who were deported by the Nazis, never to return from the abyss. Walking the streets of Paris, it was clear that the French community is still wrestling with its role during war, the Vichy Government, and the many stories that remain to be told.
My family visit in Paris turned out to be much more than catching up with cousins. As Reform Jews, our community is linked to a growing network of Progressive congregations reclaiming Jewish life in Paris and elsewhere around the world. They are creating a modern, progressive Jewish community for our international cousins. The next time your travels take you overseas, I encourage you to contact the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and find a way to reach out to our extended global family. We will all be stronger for it!
Save the Date! The WUPJ 36th Annual International Convention will take place in Jerusalem, May 1-5, 2013. For more information, visit Connections 2013.