We must now put our Progressive values into action

As Jews, we talk a lot about tikkun olam. It’s that ever-present value, cited in nearly every Jewish setting – in those earliest classes at our day schools, from the pulpit every Shabbat, and on panels at scores of communal conferences every year.

And so it was no different at last week’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Connections conference, where Reform and Progressive Jews from around the world – representing more than 50 countries – came to discuss our shared commitment to creativity, disruption, originality and innovation.

The common denominator: making our world a better place and living up to our shared Jewish value of tikkun olam.

But talking about these things is easy. The challenge for us now is to translate our values into actions that truly impact and heal our world.

We must make tikkun olam real, measurable and sustainable at a time when injustice, suffering and inequality is causing not only individual and community pain, but also ruptures in our social, economic and moral fabric.

It is time for Reform and Progressive Jews to recommit to repair of the world, especially now, at a moment when we individually and collectively are awakening from a pandemic-induced slumber and isolation but now are given the opportunity to reset the world with bold ideas, new partnerships, and fresh imperatives.

I was deeply honoured to be installed as the new president of WUPJ last week, and it is my intention to keep this discussion alive while I have this platform. The status quo, I maintain, can be improved. Our Progressive and Reform rabbis and congregations are well positioned to drive a new brand of tikkun olam.

WUPJ’s new initiative, Jewish Effective Giving, is an example of this, should we say, Tikkun Olam 2.0. It is intended to encourage our Progressive and Reform rabbis to save lives by informing their congregations and communities about effective giving to the world’s most efficient, life-saving charities working in developing countries.

The project is meant to be a bridge between our Reform and Progressive movement and the emerging, global Effective Altruism movement, which emphasizes studied efficiencies and measurable impact in a variety of program areas, including global poverty.

By mobilizing our worldwide network through this initiative, we can make Reform and Progressive Judaism a leading voice and catalyst for change in this realm.

There is another important element to the initiative too – and that is to inspire and engage our young people. Too many times we hear of young people turning away from

Judaism, from religion in general, only returning for lifecycle events and the occasional festival.

This initiative will help our congregations and our movement inspire young Jewish activists and give them the gateway to engage within their communities and the greater world, sparking ideas of their own and creating a next generation of Reform and Progressive leadership.

I am committed to creating an incubator of initiatives with high social impact in our Jewish and universal practices in order to renew and reform our capacity to confront the enormous challenges ahead of us.

Rabbi Sergio Bergman is President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. To find out more about the Jewish Effective Giving Initiative, please visit www.jewisheffectivegiving.org.

About the Author
Rabbi Sergio Bergman is a politician, activist, and author who began his career at Emanu El, epicenter of Argentina’s Reform Movement. He was ordained at the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary and HUC-JIR. In 2015, President Mauricio Macri named him Minister of the Environment. Starting June 2020, Rabbi Bergman is honored to serve as the next President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. He is married and has four children.
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