Back in September, I brought you the serendipitous story of how Rabbi Joshua Kullock had found TWJ on Twitter and me (and Z&M) ended up eating at his house on the evening before Yom Kippur. At the time, he told me about an interesting meeting of progressive Latin American Jewish communities that would be taking place in Panama this week.
Unfortunately, given my recent return from Israel, and Wandering Intern’s recent trip to Jamaica, we couldn’t be down there in person. But Rabbi Kullock has been good enough to offer us daily dispatches from the proceedings. Herewith is the first one:
Jewish life at the margins can be tough. Not a lot of people. Not a lot of resources.
As you already know from Gil Shefler’s posts (aka The Wandering Intern), the future of Jewish congregations in places like Jamaica is a very complicated one. Great past and profound memories, but hard times trying to preserve this unique heritage in our days. The future keeps presenting itself surrounded by the dark clouds of incertitude.
Back in 1998, Jewish leaders from the progressive congregations of Panama, Costa Rica and Aruba established the Union of Jewish Congregations of Latin America and the Caribbean. The UJCL was founded with the objective of building a strong net of small Jewish institutions, working in a joint effort for strengthen Jewish life in the region. Thirteen years later, they have 11 countries planning activities together: trips to Israel, regional camps, and the publication of local Jewish materials both in Spanish and English.
Tomorrow night, more than 180 participants from all over the continent and abroad will come to Panama for the 12th UJCL convention. This gathering — probably the most important Jewish event in the region — will delve in all those delicate questions of small institutions trying to survive in the 21st century: how to deal with anti-Semitism (both from the outside and from the inside), why an open attitude to interfaith dialogue can help us develop strong ties with the general society, and how can we develop ecologically-minded institutions.
Over the next few days, Panama will be the promised land for Jews wandering from Mexico to Cayman Islands, from Curaçao to Argentina, from El Salvador to Brazil. Wandering (in kilometers) and wandering (for answers), these Jews will share questions and experiences, having a great time while learning from remarkable speakers. And I’ll be honored to cover it for The Wandering Jew.