At the 2011 Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs international convention, Gillian Caplin gave a talk about a number of small but growing Masorti groups in Europe. Caplin, who was president of Masorti Europe at the time, discussed how these communities were rediscovering their Jewish heritage and traditions and how, despite living in sometimes hostile environments and having few resources, these communities were seeking to reconnect with other Jews.
Dor Hadash, one such small egalitarian Masorti community in Budapest, Hungary, is in the early stages of its Jewish development. The group of mostly young professionals and those pursuing graduate studies has been meeting in a community center to celebrate Shabbat and the holidays for several years. Masorti Europe has assisted with rabbinical oversight and provided religious objects, but most of the work has been done by the group itself.
For the past year the brotherhood of Temple Israel of Sharon, Massachusetts, and Dor Hadash have been collaborating on a project to help both communities learn, grow and enrich one another. Through monthly Skype calls, Temple Israel’s brotherhood connects with a few of Dor Hadash’s leaders. The resurgence of anti-Semitism and racial bigotry, which have gained political momentum and are exacerbated by the poor economy, has put the Hungarian Jewish community under pressure. Temple Israel’s brotherhood is sending the clear message that the Hungarian community is not alone.
In February, the two simultaneously celebrated the FJMC Worldwide Wrap. Connected via Google Hangouts on the big screen, Temple Israel’s Rabbi Barry Starr gave a d’var torah about the meaning of tefillin, and then the two communities davened together. Seven members of the Budapest community and about 70 members of Temple Israel participated. Two Hungarian survivors of the Holocaust, who now live in Sharon, shared this experience, a moving moment for everyone.
This summer, Temple Israel invited and paid for two of Dor Hadash’s leaders to join the Temple Israel brotherhood at the FJMC convention. After the convention, they visited Sharon to meet the Temple Israel community together with Dr. Joanna Kubar, president of Masorti Europe, for an educational program. Members of the Temple Israel brotherhood hopefully soon will visit Dor Hadash in Budapest.
Along with other learning opportunities members of Temple Israel’s brotherhood will be teaching davening and Torah reading via the internet. It is our hope and desire that this partnership will grow for many years to come. We believe that both Dor Hadash and the Temple Israel community have much to learn from each other.
And lastly, we hope that our experience can serve as a template for other congregations to create partnerships with the growing Masorti communities throughout the world. We are happy to share our experiences and lessons learned.