EUPJ Baalei Tefillah Europe 2021: Graduation Ceremony Report
By Rabbi Nathan Alfred, WUPJ Head of International Development and Community Building
In a moving graduation ceremony this past weekend, twenty-six students from EUPJ communities in fourteen countries graduated from Baalei Tefillah Europe 2021, a pioneering programme, taught by Rabbi Nathan Alfred, that trains lay leaders to lead prayers for progressive congregations around the continent.
The ceremony was held in a hybrid format, hosted by the Beth Hillel and International Jewish Center, our two progressive communities in Brussels, with many of the graduates participating on zoom. They led Friday night and Saturday morning services, included an elongated Torah service that offered each participant the opportunity to chant a part of the weekly portion.
While the COVID situation had forced the postponement of the Baalei Tefillah Europe 2021 closing weekend, several participants travelled anyway to Brussels and enjoyed meeting each other face to face. It is hoped that the gathering will be rescheduled around the weekend of Shavuot, in June 2022.
The graduation ceremony was led by Rabbi Alfred, who spoke of his delight in working with such a dedicated and talented group of students. Some have been involved in leading services for several years, whilst others are only now, thanks to the programme, beginning to lead their communities in prayer. Each benefited from an intensive curriculum designed to immerse them in many of the issues that confront Sh’lichei Tzibur, workshops with a variety of rabbis, cantors, musicians, theologians and educators from Europe and around the Jewish world, and from being part of a network of lay leaders who are dealing with similar challenges around our European congregations.
The ceremony also included speeches by Sonja Guentner, the Chair of the EUPJ, and by Gilbert Lederman. For many years Gilbert has been a prominent leader in Belgian progressive Judaism, and oversaw the cooperation and coming together of our two communities in Brussels. He has also been a significant figure in both the EUPJ and the World Union for Progressive Judaism, including as a member of the Executive Board. The Gilbert Lederman Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Baalei Tefillah Europe 2021 programme was awarded to three students, Alina Antoszewska (Poland), Mica Cantor (Switzerland) and Yael Moses (UK).
The Gilbert Lederman Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Baalei Tefillah Europe 2021 Programme
L to R: Alina Antoszewska receiving her award from Jesse Goldberg, Rabbi Brian Doyle and Rabbi Marc Neiger
The innovative Baalei Tefillah Europe 2021 programme was made possible thanks to its sponsors, who included the North London Progressive Synagogue Trust and the EUPJ. It is hoped that a second cohort will be launched in 2022, so that more lay leaders and more communities may benefit from this outstanding programme.