Annual Report 2000

Annual Report 2000

Sim Shalom has made significant progress in this past year toward becoming a well-functioning and vibrant Jewish community. The year started with a well-attended Future Goals meeting where priorities were set on those ideas that had a consensus agreement. Some of these goals have already been met, including the adoption of a constitution which sets up a badly needed governance structure, and the adoption of a new Statement of Principles.
A governing board with several new members is in a Leadership Training Program generously offered by Alex Dembitz of Geneva, where they are learning the duties and responsibilities of a lay board in a volunteer organization. The recently established Social Welfare Committee has added a new dimension to the services the congregation offers its members. A new Brochure and a monthly newsletter are proving to be valuable aids in recruiting new members. One major goal not yet attained is membership in the Mazsihisz, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Organizations.

Consideration of our application was postponed last spring after receiving the disapproval of the Rabbinical Council, and did not even appear on the agenda of the most recent Mazsihisz AGM last December. We thank all those who have supported our application in the past, and request that they continue to lobby in any way they can to help us in this fight to gain local recognition. Although we were successful in finding new premises last winter when our lease was broken on short notice, the space is not as large or usable as the old one. We are still far short
of our other main goal of having our own permanent premises with enough space for all our programs and activities, including those we hope to start in the next year or so.

A significant event in the religious life of the congregation was the institution of regular, biweekly Kabbalat Shabbat services this past year, alternating with biweekly Shacharit Services. The first Hungarian Reform Siddur is being written, and will add greatly to these services when it is finished. In the meantime, those attending services are learning the traditional chants and tunes under the leadership of the Rabbi, and finding that the music adds greatly to the spirituality of the service. The musical contribution of Oliver Kurer as Chazzan at the last Rosh Hashanah Service was a major factor in the quality of the service, as was the performance of a membership choir at Pesach and the High Holidays. Attendance at the High Holidays and other festivals continues to grow, running from 50 to 100. Life cycle events such as baby namings are becoming increasingly common, and unfortunately so are funerals, especially for first and second generation holocaust survivors. Also of note was the conversion ceremony of five converts, one of whom was from Vienna, and supervised by Rabbi Kelemen. One more convert is studying now, a woman from Israel, who is studying in our community while living here for the year.

Several new educational programs were started in the past year. In an interesting and successful experiment, the Rabbi is teaching a Hebrew language course with the prayer book as a text, thereby combining instruction in Hebrew with that in liturgy. The most recent new course, run by one of the lay leaders, is on the history of the Hungarian Kehillot. Successful ongoing adult education programs include the biweekly Torah Study, with an attendance of 20 or more, a biweekly adult class in Basic Judaism, and a biweekly Oneg Shabbat with talks by members on their family history, and by invited guests on various Jewish topics. A congregational member was sent to a Jewish Education course at the Center for Jewish Education in London last summer. This is in anticipation of an expansion of the children’s educational program beyond the monthly Havdalah Club meetings for toddlers and their families, which is already bringing young families into the congregation.

In the field of public relations and outreach, the community has been quite active. Rabbi Kelemen delivered the concluding lecture at a recent conference on the psychological support of Holocaust Survivors, as well as talks to local groups such as the Budapest Zionist Club during the year. She and congregational President Ibi Fischer attended the European Region Meeting of WUPJ in Zurich last March, and the Rabbi had the honor of giving the sermon at the Shabbat Service. Rabbi Kelemen attended the CCAR Conference in London last May, and during the spring semester she taught a course on Jewish Liturgy at the Peter Pazmany Catholic University. Just a few weeks ago, an article appeared about her in the respected Hungarian weekly news magazine, HVG.

It was with great pleasure and pride that Sim Shalom welcomed many visitors from abroad at its Shabbat services and festival celebrations. This occurs at least monthly, and included a visit by Rabbi Ted Levy and several WUPJ officers last Purim, a delegation of friends and supporters from the West London Synagogue last spring, and a happy group of U. S. teenagers from Passaic, New Jersey last fall.

A major project for next year is to work toward getting larger and permanent premises, both because we are now too cramped to do all our activities comfortably, and because of the well-known advantage in recruiting new members that good facilities provides. Toward this goal, we will send representatives to a 5-month program on fund-raising run locally this spring by the JDC. Recruiting of new members, especially families with children will be a high priority. To aid in this, it is planned to start two Cheder classes next fall, to run a children’s camp program in the summer, and to hold a weekend family spirituality retreat, probably in the fall. In February, the first Bnai Mitzvah of a child in the congregation will take place in Sim Shalom. We expect to publish the first  edition of our Reform Siddur in the coming year, which will add greatly to the weekly Shabbat services. At the request of the European Region Board, Rabbi Kelemen will begin to offer support to the growing Reform communities in Vienna and Prague, possibly in the area of conversion. A contribution by Rabbi Kelemen entitled “The Rabbi’s Role in Reform Judaism” to a conference next spring on The Rabbinate should give Reform Judaism some good exposure among the young Jewish intellectuals expected to attend the conference.