Annual Report 2003

Annual Report 2003

Overall membership has increased in the last year. This is especially noticeable in the attendance at both the Kabbalat and Shacharit Shabbat Services: for both there are twice as many people attending as last year.  There were 110 people for Rosh Hashanah, 100 worshippers for the Pesach Community Seder, and 60 for the Yom Kippur day service, also more than last years attendance.

Programs and Activities
Purim Party
A unique weekend long Purim Party was organised by Simchaz, the youth group of Sim Shalom. The ball was held on a ship in the Danube river. Twenty-five representatives of eight European Progressive Jewish communities were here for a weekend of intense activities.

In the last year, Simchaz, the youth and young people’s group has become an active and vibrant participant in most of the activities of the congregation. This is in addition to their own bi-weekly program meetings. Out of the Simchaz success with a Purim weekend in 2003 has sprung the international Jewish youth group, EuroJews, which led a Chanukkah weekend in Barcelona in Dec. 2003. This was attended by five Simchaz members. Finally, the Simchaz president, Péter Radvánszki attended the Limmud in late December and returned full of ideas and enthusiasm.

We held our second weekend family spirituality retreat in the Matra hills. The residential camp was attended by 80 people. The event coincided with Shavuoth, celebrating the revelation at Mt. Sinai, so all the events of the weekend had the theme of climbing our own Mt.Sinai.

Continuing from last fall, an ongoing monthly program in Interfaith topics was presented. In these meetings, led by one of our member and by a psychologist, the main theme was how to deal with religion and faith in mixed marriages. Among the guest speakers, there was the Christian theologist, Joseph Szécsi, who is also the President of the Hungarian Jewish-Christian Dialog.

A week long  educational camp was arranged and led by Simchaz for the young members of Sim Shalom at Lake Balaton.

After a long working period, and overcoming many obstacles, we launched the draft edition of our Kabbalat Shabbat Siddur. It is the work of Rabbi Katalin Kelemen, with the help of the editorial committee: all members of our own community. The Siddur contains the Kabbalat Shabbat service, the Kiddush and Havdalah services, and the Birkat Ha-Mazon. It is the first ever Progressive Hungarian Siddur, and consists of the Hebrew text, Sephardi transliteration of each prayer, new Hungarian translations, a selection of alternative versions of prayers in English (so that our guests from abroad feel welcome at our services) and commentaries in a Progressive spirit – which latter is a real novelty in this country. Our intention is to distribute the draft edition among our members and potential members  for use over a one-year period. During this time, we will collect the experiences and insights of the users, and correct the errors, and we plan to publish a revised version by the next Chanukkah.

Life Cycle Events, Visitors and Travel

One member of  Sim Shalom took all the preliminary steps for conversion which will occur before  the European Region Conference in the Hague, which the Rabbi, the vice president and the Rabbi’s husband, Jesse Weil  will attend.

Gabor Kalman,  president and George Hajnal, vice president of Sim Shalom, attended the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) European Region Executive Meeting and Seminar in London. They gave a comprehensive presentation of Sim Shalom’s situation in Hungary to the other European Progressive Community representatives.

Future Plans and Needs

The continuous search of alternative routes towards recognition led us to decide to start the legal steps to establish an independent Progressive Community, after twelve years of existence of Sim Shalom in the legal form of an association. To achieve our goal we have called a membership meeting for the first half of 2004, to vote on this proposal and start the formal legal process.

Simchaz is starting to make connections to other Jewish youth groups in Budapest.

The main problem we face, with expanding membership and program offerings is a growing lack of space. We badly need to find the financial resources to buy larger premises. Our finance committee is busy on this, but it is a daunting task.

George Hajnal
vice-president at time of report