Annual Report 2004

Annual Report 2004

Legal Matters and Local Religious Politics
After twelve years of existence of Sim Shalom in the legal form of an association we finally established and registered as an independent Religious Organisation to practice Progressive Judaism with 117 adult founding members. As a preliminary step in founding the new congregation we prepared our new constitution based on recommended guidelines of WUPJ. At the statutory meeting for founding, the new constitution was approved and officers were elected.

During the course of the Word Union’s European Region Annual General Meeting conducted in the Haag, March, 2004, the World Union leaders heard reports of representatives of Sim Shalom Community, concerning the status of the progressive movement in Hungary. They heard that MAZSIHISZ, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary, refuses to accept into its membership a Progressive Jewish organisation, while presenting itself at the same time as a representative body serving the needs and interests of all religious Jewish groupings in Hungary. Finally the World Union adopted a resolution on actively supporting the legal and public challenge to this policy. We thank Uri Regev  and the other WUPJ leaders for taking actions to implement this resolution.

Rabbi Joel Oseran, Associate Director of WUPJ visited Sim Shalom during his tour in Central Europe in July. He met with the Rabbi and leading members of our Board and also met with Mr.Heisler, president of MAZSIHISZ.

We started bilateral discussions with other Hungarian Jewish organisations, including the JDC, for further co-operation. Although MAZSIHISZ, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary, refused to accept Sim Shalom into its membership, it also awarded us a small grant. Our applications for grants have been accepted by several supportive organisations. For this year we could stabilize our financial situation with the help of our institutional and private supporters.

Sim Shalom has kept on growing in attendance at services and holidays. In order to accomodate 100 people in our small premises, two separate Chanukah celebrations had to be held.

Programs and Activities

Sim Shalom’s family camp was held for the third time this year with 70 people attending. It was organised around the theme of „Genders – male-female relationships within Judaism”. In the special summer edition of our Newsletter on our homepage ( you can read an account of the main events. The camp was partially supported by the Jewish Heritage of Hungary Public Endowment.

In addition to the on-going courses of Torah Study and Liturgy, the Rabbi gave the course „Everyday Judaism” for beginners with a special focus on practical issues in Judaism. This course was supported by the Budapest Office of the JDC. We have recently started a new course in beginning Hebrew.

Membership Activities
Active women of the congregation organised a Sisterhood for the purposes of running the festival celebrations and of organising various other social events. During 2004, Simchaz, the youth group of Sim Shalom continued to be an active and vibrant participant in most of the activities of the congregation. This is an addition to their own bi-weekly program meetings of a high standard. The Chanukah weekend sponsored by EuroJews and held in Amsterdam this year was attended by two Simchaz members. The successful discussion group on Jewish Identity continues to meet regularly.

ECJC Conference
In March 2004, the Annual Conference of European Council of Jewish Communities (ECJC) was held in Budapest, where our community had an active role. At the request of the conference organisers Rabbi Kelemen conducted a Kabbalat Shabbat service for participants from other Progressive communities. During the conference we also organised a very successful English language guided tour of the Jewish Quarter of Budapest, with more then 60 attendees.

Life Cycles Events
A member of Sim Shalom completed her conversion in March before the European Bet Din, in the Hague, with the Rabbi in attendance. The spirited batmitzvah ceremony of Ráhel Gado was held before a large number of Sim Shalom members and friends in the Synagogue of the Lauder Jewish Community School.

Sim Shalom had many visitors from abroad during the year, especially from the US. Notable were the visits of R.Jonathan L. Singer along with 45 members of Temple Beth Am Synagogue, Seattle with whom we held a common Kabalat Shabbat service, and of Rabbis Joel Abraham and R. Andrew Vogel with their confirmation classes.

Future Plans and Needs
Sim Shalom has started to prepare plans for a Progressive Jewish Open University, and grant support was applied for. The Rabbi is offering a Midrash course to the Sim Shalom members which will also be open to the general public. To celebrate our new status as a religious organisation and to publicize its existence, we are planning a Conference for the latter part of 2005. Based on our new legal status, we are starting negotiations with the Hungarian government for both financial support and for premises.

György Hajnal
Vice President at time of report