Program at a Glance 
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 Community in Action: Site Visits  


CONNECTIONS 2015 offers the opportunity to hear from some of our most prominent and inspiring speakers from around the world.

Please check back here for regular updates. 

Keynoters and Special Profiles

Rabbi Aaron D. Panken
Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, PhD


Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., is President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, North America’s first Jewish seminary. He has taught Rabbinic and Second Temple Literature at HUC-JIR in New York since 1995. He has previously served as a vice president of the College-Institute, as well as Dean and Dean of Students of the New York campus. An alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, he earned his doctorate in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, where his research focused on legal change in Rabbinic Literature.

He currently serves on faculty for the Wexner Foundation, on the Editorial Board of RJ Magazine, and has served on the Rabbinical Placement Commission, the birthright Education Committee, the CCAR Ethics Committee and in a variety of other leadership roles within the Reform movement and greater Jewish community. Prior to teaching at the College-Institute, he served congregations including Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City and Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY.

A native of New York City who graduated from Johns Hopkins University's Electrical Engineering program, Rabbi Panken is also a certificated commercial pilot and sailor, and lives with his wife and two children in the New York area. His publications include 
The Rhetoric of Innovation (University Press of America, 2005), which explores legal change in Rabbinic texts. 

Michael Grabiner
Michael Grabiner

Michael Grabiner is outgoing Chairman of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. He is also Chair of Governors of JCoSS, the first pluralist Jewish High School in the UK.


Michael was formerly Chair of the UK Movement for Reform Judaism, Chair of the UK Jewish Film Festival, a Governor of Leo Baeck College and a member of the Executive Committee of the UK Jewish Leadership Council. He is currently Chair of Partnerships for Schools which is the UK Government’s delivery agency for capital investment in schools .He was a Partner at Apax Partners LLP from 2002-2009 and was previously Chief Executive of Energis plc and Director of BT Europe.


Michael has also held non executive directorships on company boards in France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain, Sweden, UK and USA. Michael is a member of Finchley Reform Synagogue in London.



Daniel H Freelander
Rabbi Daniel H Freelander

Rabbi Daniel Hillel Freelander serves as president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. With offices in New York and Jerusalem, Rabbi Freelander leads the coordinating body of over 1.8 million Reform and Progressive Jews, representing over 1200 congregations and 7 regional bodies worldwide.

Rabbi Freelander served the North American Union for Reform Judaism [URJ] in senior leadership positions dealing with youth, Jewish Education, camping, publications, adult literacy and worship and leadership development for almost 40 years.  As director of the North Federation of Temple Youth [NFTY], and as Senior Vice President of the URJ, he provided creative vision and management to dozens of program, including URJ Biennial conventions, music and worship initiatives, and camping and Israel programs.

Rabbi Freelander is an ardent Zionist and a strong supporter of Israel, an initiator of dozens of Israel engagement projects, and a key supporter of the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism’s Mechina programs. He also serves as the WUPJ representative to the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI)’s Board of Governors.


A gifted musician and keen observer of the North American Jewish scene, Freelander is well known for lecturing on trends in synagogue life.  Together with Cantor Jeff Klepper, he has composed dozens of popular Jewish melodies including the well known “Shalom Rav” and “Lo Alecha.”

A native of Worcester, MA, he received Rabbinic ordination at the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.  He serves on the boards of the Zamir Choral Foundation and Odyssey Networks, an interfaith media group.  Rabbi Freelander is married to Rabbi Elyse Frishman, senior rabbi of the Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, NJ. 



Phyllis Dorey
Phyllis Dorey

Phyllis Dorey, an active member of the Progressive Jewish community in Australia, retired as President of the Union for Progressive Judaism [Australia, New Zealand and Asia] at its biennial conference held in October/November 2008 in Melbourne. Phyllis served as a board member of her synagogue [Temple Beth Israel] for over 14 years, serving as its President from 1999 to 2001. Most recently, she chaired the rabbinic search committee whose deliberations resulted happily in the appointment of Rabbi Kim Ettlinger to the synagogue’s rabbinic team.

In her professional life Phyllis is a well-known and highly respected educational consultant with nearly 30 years experience gained across all sectors of education. Her skills and expertise, especially as a manager, presenter, trainer, mentor and coach have been widely recognized and valued by individuals, training institutions, and companies.

She is a member of the Council of The King David School, the Progressive Jewish Day School in Melbourne, and chair of their Education Committee.

She is also a member of the World Union for Progressive Judaism’s Executive Board. She has enjoyed every moment of her role as co-chair of the 2015 Convention and hopes everyone will have a great time in Rio de Janeiro.


Raul C Gottleib
Raul Cesar Gottleib

Raul Cesar Gottlieb is an IT engineer and a voluntary activist deeply committed to the Reform Movement. He was formerly involved in Jewish education in Rio de Janeiro, at the Eliezer Max day school and the Vaad Hachinuch, and in his youth was a member of Chazit Hanoar Youth Movement. Presently he is the director of Devarim Magazine, director of the Religious Affairs Committee at ARI (where he is also a board member) and the president of WUPJ Latin America. Raul is married to Marina, they have two sons, one daughter and four grandchildren. 

Raul is the co-chair of the 2015 Convention and wishes you all a wonderful time in Rio de Janeiro.



Jerry Tanenbaum 



Jerry is the Chairman of YAD B’YAD Task Force of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). Jerry is an Honorary Life Member and serves as a Member of Board of Trustees and Executive Committee of Union for Reform Judaism, in which he also served as Senior Vice-President and was a member of the WUPJ Management Committee. He is also an Honorary Life member of the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR)

In 2000, Jerry was the recipient of the World Union for Progressive Judaism’s highest honor (International Humanitarian Award), and in 2011 he was the recipient of the prestigious Sherut L’Am Award from HUC-JIR.


Previously, Jerry was the Founding Chairman of the Association of Reform Zionist of America/World Union North America (ARZA/WUNA); Chairman of the North American Board/World Union for Progressive Judaism; Chairman of Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute; Served on the Board of Trustees of Levi Hospital; Board Member of Congregation House of Israel; Chairman of the Youth Committee  Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Chairman of the Small Congregations Committee Union of American Hebrew Congregations; and President of Southwest Council/Union of American Hebrew Congregations. He was the 1972 recipient of the Arkansas Outstanding Young Man Award, the 1974 Distinguished Arkansan Award and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from the Arkansas Baptist College.

Together with his wife, Pat (z”l), Jerry, along with leaders from the Yad B’Yad Task Force led the way for the engagement of the WUPJ with the communities in South America and the Caribbean, and through his energetic leadership has helped bring about the rebirth of Progressive Judaism in the region. He has been, and continues to be, instrumental in cultivating the Youth and Young Adult movements – Netzer and TaMaR – in the region.



 Josh Nelson and Neshama Carlebach

Josh Nelson and Neshama Carlebach

One of the most popular performers and composers in modern Jewish music, Josh Nelson has been bringing his powerful message of hope, unity and spirituality to concert stages and worship services across the globe. Josh is a gifted multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who was recently hailed by Time Magazine as a “star of the New Jewish Music.” Josh is the music director for the Union for Reform Judaism [URJ] Biennial Convention.


Neshama Carlebach began singing with her father Shlomo Carlebach when she was 15 years old. Like her father, Neshama's talent and charisma captivate and endear her to people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds. She has performed and taught in cities worldwide, has sung on the Broadway stage, has sold more than one million records. Neshama was one of the creators of the Broadway play "Soul Doctor", which stars Josh Nelson in the title role of Shlomo Carlebach.



At CONNECTIONS 2015, this dynamic duo will serve as scholars in residence for the musicians at the conference, who will provide the moving musical backdrop for the entire event. Carlebach and Nelson will also be conducting a workshop called 'Music for the Soul' that will explore the most stirring elements of traditional Jewish music. In addition, Nelson and Carlebach will take part in the highly anticipated Lashir Benefesh seminar, tailored for cantors and musicians from the Latin American region. For two days, seminar participants will learn, work, share, create and inspire each other, focusing on enhancing their repertoire and skillset.




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