Lucian J Hudson
6 March 2012
Lucian J Hudson on why Liberal Judaism has adopted a policy of Considered Engagement
Diplomacy has always about keeping your eyes on the road ahead – a mix of permanent interests and tactical alliances. Liberal Judaism is developing an approach, which could be used by any government or organisation that seeks to both look inward and take its people with them and outward in terms of winning friends and influencing people.
Judaism has never been monolithic, and Liberal Judaism affirms the pluralism and diversity of our tradition. We cannot begin to experience difference without an encounter. Our greatest enemy is our self-absorption. In the spirit of the old Heineken adverts, Liberal Judaism is recognised by colleagues on the UK’s Jewish Leadership Council as getting to the parts other Jewish communities often cannot reach. There is a growing acceptance that Liberal and Reform movements can add value by deeper and wider engagement with those who we do not necessarily share common ground. Might this be our destiny?
Liberal Judaism calls this a policy of Considered Engagement. Engaging on the issues that matter and engaging with others, who may be sceptical if not critical of our own standpoint. We cannot accept every invitation to speak at events, and need therefore to develop clear criteria on when and when not to engage. Rabbi Danny Rich is in demand, because he is a great speaker and occupies a special, though not unique, place in the Jewish community: a supporter of Israel and a two-state solution, and a robust champion for human rights. Credibility is critical to make engagement work.
Engagement also has to have a purpose. Liberal Judaism has a three year strategy to harness what comes out of this year’s Biennial Weekend and better direct Danny and his team’s efforts so that we not only build on our success in growing our community, but make an even more distinctive contribution to our national life and the development of Progressive Judaism worldwide.
At the European Union for Progressive Judaism conference, held in Paris in 2010, the noted historian Dr Diana Pinto encouraged us to reflect on six different arenas in which Progressive Judaism can play a role. We need to be in different spaces to keep our tradition alive.
Part of this strategy must be how we become a more ‘political’ movement, certainly not in a party political sense, but in the age-old sense of understanding that ‘power relations’ matter. “Speaking truth to power” is integral to what Liberal Judaism is about. We can do this working with others, or working on our own, but do it we must.
This world is as real and good as it gets. Our task is to make the most of it. Like a painter or composer, every stroke counts. The transformative power of spirit and character can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Drawing on Affirmation 29 of the Affirmations of Liberal Judaism, I end on this note: the Messianic Age comes about through the small steps that each of us takes, and from the bigger steps we can take together through the acceptance of God’s will by all humanity.
Lucian J Hudson is chairman of Liberal Judaism and an accredited mediator
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