While the last year has seen many setbacks for those with Progressive values, Liberal Judaism as a movement has enjoyed another 12 months of growth – with strengthening communities, enhanced social action work and a louder voice in Anglo-Jewry, Britain generally and, indeed, the rest of the world.
Below we look back at five key moments from the past 12 months:
1. LJ senior rabbi on historic Srebrenica visit
Liberal Judaism’s senior rabbi, Rabbi Danny Rich, was part of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation’s Council of Imams and Rabbis May visit to Srebrenica, the site of the first genocide on European soil since the Second World War. This ground-breaking trip was the first time that such a group, of very senior imams and rabbis, have visited Srebrenica together. Danny said: “The Council of Rabbis and Imams has existed for some time, but the trip offered a pastoral opportunity to explore and understand the human condition in both a theological and practical sense, as well as to get to know each other away from formal meetings.”
2. Biennial Weekend a great success
Nearly 300 Liberal Jews, from 39 different communities, saw a confident movement looking to the future at the Liberal Judaism Biennial Weekend in July. Liberal Judaism’s flagship event, the conference marked a step change in the movement’s growth and standing through its radical programme and speakers – including author Cole Moreton, Imam Sayed Razawi and Rabbi Dr Dalia Marx – which did not shy away from addressing challenging issues including Israel and the Diaspora, the role of religion in public life and politics, sexuality and identity and campaigning for social justice. It also looked at how all of these tie into Liberal Jewish liturgy and prayer, now and in the future.
3. First Jewish group forms in Durham for 60 years
In July, a group of Liberal Jews formed the first local Jewish group in Durham since the last synagogue there closed in 1955. Spokesperson Hava Fleming said: “We wanted to reach out to the descendants of the Orthodox synagogues in Bishop Auckland, Stockton-on-Tees, Durham, West Hartlepool, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, which closed as the collieries and shipping industries dwindled.” The Durham community – which prides itself on being inclusive and child friendly – has made local and national news with a number of interfaith activities, including a Mitzvah Day tea for refugees, held jointly with local Muslims.
4. Woodford and Bet Tikvah unite to form East London & Essex Liberal Synagogue
In parallel EGMs in September, members of Bet Tikvah and Woodford Liberal Synagogues voted in favour of the dissolution of their existing communities and the formation of a new single congregation – which will be called East London & Essex Liberal Synagogue. The unification will take place on January 1, 2017, creating a new Liberal community of approximately 700 members of all generations – led by Rabbis Richard Jacobi and David Hulbert.
5. Liberal Jews win major volunteering awards
In November, Liberal Judaism communities and members won a series of volunteering awards. Simon Cooper and Rebecca Woolfe were named as The Jewish News and Mitzvah Day’s Community Heroes for 2016, in a moving ceremony, for their incredible charity work. At the same ceremony, Dublin Jewish Progressive Congregation won the Mitzvah Day 365 Award for its work with Inner City Helping Homeless. In addition, Ben Combe was honoured at the Jewish Volunteering Network Awards as a result of his work for Liberal Judaism’s youth movement LJY-Netzer.
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