30 January 2017
Five of the country’s leading Progressive rabbis – representing Liberal, Reform and Masorti Judaism – came to Sukkat Shalom Reform Synagogue in Wanstead for a special panel debate to mark the 60th anniversary of Leo Baeck College (LBC).
Liberal Judaism was represented by Rabbi Richard Jacobi, who is co-chair of its Rabbinic Conference, minister at East London & Essex Liberal Synagogue and Van de Zyl head of vocational studies at the College.
He was joined on the panel by LBC principal Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, Rabbi Michael Foulds OBE, formerly of Buckhurst Hill Masorti Synagogue, and Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE. The panel was chaired by Sukkat Shalom’s Rabbi Larry Becker.
The discussion lived up to its title of ‘Any Questions’ with topics including the College’s remarkable history and fundraising needs, Jewish schools, interfaith work, the way ahead for our communities and the relationship between Progressive and Orthodox Judaism.
In an interesting conversation on the future of the rabbinate, Richard – who is co-chair of Liberal Judaism’s Rabbinic Conference and – told an enthusiastic audience: “Anyone who, in the current climate, tries to predict the years ahead is tempting fate.
“But one of the things we can say is that, as the world is becoming less and less certain, there is a need for human beings to have something that can give them a sense of being anchored and rooted.
“Rabbis are going to be at the forefront of responding to unpredictable events, and also supporting others in their struggles and battles.”
Answering the question as to what a typical student rabbi looks like, Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris pointed out that the 22 students currently at the College range from their early 20s to mid 70s and encompass Liberal and Reform Jews, as well as those on a journey from the Orthodox, secular and non-Jewish worlds. They come from the UK, Russia, France and, for the first time ever, Spain with both Sephardi and Ashkenazi backgrounds.
Deborah added: “What binds them together is their passionate commitment.”
To find out more about Leo Baeck College, which has trained almost every single serving Progressive rabbi in the UK and many abroad, please visit www.lbc.ac.uk.
Picture by www.andrewlewisphotography.co.uk
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