Yom Shishi, 3 Elul 5774
Friday, 29 August 2014

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Liberal Judaism welcomes BoD/MCB joint statement

28th August 2014

The conflict in the Middle East creates a real challenge for the Jewish and Muslim communities in the UK.   We can choose to let it define our relationship or we can build our own relationship founded on the many values and experiences we share in common. Liberal Judaism chooses the latter way: we encourage our synagogues to reach out to their Muslim neighbours whenever they can and to create a framework in which we can get to know one another both as communities and individuals. The joint statement issued today by the Board of Deputies and the Muslim Council of Britain is a bold and constructive step and should be welcomed by all those with an interest in strengthening community cohesion in the UK. 

You can read the statement by clicking here.

It is not enough to pray for peace

By Simon Rothstein
Editor, lj today
28th August 2014

THE CURRENT situation in Israel and Gaza has proved a very important and far-reaching issue for the entire British Jewish community. Colleagues, congregations and even families have been split by a multifaceted conflict that changes with every passing hour.

For these reasons, the leadership of Liberal Judaism took some time to formulate a full response. There were many discussions within the Liberal Judaism Board of National Officers, as well as in communities up and down the country, as to the significance of the conflict and responses to it.

The first public pronouncement came when Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich and chairman Lucian J Hudson joined with the leaders of the Movement for Reform Judaism, Masorti Judaism and the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation to release a short statement. It read: “In these painful times we regret the loss of all innocent life. Our thoughts are with all those who grieve and we fervently pray that we soon see a just and lasting peace for all in the region.”

Danny then followed this up with a lengthy pastoral letter, sent to every member of a Liberal Judaism constituent community on Tisha B’Av 5774 and the 100th anniversary of the declaration of Britain’s entry into the First World War.

After discussing the events of the past, Danny used the letter to fully break his silence on the escalation of tension and ultimately war between Hamas located in Gaza and the State of Israel. The letter has won praise from across the religious spectrum and can be read in full by visiting www.liberaljudaism.org

Danny started by explaining why he had been “uncharacteristically quiet”. He wrote: “In truth the reason I have been silent is because, like so many, I am conflicted. My friends and family in Israel tell me they are scared and will support their Government in ‘ending the threat of rockets’ but any decent human being is anguished by the death, destruction and humiliation inflicted on the Palestinians by Israeli armoury.

“In these circumstances it is hardly surprising that an estimated 90 per cent of the Israeli population supports its Government’s actions or that Hamas receives heroic press from Palestinians and others. Fear breeds hate and ignorance nurtures extremism.”

Danny then laid out six Liberal Jewish values that must be upheld. These include the belief that “no people should live under occupation and no country’s right to exist should be constantly challenged”, as well as the promotion of the idea of two narratives – one Jewish Israeli and the other Palestinian/Arab – which both must be acknowledged in a just and lasting resolution.

Danny concluded the letter with a fitting quote from the late Rabbi John Rayner: “It is not enough to pray for peace. We have to work for it: to challenge those who foster conflict and refute their propaganda; to ascertain and make known the truth, both when it confirms and when it runs counter to conventional views; to denounce injustice, not only when it is committed against us but also when it is committed against others; to defend human rights, not only our own but also theirs; to insist that peace requires sacrifice – of pride, or wealth, or territory; to practise and promote the way of moderation, compromise and reconciliation; and to build bridges of respect and understanding, trust and friendship, across the chasms that divide humanity.”

While Danny has been the public face of Liberal Judaism’s response to the conflict – including making many media appearances – Lucian has been an active influence behind the scenes.

He has played a key role in shaping the debate within the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council to ensure that whatever position the UK Jewish community takes on the conflict, it reflects our distress at the loss of human life on both sides and the range of views in the community.

Liberal Judaism’s rabbis have also been highly active, speaking to members in sermons, conversations and actions. Rabbi Neil Janes, of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, explained how he has tackled the issue. Neil told lj today: “I have sought to connect us to the history and future of the Jewish people, recognising that the State of Israel is part of that. Liberal Judaism also demands the universal, recognising that we do not have a monopoly on suffering and war takes its toll on innocent lives on both sides.

“This war has brought a spiritual crisis too: how do we have faith in human progress when so many people seem hell bent on evil? I have also tried to show how we can have strongly-held opinions and still be judicious and respectful in our choice of language.”

Human Rights Award Winner to Speak at South London Liberal Synagogue

Mickey Gitzin, the winner of the 2013 New Israel Fund Human Rights Award, will be speaking at South London Liberal Synagogue on Saturday September 20.

Mickey is one of the founders of Israel Hofshit (Be Free Israel), an organisation which campaigns for religious pluralism within Israel, fights against religious coercion, works to prevent women’s exclusion from the public sphere and campaigns for the right to a civil marriage for all Israelis.

The event will begin at 6.30pm, with Mickey speaking and answering questions on the topic ‘change is possible’, while everyone enjoys a shared supper.

A service will follow at 7.30pm, with the community ceremonially changing their Torah Mantles to white in advance of the High Holy Days.

South London Liberal Synagogue’s Rabbi Janet Darley said: "It is an honour to have a New Israel Fund Human Rights Award winner address our community, especially as Mickey Gitzin and Israel Hofshit share so many of the values of Liberal Judaism and South London Liberal Synagogue.

"This is not only a wonderful opportunity to hear a fantastic speaker, but also a fitting introduction for the High Holy Days.

"We will also be enjoying a choral Selichot Service. Selichot takes its name from the prayers for forgiveness recited at this service which prepare us for the spiritual tasks of repentance and renewal and reintroduces us to the words and melodies of the High Holy Days."

For more information about the event, please contact Rabbi Janet Darley on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Rainbow Jews seeks funding to continue ground-breaking work

22nd August 2014

Liberal Judaism’s ground-breaking LGBT history project Rainbow Jews is looking to raise at least £5,000 via online crowdfunding to continue its great work.

During the last two years, this unique volunteer-led initiative has amassed more than 40 personal testimonies from British LGBT Jews; exploring the struggles, changes and issues experienced by the community from the 1950s to today.

The Rainbow Jews collection, including documents and a digitised oral history, is held at the London Metropolitan Archives.

An exhibition was also created and put on display at the London School of Economics and Liberal Judaism Biennial Weekend earlier this year. The exhibition is now set to tour England, starting in Leicester on August 31 before moving on to Birmingham and Liverpool.

Rainbow Jews Project manager Surat Knan said: “We believe in community spirit and want to keep making a difference. This is why we are asking our friends and supporters to help us continue this legacy.

“We’ve had so much interest in the exhibition from all over the UK, youth groups want us to run sessions and new people have asked us to record their stories – but for all this we need funds.

“Please donate, so we can make sure that our history will not become our past.”

Donation can be made until 22 September via http://igg.me/at/rainbowjewslegacy or directly to Liberal Judaism.

Lucian talks about his favourite Jewish text for the Jewish News

Jewish News, August 7th 2014

Liberal Judaism's chairman, Lucian J. Hudson, selects the Numbers 20 and Deuteronomy 3 as the texts that mean the most to him in this commentary article for the Jewish News:

My favourite story is about God telling Moses he is never to reach the Promised Land. It can be found in Numbers 20 and Deuteronomy 3.

According to the former, Moses is being punished for his individual sin of striking the rock with his rod when instead he should have spoken to it, trusting the power of the word spoken in the name of God.

According to the latter, Moses is punished because, as his people’s leader, he suffers their fate, following the faithless majority in not entering Canaan. It is not obvious what the exact reasons are for God’s decision.

This is gripping drama, true to the human condition. Whatever we do, we can do only so much, and we reap what we sow.

After all that Moses has done, this is Israel’s leader receiving his (just) desserts. Even Moses is not exempt from God’s justice.

In a nutshell, we have Judaism and its questing and questioning dimensions starkly exposed. Moses pleads, but is told: “Enough!” But enough in one sense is “plenty”. That is as good as it gets for Moses.

These passages are eternally problematic and spiritually challenging. Accepting our just desserts is itself liberating. Desserts is “stressed” spelt backwards.

How apt for our society that becomes often unduly stressed.

Read more from the Jewish News Progressive Archive here.

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