Yom Shlishi, 19 Kislev 5776
Tuesday, 1 December 2015

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Special service unites Jewish communities

26 November 2015

A service held at Hatherley Village Hall in Gloucestershire on Saturday was very special for two reasons.

Firstly, it included 56-year-old Trish Bluett’s batmitzvah ceremony, which welcomed her into the Jewish faith. Trish mastered the Hebrew language to read a section of the Torah, which she followed by her witty interpretation of one of the stories.

The other very important reason was that the treasured, old and valuable Scrolls owned by the Cheltenham Hebrew Community had just been lent to the Gloucestershire Liberal Jewish Community and these were being used for the first time. This gesture reflected a growing co-operation between the two very different local communities.



Interfaith Award for Northwood & Pinner

26 November 2015

Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue (NPLS) has won the Mitzvah Day Award for Interfaith Partnership of the Year.

The trophy was presented to Rabbi Aaron Goldstein and volunteer Marsha Myers, by Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks and interfaith chair Daniela Pears.

It was given in recognition of the synagogue’s incredible work acting as a hub for local faith communities to donate materials to refugees, which were delivered through the Wycombe Islamic Society.

The judging panel – which included Daniela, Luciana Berger MP and Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer – especially praised the ‘Refugees are Welcome’ Mitzvah Day event at NPLS on Sunday, which saw an entire day of collections and talks in conjunction with René Cassin.

Speakers included Thiru, a member of Freed Voices who has recently been through the detention system, and Fritz Lustig, a 96-year old German-Jewish man interned in the UK during the Second World War.

Rabbi Aaron said: “I would like to pay tribute to the immense work of Marsha, and her husband Peter and their family. Rabbi Lea Muehlstein, Josh Edelman, Adrienne Cohen, Jean and Naomi Ryba and many others provided phenomenal support throughout. We are fortunate to have such a strong rabbinic team, community and partners!”

Other Mitzvah Day Award winners included Sinai (Reform) Synagogue in Leeds, Moishe House London and Broughton Jewish Cassel Fox Primary School.

Picture by Marc Morris



Nottingham Liberal’s Czech mates

26 November 2015

Twenty-five members of Nottingham Liberal Synagogue (NLS), including Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovich, hit the headlines in the Czech Republic after visiting the town that their synagogue is linked to via a Torah scroll.

Taking their 10th group trip to the country, the community were based in the small Moravian town of Slavkov, formerly known as Austerlitz. They also visited Trebic, Brno and the Moravsky Kras national park.

The highlight of the visit was meeting the town’s only pre-war surviving Jewish resident, Ruth Matiovska.

Ruth, 84 years old and a child survivor of Terezin, spoke to the visitors – including two who will play ‘old’ and ‘young’ Ruth in a play about her life in Nottingham later this month.

The NLS group were welcomed by the Town’s Mayor and they held services in the renovated synagogue, as well as visiting the town’s Jewish museum which opened 10 years ago.

Rabbi Tanya, who led the group which included 11 children, said that she was delighted that so many members keep making the journey to Slavkov and, in doing so, help forge strong links with the town and also honour the memory of the former Jewish residents who died in the Shoah.

Read the full story (in Czech) here -> http://www.veslavkove.cz/spolecnost/navsteva-pratel-z-nottinghamu.aspx



Observing Transgender Day of Remembrance this Shabbat

Surat-Shaan Knan, a UK trans activist and founder of the pioneering project Twilight People, urges rabbis and community leaders to include Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) observance in their services. The TDoR is commemorated annually on 20 November, which falls on Shabbat this year.

Knan appeals to rabbis and service-leaders to light Jahrzeit candles and read out the Twilight People prayer by Rabbi Reuben Zellman, who was the first out transgender rabbinic student in the US Reform movement a dozen years ago.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1998 in the USA. It is a day to globally memorialize those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia (the hatred or fear of transgender and gender non-conforming people) and to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community.

Knan stresses that TDoR is a community matter:’ Some people may say ‘why would I have to observe such a day - I don’t know any transgender people, or I - or anyone else I know - would never hurt anyone transgender?’

‘While this may be true, I challenge us all to ask ourselves: What else can we take away from this day? How can I help make our communities welcoming and safe for everyone? How can we open our doors so that the most marginalised individuals can be brought closer to Judaism, and most of all to their authentic selves?’

Earlier this month, at the movement’s biennial conference in Orlando, Florida, The Union for Reform Judaism passed the most far-reaching resolution on transgender rights of any major religious organisation. It calls for its congregations and camps to have gender-neutral bathrooms, encourages gender-neutral language, suggests training on gender issues for religious school staff and encourages advocating on behalf of the transgender community.

The resolution is coming in a year when transgender issues have never been more visible, thanks to celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner.

In the UK, Stonewall, one of the largest Gay and Lesbian rights lobbying organisations, declared in February 2015 that it would extend its remit to campaign for trans equality. This milestone was followed by the appointment of a Stonewall Trans Advisory Group. The group will support the integration of trans equality across all of Stonewall’s campaigns and programmes.

Following an extensive application and recruitment process Liberal Judaism’s leading transgender campaigner Surat–Shaan Knan was selected as a member of this new Trans Advisory Group. Surat-Shaan added: “I feel truly blessed. Liberal Judaism’s pioneering oral history initiative Twilight People is the first ever heritage project to explore faith and gender identity. It is an honour to see that recognised. I am keen to represent the voice of trans people of faith. Stonewall are really highlighting the diversity of voices within the trans community – and I am looking forward to working towards acknowledging our multiple layers of identity.”

The Twilight People project is hosting this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance interfaith service. For the first time, thanks to Surat-Shaan’s efforts, this ceremony, which welcomes all trans people of faith and allies, is as part of the main event taking place at a London University. A TDoR memorial includes typically a reading of the names of those who lost their lives during the previous year, and other actions, such as candle-lighting, speeches, and film screenings.

More information via http://www.twilightpeople.com/multi-faith-transgender-day-of-remembrance-2015/


A Prayer for Paris

16th November 2015

On Sunday evening, Liberal Judaism’s senior rabbi, Rabbi Danny Rich, joined hundreds of people showing their solidarity with Paris in an inter-faith vigil, organised by Citizens UK.

Taking place outside City Hall in London, people of all faiths, and none, came together as one to condemn the attacks and show their support.

Danny offered a prayer, which you can read below,  in response to the attack in Paris.

Other religious leaders taking part in the vigil included Reverend Paul Regan and Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari MBE.


El Male Rachamim: God, full of Compassion:
Our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of those who were brutally murdered in Paris on Friday evening.  They, like so many others around the globe, are the victims of what sometimes appears to be on-going evil acts of terror.

 We express our solidarity with the residents of Paris and the citizens of France for whom this is the second outrage in 2015. It is an attack on the freedoms and ethical way of life - at the heart of Jewish teaching - by which Jews in every country would seek to live.

We commend the efforts of all of those in public service who tend the wounded, comfort the bereaved, protect the vulnerable, and work to pursue the perpetrators. We call upon Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and those of all faiths and none to endorse the values of pluralism and democracy which require respect for the rule of law and the rejection of terror. Acts of terror: ‘Not in Our Name’.

Eternal God, as we appreciate the world is a partnership between You and humanity so do we call for the unity of all people of compassion and decency to fulfil the vision expressed in the metaphorical hope of the Biblical Hebrew Prophet, Micah (4:4): "And each shall sit under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid."

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