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Selfless service and an enlightening trip to India

17th November 2014

By Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi

I have just spent a week in Amritsar, India, alongside Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu leaders and my Orthodox rabbinic colleague as part of the Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Group.

The trip was organised by the Birmingham Sikh community and their leader Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh who, as we discovered, was a revered leader throughout the Punjab. We were accompanied by 20 Sikh volunteers (Sewads) who cooked our meals and looked after our every need.

Amritsar is most famous for the Golden Temple and it is indeed beautiful; a point of tranquillity in a hectic and noisy city.

At first the Temple, with its devotees bowing down and its offerings, seemed a world away from a synagogue, but at its heart is the Holy Book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib. It is written in an ancient script and treated with reverence. The similarities with the honour we give to the Torah are striking.

During the week, we saw many beautiful Gurdwaras (Sikh Temples) in Amritsar, in remote Punjab villages and in the beautiful foothills of the Himalayas. In all, we saw their devotion to their Holy Book, which represented for them the word of God. I was moved by the devotion of the worshippers, who brought their children from a young age.

However, my strongest impression was not of scenery or buildings, but of the sense of service.

Pilgrims gladly volunteer at the kitchen at the Golden Temple. It provides thousands of meals every day, and has sent 100,000 meals to Kashmir following the earthquake there. Similar kitchens, on a smaller scale, are found at every Gurdwara and it is a religious duty to help in them and serve whoever comes to eat there. We were also moved by the sense of service of the Sewads who accompanied us.

With Mitzvah Day just gone, we can learn a great deal from Sikhs. The idea of selfless service is central to their way of life.

Mitzvah Day encouraged us to care for others for a day, but that is only a beginning. Judaism demands of us, too, a life of service, of carrying out mitzvot for the sake of others. May we be inspired to serve.

Rabbi Dr. Margaret Jacobi is rabbi at Birmingham Progressive Synagogue


 
Attend Liberal Judaism book launches
Two London Liberal congregations will host launches for A Jewish Book of Comfort, the new book by Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein and Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh.jewish_book_comfort

The events will take place on Wednesday November 19 at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue (7.3

0pm) and Wednesday November 26 (8pm) at Finchley Progressive Synagogue.

A Jewish Book of Comfort is a new anthology presenting a wide selection of poems, psalms and mediations from all periods of Jewish history, designed to offer words of comfort for difficult times.

Themes included are illness, ageing, memory, grief, faith and much more. The book includes illustrations by Mark Podwal, a leading American artist.

Rabbis Andrew and Charles will be speaking and signing copies of the book at both events.

For more information please contact Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Finchley Progressive Synagogue on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
Be part of the Jewish community’s response to the Ebola crisis

5th November 2014

The Ebola crisis has already claimed the lives of 5,000 people, leaving thousands of children orphaned.

Liberal Judaism is proud to support the British Jewish response to this crisis, which is being coordinated by World Jewish Relief (WJR).

WJR are working with their local partner Street Children of Sierra Leone to provide food, clothing and bedding to hundreds of orphans.

WJR needs your support to help provide children with Orphan Survival Packs. These life-saving packs cost £50 and will include food, mattresses, bedding and clothing.

Together we can help provide vital supplies to children left isolated and alone by Ebola.

You can support the appeal by going to www.wjr.org.uk/ebola or calling 020 8736 1250.

 
Prime Minster supports Liberal Judaism stance on Israel

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has written to Liberal Judaism chairman Lucian J Hudson to support our movement’s stance on Israel.

Lucian wrote to all three major UK political party leaders in September, expressing the unique role Liberal Judaism plays within the Jewish community. He also stated that the diversity of opinion within our community in regards to Israel and Gaza has perhaps not been fully reflected in the heat of battle.

Lucian’s letter continued: “Liberal Judaism has long believed in, and campaigned for, a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. Our movement maintains that no people should live under occupation and no country’s right to exist should be constantly challenged.

“Liberal Judaism promotes the idea of two narratives, one Jewish Israeli and the other Palestinian/Arab. We believe that both must be acknowledged to achieve a just and lasting resolution.

“During the recent conflict, we worked hard to ensure that any statement on behalf of the Jewish community reflected our distress at the loss of human life on both sides and the range of views in the community.”

In a reply received last week, The Prime Minister wrote: “Like you, I have been deeply saddened by the tragic loss of civilian life in the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and Israel.

“The conflict has taken a terrible toll and I am aware of the impact that this has had on the British Jewish community. I agree with you that it is important for the public to understand that a diversity of opinion exists with relation to the conflict.

“I share your support for a two-state solution, which remains the only way to resolve the conflict once and for all.”

The Prime Minister ended his letter by talking of his own personal experiences of the region and hopes that all parties engage with the Cairo-based peace talks.

To read the Prime Minister's letter, click here

 
Join Liberal Judaism's Sunday Seminar on Israel

Liberal Judaism’s next Sunday Seminar will be on the subject of Israel and boasts a trio of top speakers.

Entitled ‘When We Talk About Israel’, the event will take place on Sunday November 9 from 11am-4pm at The Montagu Centre, 21 Maple Street, London, W1T 4BE.

This Sunday Seminar will be led by Liberal Judaism’s student and young adult chaplain Rabbi Leah Jordan, with sessions led by UJIA educator Robin Moss and Yachad Youth & Student Outreach Worker Rebecca Daniels. Material from Israel charities ‘New Israel Fund’ and ‘Just Vision’ will be used.

The first session – titled ‘Israel Through Jewish Eyes’ – looks at how we as Jews think about Israel. Through text study, debate and discussion, attendees will be challenged to think Jewishly about issues such as how we handle disagreement about the Jewish State.

The second session, ‘Yachad: Coming Together’, asks how do we talk about the incredibly emotive subject of Israel in our communities without losing our heads? In this workshop, Yachad, Liberal Judaism’s partner on Israel, will talk about facilitating dialogue in Jewish communities around this heated, important topic in ways that are meaningful and encourage community building.

The final ‘Model Session’, teaches how to run an example of an Israel session in our communities, which encourages respectful dialogue and thought.

Seminars are free to members of Liberal Judaism communities. We welcome a £5 donation towards the cost of a light lunch. Booking in advance is essential. For details and bookings, contact Abigail Jacobi on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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