Yom Rivii, 14 Tammuz 5775
Wednesday, 1 July 2015

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Progressive Jews in Israel under threat

Liberal Judaism Day of Celebration speaker Anat Hoffman has called on Progressive Jews around the world to defend our Israeli sister movement.

Anat’s plea came after Israel’s newly installed minister of religious affairs, David Azoulay, called the Reform movement “a disaster for the nation of Israel”.

Anat wrote: “A disaster. With one word, the person chosen to be in charge of the religious affairs of all Israeli Jews denigrated an entire Jewish movement. A movement with millions of constituents in Israel and around the world, and with a proud history of contributing to Judaism’s colourful tapestry.

“This was not an isolated incident. The Orthodox establishment in Israel has a long history of slinging mud, discriminating and inciting senseless hatred against progressive Jews.

“Women who dare to wear a tallit and read from a Torah at the Kotel are called ‘provocateurs.’  Conservative Rabbis are forbidden to officiate at community-organised bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies for local children with special needs because they and their synagogues are not Orthodox. The list goes on.

“It’s time for a proactive and comprehensive plan that will put this issue to bed once and for all.”

Anat – who is executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center – wrote these words in an email to Progressive Jews, sent on behalf of her and Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. She has asked all our members to share their words with family, friends and colleagues.

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has issued a statement saying he strongly disagreed with David Azoulay’s comments and committing himself to making all Jews feel at home in Israel

However, Anat added: “We commend the Prime Minister for not wasting any time in recognizing the gravity of the situation, but it is not enough. Actions speak louder than words.”

Gloucestershire wins the LAFTAs

gljcGloucestershire Liberal Jewish Community (GLJC) has won the prestigious Liberal Academy of Film & Torah Awards (LAFTAs).

The cheder/religion school of every Liberal community was tasked with producing a three-minute film on the theme ‘A Day in the Life of Israel’.

GLJC fought off stiff competition to win the prize of a trophy and £50 for the religion school, which was awarded at the recent Liberal Judaism Day of Celebration by chairman Lucian J Hudson and Rabbi Sandra Kviat (pictured).

GLJC’s Rabbi Anna Gerrard said: “I am enormously proud of the young people of Gloucestershire and excited that we won this year's LAFTAs. Our Hineinu youth group came up with the concept and the whole cheder took part. A special thank you has to go to Ollie Angell, aged 12, who filmed, edited and produced the whole thing!"

The LAFTAs occur biennially in order to showcase the work of chedarim at Liberal communities around the country.

This year's judging panel was Liberal Judaism vice president Sharon Goldstein, officer Robin Moss, operations director Shelley Shocolinsky-Dwyer, LJY-Netzer movement worker Tamara Silver, LAFTAs creator Sam Grant and Rabbi Alexandra Wright, senior rabbi of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue.

Liberal Judaism would like to thank the many rabbis, teachers, parents and children who took part in this year's competition.

LJ’s Surat part of Israel’s first parliamentary transgender consultation

Liberal Judaism’s Surat Shaan Knan took part in Israel’s first ever parliamentary transgender consultation.

Twilight People project manager Surat was invited after attending the LGBT Leadership Conference 2015 in Tel Aviv.

Surat said: “Being part of Israel's first ever transgender consultation at the Knesset, the Parliament, was a true privilege. History in the making.

“It was also a very emotional and intense experience. When trans youths told their stories of struggles and victory, even the MPs were weeping - tears of joy and pain.

“The message by both ruling party and the opposition was the same: we must fight for equality and against discrimination.”

A young trans person then told the Knesset: “I can build a life without the mark of being trans on my head – not because I’m not proud of being trans (trans are the coolest) but because I want to choose to be visible or not for myself. I’m trans, but I’m also a person.”

Surat attended the LGBT Leadership Conference 2015 in Tel Aviv thanks to A Wider Bridge and the Ritual Reconstructed project - www.ritualreconstructed.com - an AHRC project lead by Bucks University and in partnership with Liberal Judaism.

The theme of the '40 Years of Pride' celebrations in Tel Aviv was transgender rights and visibility.

For more details visit the A Wider Bridge website -> http://awiderbridge.org/trans-visibility-and-empowerment/

Liberal Patrons praised at Lords dinner

finkelsteinEIGHTEEN Progressive rabbis joined the Patrons of Liberal Judaism at the House of Lords, where they were entertained by The Times columnist and associate editor Baron Finkelstein of Pinner.

Guests at Liberal Judaism’s 11th annual Council of Patrons' Dinner also heard from the movement’s chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich, president Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, chair Lucian J Hudson, deputy chair Simon Benscher, Rabbis Lea Mühlstein and Charley Baginsky and event host Lord Haskel.

Addressing the gathering, Danny said: “When we set up the Council of Patrons, I promised that the funds raised would only be used for three agreed purposes: to increase the profile of Liberal Judaism, for the support and development of new communities and to pioneer new initiatives, particularly with students.

“Let me begin with students, where for two years, supported by Patrons’ funds, we have provided the only Progressive student chaplaincy resource on campus. Rabbi Leah Jordan, a graduate of the Leo Baeck College working with volunteers and staff from the Reform and Masorti movements, has supported egalitarian minyanim, Jewish socieites and individual students in campuses up and down the country.

“The greatest tribute to pioneering work is when others follow and I am delighted to report that, under the new Alliance banner, Liberal Judaism with the Movement for Reform Judaism and the West London Synagogue have this week placed an advert for a second Progressive Jewish chaplain to work alongside Leah.”

Danny then discussed how Liberal Judaism’s profile has been raised with a weekly page in The Jewish News and regular coverage in The Jewish Chronicle, as well as a multitude of appearances in the national press and on radio and television.

He also celebrated a new community affiliating to Liberal Judaism in eight of the last nine years – all “founded by charismatic Liberal Jews with a few friends and the support of our Outreach department” and all now growing fast.

Danny concluded: “Friends, you are leaders of Liberal Judaism and none of this would have been possible without your emotional and practical support, the work of our Board of Officers, the dedication of our staff and the generous funding of the Patrons.”

The Council of Patrons dinner was organised by Joan Shopper. To find out more about becoming a Patron of Liberal Judaism, please contact Yael Shotts on  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

British Liberal Jews told to 'interfere' in Israeli politics

9th June 2015

A succession of speakers at Liberal Judaism’s Day of Celebration have urged British Liberal Jews to get more involved in Israeli politics.

Rabbi Miri Gold – the ‘poster girl’ of the fight to recognise non-Orthodox rabbis in Israel – and Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, both told delegates how important the support of the Diaspora was to those fighting for religious pluralism and human rights inside of Israel.

In conversation with Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich, keynote speaker Miri said that support from the UK greatly helped as she battled to become the first Progressive rabbi to have her salary paid by the Israeli government, as well as in the continuing fight for equality for non-Orthodox strands of Judaism.
She poignantly added: “I remind myself that hope is a mitzvah, a commandment, and one which sustains me when times get rough.”

Anat, who is also a founding member of Women of the Wall, then urged British Jews to write to Israeli Ministers and the Embassy to add to the growing pressure for a pluralistic, open and inclusive Israel.

Responding to the issues raised, Rabbi Charley Baginsky – the chair of Liberal Judaism’s Rabbinic Conference – said: “Israel and the Diaspora need to seek a new relationship that has at its core mutuality. A sense not only that we need each other but that this relationship has the potential to be mutually beneficial and creative.”

Three hundred Liberal Jews from more than 30 communities gathered at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) in St John’s Wood, London, for the Day of Celebration on Sunday June 7. The ages of delegates ranged from a four-month-old baby to members in their 90s.

It was the first ever Liberal Judaism event to be streamed over the internet making it a truly global occasion, with members and friends watching via a live feed in America, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and all around the UK. 

Guest presenters from Israel included Reut Michaeli, who talked about her work as CEO of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, and Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman and Nir Cohen from the World Zionist Organisation. Other speakers included Liberal Rabbis Harry Jacobi, Shulamit Ambalu, Sandra Kviat and Alexandra Wright, as well as representatives from the New Israel Fund, UK Task Force, Yachad, JW3, UJIA, the Centre for the Study of Jewish Culture at Durham University, Leo Baeck College and the Movement for Reform Judaism.

The event ended with a farewell speech from Lucian J Hudson, the outgoing chair of Liberal Judaism, and the presentation of the Liberal Academy of Film & Torah Award to Gloucestershire Liberal Jewish Community, whose cheder won the competition to produce the best short film on the topic A Day in the Life of Israel.

Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich said: “This was Liberal Judaism at its best. A sizeable but friendly crowd - representing more than 3/4 of our congregations - came together to discuss an issue, the Israel/Diaspora relationship, that can be divisive and controversial, but which we all agree needs to be examined and thought about.
“As a result of this day, Liberal Judaism’s policy towards Israel will continue to be supportive but nuanced, principled and occasionally critical.
“Overall, this was a great showcase for the Liberal Jewish family.”

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