Yom Sheini, 30 Kislev 5775
Hanukkah Monday, 22 December 2014

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Daniel Finkelstein congratulated on his appointment to the House of Lords

8th August 2013

NORTHWOOD & PINNER LIBERAL SYNAGOGUE (NPLS) member Daniel Finkelstein has been appointed to the House of Lords.

Daniel – who is associate editor of The Times newspaper and a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle – was made a Conservative working peer in a list of political appointments last week. He is an active member of Liberal Judaism and was a guest speaker at the 2011 Day of Celebration.

Liberal Judaism chairman Lucian J Hudson welcomed the news, saying: “We are delighted when our political institutions benefit from strong Jewish voices. I am thrilled for Daniel personally, whose success reflects well on Liberal Judaism and his own community at NPLS.”

Without organ donors, the story can’t end well for thousands

The Jewish News
1 August 2013

By Rabbi Danny Rich

Who cannot have been moved by the Jewish Newsreport last month headlined: ‘My kidney donor husband saved me’?

It told of the story of Yuval, who donated one of his kidneys to save the life of his desperately ill wife, Leony. The story will not end so well for the 10,000 people in the UK who languish on the donor register. They may well die before a match is found.

As the NHS blood and transfusion service confirms, while 4,000 lives were saved in the last year for which annual figures were available, some 1,000 others – nearly three per day – die waiting.

I therefore welcome the National Assembly of Wales’ decision to introduce legislation enabling Wales to adopt a “soft opt-out” of organ donation. This assumes that, unless an individual has made known their wish not to donate organs, consent will be deemed to have been given.

Family refusal is a major factor impacting on the number of organs available –rejection is often associated with not knowing their relatives’ wishes. The Welsh legislation is opposed by local Christian churches and by representatives of the Muslim and Jewish communities.

The concept of organ donation is barely controversial in the Jewish literature. The major halachic principle in play is pikuach nefesh: the saving of a human life, which arises from the Leviticus verse (19:16) in which one is required “not to stand upon” or “profit from the blood of another”.

Its precise meaning uncertain, it has come to be understood to be about the value of an individual human life and the efforts a Jew is required to take to save one. So binding is this obligation that there is very little that could provide a valid objection. According to some rabbinic authorities a technical issue remains as to when death occurs.

Liberal Judaism has traditionally placed the autonomy of the individual at the heart of its attempt to synthesise Judaism and modernity. It rejects the traditional view of Torah as the “word of God”, affirming it is each generation’s obligation, through prayer and reflection, study and discussion, to seek to understand what God requires to the best of its ability.

Each individual is required to use their “educated conscience” to contribute to the collective decision-making. Nevertheless, individual autonomy is not a licence to opt out of societal obligations. As Leviticus 19: 2 and 6 declares: not only must individuals be “holy”, but Jew (or the society in which they participate) as a whole is exhorted to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.

Liberal Jewish ethics understands this to mean that as the individual must fulfil social duties so must society realise its obligations. Presumed consent is perhaps a new idea for religious traditions, although the Talmud in Pe- sachim 4b gives an example where a friend dies, leaving a storehouse full of crops. Although one day old, it’s presumed the crop owner intended to (and did) carry out the mitzvah of paying his appropriate dues.

If we extend this principle to presumed consent, and recognise that the donation of organs can fulfil the highest of mitzvot, pekuach nefesh, would it not be reasonable to assume that in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, each one of us would wish to fulfil the mitzvah of saving a life by giving of our own bodies?

In contrast, the Israeli law of anatomy and pathology uses pikuach nefesh to give doctors the authority to harvest organs to save a life, regardless of the consent, expressed or implied, of the donor or the family. A doctor is allowed to use any part of a body to save life, subject to three qualified doctors declaring the operation is being performed for the purpose of saving a life.

In practice, consent is currently required, although plans are now in place to ensure every Israeli with a driver’s licence would automatically be added to the country’s organ donor list unless they explicitly refuse – presumed consent! In the context of pikuach nefesh, and the Jewish requirement to contribute to the wellbeing of society, I hope it won’t be long before the rest of the UK follows the Welsh Assembly’s lead.

May we all live a long and healthy life. And in death may we enable others to do so, too.

LJY-Netzer Interfaith Tour of Morocco with Salaam Shalom


LJY-Netzer, the youth movement of Liberal Judaism, co-led an interfaith tour of Morocco last month with the Bristol organisation, Salaam Shalom. The trip came about because of a grassroots desire to combat negative attitudes and beliefs that segregate people and create barriers to community cohesion. 25 Jewish and Muslim young people took part.

The eight-day tour took in key historical sites as well as visiting interfaith projects. As a result of the tour, Salaam Shalom is producing an educational resource pack which will be taken into schools as a way of educating against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

Sam Cohen, LJY-Netzer movement worker, said; ‘Young people need to be provided with the opportunity for open and frank conversations around race and faith. Britain is a diverse country, but too often communities live parallels lives – this tour showed that differences are not a negative – but instead should be celebrated.’

Shabana Kausar, manager of Salaam Shalom, said: ‘This was a fantastic opportunity for young people from perceived conflicting communities to come together to challenge the negative attitudes that either they, or those around them, may hold. The role young people play in challenging misconceptions and stereotypes of the ‘other,’ is a powerful one. Young people need to be presented with safe spaces to address these issues; this tour enabled the group to learn new skills that they were then able to bring back to Bristol and London.’

You can see photos from the trip on Salaam Shalom’s Facebook page.

Liberal Judaism looks forward to hosting same-sex marriages under new law

17th July 2013

Liberal Judaism, which – along with the Quakers and the Unitarian Church - has led the Parliamentary battle for same-sex marriage rights, has welcomed the Equal Marriage bill’s final passage through the Lords and Commons this week.

The bill – which was approved by MPs yesterday - is now certain to become law, probably by the end of the week, when it is approved by the Queen.

Commenting ahead of the bill becoming law, Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism – which speaks on behalf of around forty synagogues across the UK – said:

“MPs and Peers are to be congratulated for putting equality before prejudice and recognising that the whole of society benefits when we value stable, loving relationships.

“The real risk, were this legislation to have failed, was that religious institutions and rituals would have been terminally associated with upholding out-dated models of society making faith less and less relevant to modern lives.

This week’s decision has ensured that this will not be the case, and Liberal Jewish synagogues look forward to hosting our first full same-sex marriage under the law, in due course,” Rabbi Rich concluded.

Synagogues hold 'Shul of Rock'

11th July 2013

FOUR synagogues joined together to take part in a rock concert.

Middlesex New Synagogue in Bessborough Road, Harrow, hosted the Friday Night ‘Shul of Rock’, where traditional sabbath songs such as Dodi Li and Ma Tovu, were performed to a variety of rock tunes in a bid to get more young people involved in the Jewish community.

Frank Dabba Smith, of Harrow and Wembley Progressive Synagogue, also in Bessborough Road, led the service and said it was an ‘unqualified success’.

The other synagogues which took part in the event on Friday, June 28, were Hatch End Masorti Synagogue, in Grimsdyke Road, Pinner, and Kol Chai Synagogue in Uxbridge Road, Hatch End.

Project manager of the service, Mark Philips, said: “This was just great fun. I’m sure the rock service was not everyone’s cup of tea, but its great to see the community innovating and when I look at the programme for the months ahead, there will be something for everyone.” Read more

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