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A special celebration in Weymouth

19th December 2012

Liberal Rabbis Anna Gerrard and Pete Tobias were privileged to lead Chanukkah celebrations in Weymouth this year.

More than 20 people shared prayers, stories, memories, latkes and doughnuts at the home of Lord Morris Mendoza.

The service included two poetic renditions of the Chanukkah story by Rabbis Anna and Pete and concluded with joyful singing that led one 12-year-old participant to comment that it had been "the most enjoyable party" he'd ever experienced.

Rabbi Anna, who is outreach director for Liberal Judaism, said: "We are so appreciate of Lord Mendoza for enthusiastically gathering up the Jews of Weymouth and surrounding area.

"It was incredible to light Chanukkah candles with people who hadn't celebrated the festival for 20 years - since they had moved away from more Jewish areas - and were moved to tears by the opportunity to reconnect with their heritage."

Liberal Judaism is planning more visits to Weymouth in 2013, as Lord Mendoza and others seek to revive the Jewish community there.

Campaigning for a living wage

19th December 2012

Liberal Judaism is playing a leading role in the cross-communal campaign to pay a Living Wage to all public sector workers.

Liberal Judaism's chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich joined Citizens UK to deliver a letter to David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, congratulating the Prime Minister on action taken so far and urging him to make the living wage the norm across Whitehall.

The event, which was covered by BBC Newsnight, was also in support of Valdemar Ventura - a cleaner who transferred from Nick Clegg's office by his employer after leaving a letter on the Deputy Prime Minister's desk in support of the campaign. Nick Clegg has since requested his return.

In a speech to Citizens UK, Danny said: "Last week, and for the next three weeks, from the final chapters of the Book of Genesis and the early ones of the Book of Exodus, Jews across the world will read the story of the first Joseph.

"Joseph, in common with many of us, came from a dysfunctional family, and as a result of sibling jealousy, and parental favouritism, was thrown into a pit in the middle of a desert. He was rescued – if that is the right term – by human traffickers – those people who trade in the lives of others – and Joseph found himself an enslaved foreign worker in an alien land, namely Egypt.

"The Biblical story tells us that his employers took advantage of his vulnerable status and he was soon in prison. His innate skills, and according to the Biblical story, the intervention of God enabled him to earn his freedom and by the end of his life he was the second most influential person in the land, the Minister of Corn, or Prime Minister to the Egyptian Pharaoh.

"Jewish tradition asks elsewhere: 'What could one do that would be heroic?’ It suggests, for example, making a friend of one’s enemy, or learning from every person.

"The story of Joseph perhaps reminds us that the most heroic person would be one who enables the foreign worker, the marginalised person to become a legal resident. But not merely a national, but the first Minster of the land.

"Thus, rather than cleaning the desk of the Deputy Prime Minister, Valdemar Ventura will be sitting at the desk of the Deputy Prime Minister.

"Jews are in the midst of the festival of Chanukkah, meaning rededication and light. May these festivals of Chanukkah and Christmas and the Campaign for a Living Wage bring light where there is darkness and hope where there is despair."

See a report about the event on Newsnight here:

Ba'alei Tefillah graduation celebrations

Thirteen new community lay leaders graduated Liberal Judaism’s Ba'alei Tefillah programme this Sunday. 

Fifteen people from 12 different communities were part of the Class of 2012, with 13 graduating and the other two working towards completing their studies very soon.

The ceremony took place at Liberal Judaism’s Council meeting on Sunday December 9, with the graduates congratulated by Liberal Judaism chairman Lucian J Hudson and chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich. 

Danny said: “From its origins, Liberal Judaism has always celebrated the partnership of a professional rabbinate and committed lay men and women

“Although we have recently expanded our rabbinic team, we are also committed to strengthening our local communities by nurturing the skills and commitment of individuals.

“The whole of the Liberal Judaism Council sends its warmest congratulations to our newest congregational lay leaders.”


The Ba'alei Tefillah programme, now in its second year, is headed by Rabbi Richard Jacobi, of Woodford Liberal Synagogue, with assistance from Rabbi Sandra Kviat, Cantor Gershon Silins and Hana Schlesinger.

In a speech at the graduation, Richard said: “Sixteen people completed the first learning programme, and 15 more have completed this second programme."

“Between them, they come from 18 LJ communities, and with the new intake for 2013 that coverage will extend to 22 congregations.

“To me, this is a fantastic sign of the desire to invest in the spiritual and intellectual futures of these communities - we are investing in our leadership!"

Liberal Judaism welcomes North Herts

North Herts Liberal Jewish Community (NHLJC) has become a full constituent member of Liberal Judaism.

The congregation, which is based in the Stevenage area, was given ‘developing community’ status by Liberal Judaism in 2010, including rabbinic and financial support.

After a very successful two and a half years, Liberal Judaism’s Council passed a unanimous vote, on Sunday December 9, to make NHLJC a fully-fledged Liberal Judaism congregation.

Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich said: “North Herts is another example of where Liberal Judaism has invested effort and money and as a result now has a vibrant new community.

“The congregation are now in a position to make financial and other contributions to help us establish the next new community.”

Rabbi Ariel Friedlander, who is part-time rabbi for NHLJC, said: “It’s been exciting to see how, in such a short time, North Herts has developed from a few people holding services together into a congregation and making the commitment to become part of the national movement of Liberal Judaism.”

This weekend was a very special one for North Herts. As well as becoming a full constituent member of Liberal Judaism, the community celebrated a baby blessing and the graduation of a lay leader.

lj_north_hertsLinda Paice was part of Liberal Judaism’s second Ba'alei Tefillah programme, which also graduated during Sunday’s Council meeting.

Linda is pictured, left, receiving her graduation certifiate from Liberal Judaism's Chairman, Lucian Hudson.

Rabbi Ariel added: “A day before her graduation, Linda read the Torah at North Herts during the service celebrating the naming of her first granddaughter. 

“What a weekend for Linda and North Herts!”

During the Council meeting, NHLJC chairman and founder member Terry Wolfe gave an impassioned speech about the community.

He said: “We had a team carrying out a mitzvah on Mitzvah day both last year and this year and we cooperated with Stevenage Borough Council in their commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day.

“I doubt there are many towns where the Liberal element represent the Jewish community!

“We have numerous social activities, including quizzes and excursions. One new member commented that she had made 40 new friends. How wonderful is that?

“We call our community Bet Chaverim, the House of Friends, and that is what we are. There is a most wonderful feeling of camaraderie and togetherness.

“We are very pleased to have been invited to apply for full membership of Liberal Judaism and will be very proud to be so elected.”

Victory in equal marriage fight

10th December 2012

Liberal Judaism is celebrating a huge victory in the fight for equal marriage, after the Prime Minister gave his backing to holding same-sex weddings in Liberal synagogues.

 Conservative Party leader David Cameron announced his support for same-sex marriage ceremonies being conducted in religious institutions, after a long fight by Liberal Judaism and like-minded religions including The Quakers, Unitarians and Movement for Reform Judaism.  

There will be a free vote in the House of Commons next year to confirm the plans, which also have the support of Labour leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader.

Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich said: "Liberal Judaism, of course, was a pioneer of this measure of equality and created the first ever liturgy for same-sex ceremonies back in 2005.  "I am delighted that the Prime Minister has assisted in righting a historic wrong and that the measure now has cross-party support."

All religious institutions will be able to 'opt in' of the new law, leaving the choice of whether to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies down to them.

The move comes at the same time as the launch of Liberal Judaism's landmark Rainbow Jews project - celebrating Jewish Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) history and heritage in the UK.

Rainbow Jews Project manager Su Rathgeber Knan added: “Equal marriage is the latest victory in a lengthy struggle for LGBT rights going back more than 50 years.

“Rainbow Jews is about documenting and commemorating that history, as well as creating a legacy for generations to come.

“Equal marriage in places of worship will be a milestone that will be welcomed for our movement and our history.”

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