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New book on architect of Liberal Judaism

3rd September 2014

A new book on Rabbi Dr Israel Mattuck, the first Liberal rabbi in Britain and a founder of our movement, is due out this month.

Israel Isidor Mattuck: Architect of Liberal Judaism by Pam Fox is a detailed biography of one of the three founders of both Liberal Judaism and the Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS).

Rabbi Mattuck led the LJS and Liberal Judaism through two World Wars and produced the prayer books that provided our liturgy for more than 40 years.

His success in relation to interfaith dialogue was considerable, and he was one of the prime instigators in setting up the London Society of Jews and Christians, which he co-chaired for many years and which provided the model for the foundation of the Council of Christians and Jews in 1942.

Rabbi Mattuck was a supremely gifted orator enthralling children and adults alike. His Sunday services, which were unparalleled at the time, attracted audiences of more than 1,000 people.

Although he was widely respected, even by those disagreed with his views, Rabbi Mattuck’s career as the religious leader of Liberal Judaism was punctuated by controversies and stormy periods.

This authorised biography delves into all of this and includes previously unpublished material and photographs, provided by his family. It also gives a detailed history of Liberal Judaism in particular and Jewish history generally. 

A launch party will be held on Wednesday September 10 from 6:30-8:30pm in the Montefiore Hall of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, 28 St John’s Wood Road, London, NW8 7HA.

The event will include an introduction by Professor Geoffrey Alderman and refreshments will be served.

For more information on purchasing the book or attending the launch party please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and/or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Putting the picture together

The JC
28th August 2014

by Lucian J.Hudson

Leadership in a crisis requires not just skill in responding appropriately in the moment but a coherence and consistency of purpose over time. Whitehall and Westminster's response has lacked strategy, limiting UK's influence short and long term, and unleashing an anti-Israel sentiment at home that can be increasingly used to foster antisemitism.

On the Israel-Gaza conflict, the coalition government was split, the cross-party consensus broke down, and most of the media, including the BBC, run away with a superficial view of the conflict, when government and MPs could have used their expertise and experience to ensure a much deeper understanding of the issues.

As a former pioneer of 24-hour television and the internet, one conclusion I draw is that television news and social media might give a snapshot of news and views in a crisis, but are singularly poor at explaining context and interrogating different perspectives. Last year, No 10's plans on Syria partly backfired because of a misjudged tendency to conduct foreign policy by Twitter. Engagement with social media is not a substitute for effective policy communications.  Read more

Liberal Judaism supports Sunday Rally against Anti-Semitism

29th August 2014

Liberal Judaism has sent a message of support to the organisations of Sunday’s rally for zero-tolerance of anti-Semitism.   Lucian Hudson, Chair of Liberal Judaism, writes:

These are challenging times for our community. The loss of life in Israel and Gaza is a tragedy and it is understandable that some will wish to show their support for the innocents caught up in the recent conflict.   Nevertheless, all too often such support has all too often lapsed into antisemitism and bigots and racists have abused legitimate protests to attack Jews and our institutions.  We support the work of the Campaign against Antisemitism and our communal organisations to ensure that racism will not be tolerated in our society and conflicts abroad are not allowed not undermine community cohesion in the UK

For further information about Sunday’s rally go to:

Liberal Judaism welcomes BoD/MCB joint statement

28th August 2014

The conflict in the Middle East creates a real challenge for the Jewish and Muslim communities in the UK.   We can choose to let it define our relationship or we can build our own relationship founded on the many values and experiences we share in common. Liberal Judaism chooses the latter way: we encourage our synagogues to reach out to their Muslim neighbours whenever they can and to create a framework in which we can get to know one another both as communities and individuals. The joint statement issued today by the Board of Deputies and the Muslim Council of Britain is a bold and constructive step and should be welcomed by all those with an interest in strengthening community cohesion in the UK. 

You can read the statement by clicking here.

It is not enough to pray for peace

By Simon Rothstein
Editor, lj today
28th August 2014

THE CURRENT situation in Israel and Gaza has proved a very important and far-reaching issue for the entire British Jewish community. Colleagues, congregations and even families have been split by a multifaceted conflict that changes with every passing hour.

For these reasons, the leadership of Liberal Judaism took some time to formulate a full response. There were many discussions within the Liberal Judaism Board of National Officers, as well as in communities up and down the country, as to the significance of the conflict and responses to it.

The first public pronouncement came when Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich and chairman Lucian J Hudson joined with the leaders of the Movement for Reform Judaism, Masorti Judaism and the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation to release a short statement. It read: “In these painful times we regret the loss of all innocent life. Our thoughts are with all those who grieve and we fervently pray that we soon see a just and lasting peace for all in the region.”

Danny then followed this up with a lengthy pastoral letter, sent to every member of a Liberal Judaism constituent community on Tisha B’Av 5774 and the 100th anniversary of the declaration of Britain’s entry into the First World War.

After discussing the events of the past, Danny used the letter to fully break his silence on the escalation of tension and ultimately war between Hamas located in Gaza and the State of Israel. The letter has won praise from across the religious spectrum and can be read in full by visiting www.liberaljudaism.org

Danny started by explaining why he had been “uncharacteristically quiet”. He wrote: “In truth the reason I have been silent is because, like so many, I am conflicted. My friends and family in Israel tell me they are scared and will support their Government in ‘ending the threat of rockets’ but any decent human being is anguished by the death, destruction and humiliation inflicted on the Palestinians by Israeli armoury.

“In these circumstances it is hardly surprising that an estimated 90 per cent of the Israeli population supports its Government’s actions or that Hamas receives heroic press from Palestinians and others. Fear breeds hate and ignorance nurtures extremism.”

Danny then laid out six Liberal Jewish values that must be upheld. These include the belief that “no people should live under occupation and no country’s right to exist should be constantly challenged”, as well as the promotion of the idea of two narratives – one Jewish Israeli and the other Palestinian/Arab – which both must be acknowledged in a just and lasting resolution.

Danny concluded the letter with a fitting quote from the late Rabbi John Rayner: “It is not enough to pray for peace. We have to work for it: to challenge those who foster conflict and refute their propaganda; to ascertain and make known the truth, both when it confirms and when it runs counter to conventional views; to denounce injustice, not only when it is committed against us but also when it is committed against others; to defend human rights, not only our own but also theirs; to insist that peace requires sacrifice – of pride, or wealth, or territory; to practise and promote the way of moderation, compromise and reconciliation; and to build bridges of respect and understanding, trust and friendship, across the chasms that divide humanity.”

While Danny has been the public face of Liberal Judaism’s response to the conflict – including making many media appearances – Lucian has been an active influence behind the scenes.

He has played a key role in shaping the debate within the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council to ensure that whatever position the UK Jewish community takes on the conflict, it reflects our distress at the loss of human life on both sides and the range of views in the community.

Liberal Judaism’s rabbis have also been highly active, speaking to members in sermons, conversations and actions. Rabbi Neil Janes, of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, explained how he has tackled the issue. Neil told lj today: “I have sought to connect us to the history and future of the Jewish people, recognising that the State of Israel is part of that. Liberal Judaism also demands the universal, recognising that we do not have a monopoly on suffering and war takes its toll on innocent lives on both sides.

“This war has brought a spiritual crisis too: how do we have faith in human progress when so many people seem hell bent on evil? I have also tried to show how we can have strongly-held opinions and still be judicious and respectful in our choice of language.”

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