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LJ communities supporting refugees at Sukkot

21st September 2015

Liberal Judaism synagogues and congregations will be opening their sukkahs this Sukkot, as part of LJ’s Sanctuary Campaign, in order to convince local councils to house those fleeing Syria and surrounding areas.

Liberal Judaism’s senior rabbi, Rabbi Danny Rich, explains: “We launched the Liberal Judaism Sanctuary Campaign with Citizens UK at Sukkot last year because the sukkah is a temporary booth and the reading of the Book of Ecclesiastes reminds its reader of the frailty of life and recalls the fact that fortune, or God, plays a role in sustaining human life.

“The Sanctuary Campaign was always intended as an initiative for decent persons of all faiths, and none, who had an interest in the humane aspect of this work. The campaign is non-partisan, and indeed the first local authority to agree to work with us was Conservative-controlled Kingston-Upon-Thames.”

Communities taking part in the Sanctuary Campaign this year include Finchley Progressive Synagogue and Norwich Liberal Jewish Community.

Both will be joined by members of the Christian, Muslim and wider communities. Local MPs and council members have been invited.

They will each ask the local council to follow the example of Kingston, and commit to resettling 50 refugees in their area.

The Finchley event will take place on Erev Sukkot, September 27, with the Norwich action planned for October 3, the Shabbat of Sukkot.

Norwich Liberal Jewish Community’s Rabbi Leah Jordan said: “The Jewish festival of Sukkot is the ideal time to reflect and take action. The sukkah symbolises that we open our homes to the needy and those in distress to share in our temporary dwelling or refuge on Sukkot.

“To this end, several of the families within our Jewish community, and in the wider community who are attending, have offered their homes as temporary refuge for Syrian families if the Council will agree to resettle them in Norfolk.

“This is a moment when we can put our Jewish ethics in to real, serious action and transform the lives of Syrian families for the better.”

Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue will be working with New Hope base in Watford, with the community’s Sukkot collection of goods and donations going to them – with part of the service and cheder focussing on the charity and the impact of the local area welcoming refugees.


Campaigns to help refugees growing

The JC

17th September 2015

The Jewish community's response to the refugee crisis expanded this week, with the announcement of plans for a public meeting to canvas opinion on the most productive ways to help.

More than £180,000 has been raised in the past week by World Jewish Relief's appeal to help Syrian refugees.

A website is also to be set up to inform British Jews how to volunteer and donate money and items to the ongoing aid efforts.

In a statement on Wednesday, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis praised the WJR campaign and said: "At this time of year, as we pledge financial support to a range of causes close to our hearts, I call upon our community to dig extra deep and set aside an additional contribution, however small, which will go towards providing urgent relief for refugees whose lives have been devastated by the current crisis."

The Board of Deputies said it would host a public meeting in response to the crisis. The announcement came after a closed meeting last Thursday for religious movements, charities and other bodies to discuss cross-communal aid efforts.

Representatives of the United Synagogue, Masorti, Reform, and Liberal movements attended the session, as did human-rights charity René Cassin, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (Jcore), and the Jewish Leadership Council.

The Board's senior vice-president, Richard Verber, said: "A public meeting is the best way to update people on what we want to do and it will be a chance for them to feed into that."

The public meeting will take place after the High Holy Days.

Communal leaders agreed to set up a website - www.supportrefugees.org.uk - that "will be a one-stop shop for the community to get information about how they can assist in the crisis". It will include sections dedicated to aid efforts, donations and volunteering.

Mr Verber said: "The public meeting will allow people in the community to get involved, share ideas and ask questions, and that will then feed back into the website."

Liberal Jewish communities around the UK spent Rosh Hashanah welcoming and supporting refugees.

Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue is working with churches in the area to act as a hub for donations. Members are being asked to bring sleeping bags, winter clothing, and tents, to be sent via West London Synagogue's drop-in centre to those in need of shelter.

South London Liberal Synagogue is collecting items to go to Calais in October, as well as appealing for people to provide rooms for refugees or to take in children.


Click here to read more: http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/145118/campaigns-help-refugees-growing


Liberal rabbis give Yom Kippur advice

20th September 2015

Working with The Jewish Telegraph, we asked four Liberal rabbis for their tips on ‘how to survive Yom Kippur’.

Below, they give their advice from both a spiritual and fasting point of view.

Rabbi_Rebecca_Qassim_Birk_2Rabbi Rebecca Qassim Birk (Finchley Progressive Synagogue):

Despite what you may imagine, Yom Kippur is actually my favourite day in the Jewish calendar. No one is concerned about timing, sermons that might be too long or the length of cantorial solos.

It is the greatest Jewish blessing that we have this 25 hours of reflection and invitation to take responsibility for our lives and souls.

Contrary to expectations, fasting is easier as a rabbi, focused on prayer and congregational needs other than one’s own.

I adhere robustly to the example set by Rabbi Israel Salanter (1810-1883) when he ate challah in front of his community during a raging cholera epidemic. He modelled that in illness, eating is as important as fasting.

I guide those who are ill to follow such sensible advice and find alternative way to ''afflict the soul" (Lev 23:27). But for me the fasting helps.

Concerned with the spiritual nourishment of the community, my own is heightened over those 25 hours. I don't need sustenance. Indeed the gates at Neilah sometimes close quicker than I am ready for.

pete-tobiasRabbi Pete Tobias (The Liberal Synagogue Elstree):

Yom Kippur is often regarded as a challenge to get through the day without eating, as though that were a laudable achievement. The ‘distraction’ of leading religious services can make it easier – though continuing a course of antibiotics on an empty stomach made me faint one Yom Kippur afternoon.

Finding spiritual sustenance among readings that liturgist Rabbi Larry Hoffman has described as “…great gobs of the standard material that we now drone through” is more challenging.

But a single word, phrase or melody can give spiritual uplift that transcends 100 pages to remain long after one’s fast has been broken.  (100 words)

aaron-goldsteinRabbi Aaron Goldstein (Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue):

Yom Kippur does not need surviving, indeed that would defeat the object. The intention of fasting and being in synagogue all day is to not have worldly concerns.

A Progressive community considers how this is best achieved to alleviate the burden from its members.

For me, as a rabbi of Liberal Judaism, this means being informed by traditions but not bound by them. If someone needs to eat, drink or take meds to concentrate, let them. Far more important is the resolution for the year ahead and self-improvement attained.

danny-richRabbi Danny Rich (Senior Rabbi of Liberal Judaism):

Like anything of significance, Yom Kippur requires some preparation in order to get the best out of it.

The service will go on around you but commit yourself to being in synagogue (or in nature) for the whole day and take some reading material, or use the machzor, to reflect on the more meaningful aspects of you and your life: what goes well and is opposite.

Before you know it, it will be time to begin to build the sukkah.


LJY-Netzer members join Help Calais project

20th September 2015

Ten members of LJY-Netzer spent the day at a London storage facility on Wednesday, to aid the charity Help Calais in organising and sending off donations of clothing and other goods to French refugees camps.

In an entirely peer organised event, the Liberal Judaism youth team, aged from 18 to 22, joined with others of all ages and from all walks of life in sorting, boxing and eventually loading the combination of tents, coats, food and clothing onto the lorries and trucks that were taking them to distribution centres in the camps, just outside of Calais.

LJY-Netzer movement worker Sam Alston said: “This action takes the Jewish principles of helping the strangers within our land and supporting your neighbours and applies it to the modern world around us.

“This initiative is completely within the spirit of what LJY-Netzer has been teaching on our events for decades.”

Sukkot campaigning events are now being planned in Finchley and Norwich, along with a fundraising disco later on in the year.

To join LJY-Netzer or take part in one of their actions for refugees, email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Liberal youth join march for refugees

16th September 2015

Members of LJY-Netzer, the youth movement of Liberal Judaism, were among 150 young Jews showing solidarity with refugees this weekend.

Movement worker Sam Alston and a number of members of all ages attended a march in central London – forming a ‘Jewish Bloc’ at the large event which marched to Parliament Square.

Signs on display included those saying “Jews welcome refugees”, “no one is illegal” and “be a mensch, support the refugees”.

Speakers at the event, attended by tens of thousands of people, included new Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and singer and campaigner Billy Bragg.

Young Liberal Jews are also taking part in an event today in Finchley, which was organised by an LJY-Netzer bogrim, to help sort through resources that have been collected to send to Calais.

For more information on the march, see the following stories:
Jewish News -> http://www.jewishnews.co.uk/150-young-jews-march-for-refugees-to-send-a-clear-signal-to-communal-leaders/

The Independent -> http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/solidarity-with-refugees-march-tens-of-thousands-take-to-the-streets-along-with-new-labour-leader-jeremy-corbyn-10497907.html


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