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The Times: Orthodox faith wanes as Jews quit middle ground

22nd September 2014

This story is taken from today’s edition of The Times - http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/faith/article4213635.ece

By Oliver Moody

Orthodox Judaism in Britain is “withering” as it is caught between modernisation and religious conservatism, a study has found.

Some Jewish progressives believe their numbers could overtake the Orthodox mainstream within a generation as thousands of traditional Jews switch to more liberal movements, while a surge in the numbers of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, is radically altering the faith’s composition.

Previously unreported statistics from a survey of more than 3,700 Jews last year by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), a think-tank, show the scale of the change. Only 26 per cent of British Jews identify themselves as “traditional” — a term usually used to denote conventional Orthodox Judaism — although 40 per cent said they had been raised that way.

This represented a decline from a similar study carried out a decade before, which found that 37 per cent said they were traditional Jews, and 53 per cent had been brought up in that strand of the faith.

“The loss of one in three formerly traditional adherents has broader significance than the withering of the formerly dominant category,” the report’s authors wrote. “This switch away from traditional is suggestive of a shakeout of the middle ground within the British Jewish community.”

David Graham, a senior research fellow at the JPR, also pointed to the “phenomenal” growth of ultra-conservative movements such as the Haredim. “We’re seeing a huge polarisation with a major push to the religious right through high birth rates, and a shift to the left where formerly traditional and formerly reform Jews are increasingly identifying as cultural,” he said.

Almost half of those born into traditional Judaism “switched away”, with 33 per cent shifting to progressive or “cultural” strands, and 13 per cent moving to more conservative groups.

United Synagogue, long viewed as the main voice of British Jewry, is now thought to account for fewer than half of those who claim to be Jewish and, according to the JPR analysis, is likely to be outnumbered by secular Jews soon. Last week Liberal Judaism and the Movement for Reform Judaism announced a reformist alliance that will represent around a third of the UK’s observant Jews.

Rabbi Danny Rich, the chief executive of Liberal Judaism, said that he believed many Jews had turned away from organised religion because they were “dissatisfied” with its strictures.

“We’re conscious that many Jews are leaving the religious community altogether; large numbers of them are not attuned to Orthodox Judaism and we want to offer them a religious, modern alternative.”

Liberal and Reform movements launch alliance for Progressive Judaism

17th September 2014

Liberal Judaism (LJ) and the Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ) have today announced an alliance between their two movements. Together already accounting for nearly a third of synagogue-affiliated Jews, with 82 communities, the UK’s two Progressive movements are seeking to capitalise on the 30% growth in those identifying themselves as sharing their values, according to the recent JPR studies of Jewish communal attitudes.

The alliance will see an expansion of collaboration between the two movements in areas such as student chaplaincy, social justice and social action. It could also involve a strengthening of existing joint work such as rabbinic training, gap year programming and representation on Israel, cross-communal and other institutions. The alliance will see a sharing of resources and expertise across the two movements, wherever practical.

Liberal and Reform leaders stress that this is not a merger and that the two movements will retain their autonomy and distinct identities. The synagogues will remain constituent members of their respective movements practicing Judaism in the way that is most meaningful to them but the movements will unashamedly work together to speak for and reach out to the third of British Jews who describe themselves as secular, cultural or “just Jewish”.

Commenting on the alliance, Liberal Judaism’s Chief Executive, Rabbi Danny Rich, says: “The biggest dividing line in British Jewry is no longer Orthodox or Progressive, but religiously engaged or secular.  We believe that, together, the two movements can provide an outward-looking, modern and relevant alternative to a merely secular form of Judaism, which could otherwise become the primary expression of Judaism within a couple of generations.”

Senior Rabbi to the Reform Movement, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, says: “There is so much more that unites the Reform and Liberal movements than divides us.  The more we can cooperate, the stronger our voice and the stronger the expression of the core values we share in common: inclusiveness, integrity and informed choice.  These are the values which our movements believe will enable Judaism to survive and thrive in the 21st Century.”

Liberal Judaism Lectionary 5775/76

The Liberal Judaism Lectionary for 5775/76 is now available.

The Lectionary is a guide to recommended Torah & Haftarah readings for Shabbat, Festivals and special Shabbatot.

You can download/print by clicking here 

Mattuck book launch is huge success

Liberal Judaism chairman Lucian J Hudson and president Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein attended the launch of the new biography of Rabbi Dr Israel Mattuck, the man who launched Liberal Judaism as a national and international force during the first half of the last century.

Held at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) in St John’s Wood, North West London, on Wednesday September 10, the event was attended by around a hundred guests from across the Jewish community.

Israel Isidor Mattuck: Architect of Liberal Judaism was written by LJS member Pam Fox. She was interviewed on stage by Professor Geoffrey Alderman, Jewish historian and regular contributor to The Jewish Chronicle, who said he was “absolutely enthralled” by the book.

A video of the event can be viewed at http://youtu.be/NuPvNXAj-3g

Lucian said: “It was a great occasion, a thoughtful and probing interview, and rightly highlighted that Pam's book is a very significant contribution to understanding Liberal Judaism.”

Pam added: “The event couldn't gone better from my point of view. It was very rewarding to see so many people there, and from across the Jewish community. A number of people in the audience knew Rabbi Mattuck and spoke about their memories of him.

“I was moved by the warm comments of Professor Alderman and those of people who told me that they hadn't previously been particularly interested in Mattuck, but as a result of the interview wanted to read about this fascinating sounding man.”

Israel Isidor Mattuck: Architect of Liberal Judaism is published by Vallentine Mitchell

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

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