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Shanah Tova from Liberal Judaism

September 2015

Rabbi Danny Rich, Liberal Judaism's senior rabbi and chief executive

The month of Elul and the coming Yamim Noraim (High Holy Days) are a time of reflection for Jews – demanding not only personal introspection, but requiring an examination of collective neglect.

The image of a drowned child washed up on a beach in Europe is simply the latest stark reminder of the tragedy which Syria’s neighbours, particularly Jordan and Lebanon, have been dealing with for a number of years.

A year ago, with the Conservative leader of Kingston Council, I called for each British local authority to offer sanctuary to 50 Syrian refugees so that Britain might lead the world in this moral endeavour.

The challenge of migration is, of course a local, European and international one but, despite British efforts in the region itself, there is no excuse for not making a generous and dramatic offer of sanctuary now.

History teaches us the cost to innocent men, women and children when countries and international partners delay in the face of an emergency, and the Jewish community is particularly sensitive to the fate of those who appear abandoned by the world community.

On Yom Kippur afternoon Liberal Synagogues will hear this verse (Leviticus 19:16): “You shall not stand by idle when your neighbour’s blood is being shed.”

Will we be part of the generation who stands by idly or shall we ‘pursue justice’ for the most vulnerable?


 

Simon Benscher, Liberal Judaism's chair

As we speed swiftly towards the High Holy Days, I wonder if during our hours of communal spiritual refreshment we could give some consideration to the near 40 chairs of our Liberal congregations who would have probably spent days preparing what, for many of them, is the most important speech of their year.

For some, including me, to stand on the bimah in front of fellow congregants and friends is a daunting experience, while for others public speaking doesn’t cause even the slightest concern. But the one thing they all have in common is a desire to give a heartfelt and passionate appeal, not just for money to be donated to worthy and deserving charities, but also for everyone to give more of themselves.

For the vast majority of our communities the day to day functions and maintenance falls on the shoulders of a small number of willing helpers. In my experience, all of these volunteers are busy, hardworking people with either full time commitments to their work or their families, or possibly even both. None the less, they still find the capacity in their busy lives to work for their extended family.

Ask any of these unsung heroes “why do you give yourself this extra burden” and I’m reasonably sure in most cases they won’t be able to give you a definitive answer. Our commitment to our communal Jewish homes is, for many of us, part of our DNA. It can’t be defined or labelled, but it gives the individual as much in the way of fulfilment, as they hope it gives to their congregation.

Where would we be without these stalwart members - organising and supporting without (much) complaint or expectation of praise? The answers are easy. Liberal Judaism wouldn’t be where it is today at the forefront of Progressive Jewish life. Our inspirational Rabbis would not be able to lead us through our Jewish journeys. The Board of National Officers would have little value.

This year when you hear the annual appeal maybe, just maybe, make the commitment to play your part in the future of Liberal Judaism in the UK.

L'shanah tovah!

 
Refugee Crisis: How you can help

7th September 2015

The pictures and news of the last few days have shocked the world and left many asking “what can I do to support those refugees who need urgent help?”

A million Syrian children are languishing in refugee camps. Thousands of people have died. We are facing Europe’s greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Liberal Judaism has teamed up with a number of partner organisations to suggest practical ways you can help, from displaying your support to donating money to finding homes for refugee families.

Below are details and links that you can use right away to play your part in resolving this humanitarian crisis.

Citizens UK – Citizens UK and Liberal Judaism have been campaigning for the last year to get local authorities to pledge to resettle just 50 refugees each.

Many councils are willing, but they need our help to find appropriate homes for families in the private rented sector. Our organisations want to see 10,000 refugees resettled here each year for at least the next two years. That's likely to mean 5,000 homes need to be found for families over the two year period. Therefore we desperately need landlords to join the Homes for Resettled Refugees Register, and everyone to try and find landlords and letting agents in their area who might help, and get them to sign up.

 Sign the Register -> http://www.citizensuk.org/help_find_homes_for_syrian_refugees

Citizens UK local organising guide -> http://www.citizensuk.org/resettlement_campaign_local_organising_guide


World Jewish Relief – World Jewish Relief has launched its Refugee Crisis Appeal. As the Jewish community’s response to international disasters, WJR are once more appealing for our community’s generous support.

World Jewish Relief was instrumental in the Kindertransport – supporting desperate Jewish refugees from the Nazis. With 80 years experience, the charity is well placed to assist those in dire need.  World Jewish Relief will begin a humanitarian operation providing food, shelter, medicine and hygiene kits to refugees in Turkey, Bulgaria or Greece who are fleeing war and persecution.

Donate to WJR now -> https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/ways-to-give/appeals/refugee-crisis/donate-step-1/


Tzelem – Tzelem is the UK's cross-communal rabbinic call for social and economic justice.

Liberal Judaism and all branches of Judaism are working with Tzelem on a strategic, long-term response to the current crisis, which we will post details about soon.  We are also asking communities to place a banner stating ‘Refugees are Welcome’ outside, or if this is not possible then inside, their buildings and synagogues – posting the the photos on Twitter or Facebook

Get your banner -> https://docs.google.com/document/d/1odNtTtecfpPLPWNqiNust8yo4iSpXvifqaEBshN5eTA/edit


Solidarity with Refugees March – Supported by Syria Solidarity Movement, the Refugee Council, Refugee Action and Amnesty International, this march will at Marble Arch on September 12.

The aim is to show support for positive change ahead of a key conference on September 14, when British Home Secretary Theresa May will be attending a meeting of the EU's 28 member states for emergency talks.  The march will help ensure that the Home Secretary takes with her the conviction that the British people that she represents are open to helping refugees and that we can’t continue to allow thousands to die trying to reach the EU.

Join the march -> https://www.facebook.com/events/1047978998546751/


UK Government Petition – More than 400,000 people, including many Liberal Judaism rabbis, leaders and members, have signed the petition asking the Government to accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugee migrants in the UK.

The more people who sign, the more impact we can have and the more chance there is of the Government taking real action.

Sign the petition -> https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/105991/

 
Liberal Rabbis join Syrian refugee on BBC News

4th September 2015

Rabbis Harry Jacobi and Danny Rich were interviewed for BBC News today alongside inspirational Syrian refugee Milad.

Liberal Judaism Chief Executive Danny called on the UK to take a minimum of 20,000 more refugees, while Harry told how he himself was a refugee to Britian - fleeing the Nazis.

Full story and broadcast date to follow...

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Rabbi Danny Rich: We must offer sanctuary

3rd September 2015

By Rabbi Danny Rich, Senior Rabbi and Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism

The month of Elul and the coming Yamim Noraim (High Holy Days) are a time of reflection for Jews – demanding not only personal introspection, but requiring an examination of collective neglect.

The image of a drowned child washed up on a beach in Europe is simply the latest stark reminder of the tragedy which Syria’s neighbours, particularly Jordan and Lebanon, have been dealing with for a number of years.

A year ago, with the Conservative leader of Kingston Council, I called for each British local authority to offer sanctuary to 50 Syrian refugees so that Britain might lead the world in this moral endeavour.

The challenge of migration is, of course a local, European and international one but, despite British efforts in the region itself, there is no excuse for not making a generous and dramatic offer of sanctuary now.

History teaches us the cost to innocent men, women and children when countries and international partners delay in the face of an emergency, and the Jewish community is particularly sensitive to the fate of those who appear abandoned by the world community.

On Yom Kippur afternoon Liberal Synagogues will hear this verse (Leviticus 19:16): “You shall not stand by idle when your neighbour’s blood is being shed.”

Will we be part of the generation who stands by idly or shall we ‘pursue justice’ for the most vulnerable?

 
Leo Baeck College praises Liberal attitudes to rabbinical life

The JC

27 August 2015

A career in the Progressive rabbinate is increasingly appealing, with "a real increase" in both the number and quality of applicants for the Leo Baeck College training scheme, says its principal, Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris.

The north London college this year received nine applications for its five-year training programme, for which a course in Hebrew is a starting requirement, as is a bachelor's degree at a 2:1 grade or higher.

Rabbi Kahn-Harris said the five students who were accepted all have "a strong background in their individual communities and movements", as well as "a diverse set of experiences, whether it's youth work, lay leadership or teaching". A striking feature of the new intake is its youthfulness, with three of the chosen five in their mid-20s.

Deborah Blausten, who will be 25 when she starts the course next month, said the appeal of the rabbinate was its variety.

"You're a teacher steeped in questions of social justice, music, ritual life and learning and you encounter people at all stages of life. I don't think there's another career that brings together my interests in such a variety of issues. I've had an inkling I wanted to do this since I was 17 and that came from my deep commitment to Jewish life, community, texts and experiences."

The North Western Reform Synagogue, Golders Green, member has degrees in medicine and education. Her master's was sandwiched between working for Jeneration - the Reform movement's student arm - and as Finchley Reform's young people's educator. She is also the programming chair for this year's Limmud.

Ms Blausten wanted to counter the notion that "religion is either not a force for good, or that it's stuck in the past and doesn't fit with modern life. I think that's profoundly untrue on both counts, and that we're uniquely placed in terms of our attitudes towards how religion should be in the modern world."

Another rabbinical student is Anna Posner, 26, who has been involved in the Progressive youth movement, LJY-Netzer, for 18 years. As a youngster, it "didn't really register that I could be a rabbi," she said. "Then when I was 14, one of my teachers mentioned that they wanted to do it and I thought: 'Hey, I could do that, too.'"

Raised in Nottingham, she recalled that "when you grow up as the only Jew in the village, you want to be really active in the community. Nottingham is a really nice small Jewish community and that helped me to grow my Jewish identity." When she told her parents of her career plans, "at first, they thought it was funny and a novelty, but everyone's really excited now. I'm very lucky."

Ms Posner has been working for the global Netzer Olami movement and is returning from Jerusalem - where she has been leading gap year students - to take the course. "At [Liverpool Hope] university I studied religion, but I'm very excited to focus on our traditions." She wanted to promote inclusion, making people "feel comfortable in communal and religious spaces".

A former religious studies teacher at Finchley Progressive and West London synagogues who, for the past two years, has been an editor at Polity Press in Cambridge, Elliott Karstadt looked forward to switching gears.

"I spent a long time teaching and leading and I wanted to make that into a full-time thing. Having a full-time job in publishing, I didn't feel that I was giving as much as I could to the community. I want to deeply understand Jewish texts and to lead communities."

With a PhD in intellectual history, Mr Karstadt has both the necessary academic and practical experience. But he pointed out that a rabbi's learning was never finished.

Although his eventual aim was to lead a synagogue, he was "a big fan" of rabbis involved in outreach work, finding ways of engaging younger, unaffiliated families.

Completing this year's student quintet are Southport native and former RSY movement worker Frankie Stubbs and Yaera Ratel, who grew up in eastern France and is changing career after 20 years as a sound editor on films. She has also directed a children's programme at a Parisian Reform synagogue.

Jessica Rosenfield - the daughter of Daily Mail City editor and former Board of Deputies presidential candidate Alex Brummer - has deferred her place on the course until next year.

Rabbi Kahn-Harris said the 2015 intake were "all very engaging people in different ways, which is great for us. We're really excited about what that means both for the college and the community in this country and in Europe. We are looking forward to being with them on their journey."

 
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