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Liberal Judaism welcomes newly ordained rabbis

10th July 2013

Liberal Judaism was delighted by the ordination of three fantastic new rabbis at Leo Baeck College on Sunday 7th July in a ceremony which saw Rabbis Benji Stanley, Leah Jordan and Esther Hugenholtz receive semicha. Liberal Judaism, along with the Movement for Reform Judaism, is a proud funder of the rabbinical seminary and Jewish studies college.

Commenting on the ordinations, Liberal Judaism’s chief executive, Rabbi Danny Rich said: “Leo Baeck College has ordained three excellent rabbis, and I am personally delighted that Rabbi Leah Jordan will be Liberal Judaism's first ever full time Chaplain to Students and Young Adults.”

Liberal Judaism’s chairman, Lucian J. Hudson, said: “Liberal Judaism takes great pride in the  achievements of Leo Baeck College. Training Progressive rabbis is a shared investment in the future of our two movements. We are blessed with yet another generation of thoughtful and engaged rabbis.”

The chuppah awaits: Liberal Jews drive the U.K.’s equal marriage campaign

July 2 2013

By Rabbi Danny Rich

Just as supporters of same-sex marriage are celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act law as unconstitutional, so the campaign for the right of equal marriage (to include same-sex couples) is reaching its critical phase in the United Kingdom.

And just as the progressive streams of Judaism have been vocal in their support for gay marriage in the U.S. , the campaign for equal marriage in the U.K. has been led by Liberal Judaism (the British equivalent of American Reform, representing just under 10% of Jews in the U.K.), together with the Quakers and the Unitarian Church. The U.K. campaign is set to succeed despite the opposition encountered over some 15 years from the majority of those who declare that they speak for British Jews.

It could be as early as the end of 2013 that equal marriage will be enacted into the law of England and Wales, following the approval of the Marriage (Same Sex) Bill by both chambers of Parliament. Members of the House of Commons voted 400 in favor and 175 against, and the House of Lords backed the proposal by a similar margin. The Lords are expected to complete a line-by-line examination of the measure by the end of the summer.

The Marriage (Same Sex) Bill permits those religious streams who so desire to solemnize marriages between two men or two women in, for example synagogues or other religious buildings. Liberal Judaism’s Council (on which each of its 39 congregations is represented) has already indicated its wish to proceed with this. The same legislation protects the right of individual institutions which refuse to adopt equal marriage policies, and prohibits same sex marriages being conducted under the auspices of the Church of England.

For Liberal Judaism, equal marriage is both a matter of justice and a question of religious freedom. Liberal Judaism has always considered itself welcoming to, and affirming of, everyone who has sought to make use of its services, although it was not until 1991 that Liberal Judaism published its pamphlet, "Where We Stand on Homosexuality?" Primarily motivated by the intolerant backlash that had followed the AIDS epidemic, the pamphlet rejected prejudice and discrimination, and affirmed the idea that "the appropriate context for the expression of human sexuality is a lasting relationship of mutual love and faithfulness between two persons." Read more

Your chance to shape Liberal Judaism’s future

26th June 2013

BUILDING ON the Liberal Judaism ‘Away Day’ held in January, the Board of National Officers has decided to produce a Strategic Plan for Liberal Judaism. The plan will set out the movement’s overall direction for the next 10 years and how it will go about achieving this vision. It will be a brief and succinct document, which will only include key information such as Liberal Judaism’s main objectives, priorities, roles and responsibilities.

In putting together this plan, Liberal Judaism will not be starting from scratch or ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’. Instead the movement will seek to build on its existing successful activities and the learning it has gained from them.

Liberal Judaism’s chairman and chief executive, Lucian J Hudson and Rabbi Danny Rich, recognise that this Strategic Plan can serve many different purposes. These include: ensuring that everyone is moving in the same direction; allowing an organisation to anticipate and respond to change in a planned way; acting as a tool for internal and external communication; providing a framework for accountability and performance management; ensuring consistency in decision-making; and providing a basis for the effective allocation of resources.

Lucian, who is now four years into his term as chairman, believes that this is the right time for the movement to focus on its longer-term vision and work through its priorities.

He said: "Clarity of purpose and consistent messages about priorities are particularly important in an organisation like Liberal Judaism. We have a geographically dispersed membership and are made up of autonomous congregations. We are governed by a network of different bodies, meeting on varying cycles, and in which work is undertaken by both paid staff and volunteers with many interests. I am confident that we could have even more impact and influence, and stay true to our values, if we organise ourselves more proactively."

The Board of National Officers has commissioned Pam Fox, an experienced management consultant and member of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, to facilitate the process for producing the Strategic Plan. A key aspect of this process will be the involvement of as many people as possible.

Following on from her successful sessions at the Day of Celebration, Pam will be using a variety of methods for seeking views on the future direction of Liberal Judaism. The Chairs’ Forum has already embraced the initiative enthusiastically and its members are devising innovative ways of engaging with their congregations.

The key stages in the production of the Strategic Plan will be:

Preparation (May – July): This first step is already under way and involves initial discussions within LJ, as well as learning lessons from the successes and failures of similar organisations. Relevant structures and processes are being set up, including a ‘working group’ made up of key stakeholders to oversee and provide leadership during the strategy development process.

Consultation on the content of the LJ Strategic Plan (July – September): At this point, both internal and external stakeholders will be contacted to seek their views on the future direction of Liberal Judaism. A variety of techniques will be used to reach different audiences.

Producing an initial draft (September – November): A visioning exercise will be held to generate proposals on the content of the Strategic Plan, which will be discussed and lead to a draft document.

Consultation on the draft Strategic Plan (January – February 2014): This stage will include meetings with key stakeholder groups, as well as an extensive circulation of the document to encourage feedback.

Finalising and communicating Liberal Judaism’s Strategic Plan (January – February 2014)

If you would like to get involved in developing the Strategic Plan, express your view on the future direction of Liberal Judaism or simply find out more about the process then please contact Pam on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it    Alternatively, you can click here to join the Liberal Judaism Strategy Discussion group on facebook.

Coalition for Marriage: ‘Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews have unfairly dominated the equal marriage debate’

24th June 2013

In an exclusive interview with PinkNews.co.uk,Coalition for Marriage spokesperson Dr Sharon James says Liberal Judaism, the Unitarians and the Quakers have been given “a disproportionate amount of time” in the debate for equal marriage at the expense of “mainstream Christian people”.

Dr James spoke to PinkNews.co.uk at Friday’s Changing Attitude Sussex event at St Mary’s Church in Brighton, Kemptown, where she argued strongly against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill alongside the former Green Party councillor Christina Summers.  Read more

250 Liberal Jews Flock to Birmingham for Day of Celebration

June 11th 2013

250 Liberal Jews flocked to Birmingham Progressive Synagogue for a day of celebration and learning on Sunday 9th June.

The day began with a rousing concert of both new and familiar liturgical music, presented by Cantor Gershon Silins, in which Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue's choir sand alongside Birmingham's cross-communal Kol Kinor choir. Participants then attended a choice of 30 sessions on subjects ranging from parenthood, community, study, art and music.

Highlights included a session on mixed faith families with Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, and a challah baking session with Rabbi Sandra Kviat.

Liberal Judaism provided free coaches from both north and south London to the event.

Rabbi Charley Baginsky who organised the Day of Celebration said: "This was an incredible and inspiring day for the future of Liberal Judaism, the huge number of congregations and rabbis involved testifies to the sheer reach of our message and to the massive groundswell of commitment to help our movement grow and grow."

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive, said: "Liberal Judaism is the non-London centric movement and we are proud to have brought such a varied and enriching programme to Birmingham."

To see photographs from the day, please click here.

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