Yom Shishi, 30 Tishri 5775
Friday, 24 October 2014

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Why I fasted for peace in the Middle East

By Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi
The Guardian, 16th July 2014

Like many people – Jews and non-Jews alike – I have been watching the events in Israel and Gaza unfold with horror. I am shocked at the deaths of so many Palestinians. At the same time, I feel for Israelis who are living in fear, with continual shelling. How can one respond in the face of all the complexities?

So when I received an email from Yachad, a British Jewish organisation that campaigns for peace through a two-state solution, about a worldwide fast to mourn the loss of life and express our hope for peace, it felt like the right thing to do. I had already been contemplating fasting. Along with other faith leaders, I was invited last night to an Iftar, the breaking of the day’s Ramadan fast, at Birmingham Central Mosque. It would have felt wrong to be breaking a fast without fasting.

At the same time, it is the Jewish Fast of Tammuz, the beginning of a three-week period of mourning for the siege of Jerusalem in the year 70. As a Progressive Jew I do not normally keep the fast, but yesterday there was ample cause for mourning: the loss of life, the suffering and the seemingly intractable conflict in Israel and Palestine. In joining a fast with the message of “Hungry for Peace” with hundreds of Jews and Muslims in this country, and across the world, we hope we sent the message that we yearn for peace and we mourn the loss of the life of every human being – Jew or Muslim, Israeli or Palestinian.  Read more


Rabbi Danny Rich responds to Geoffrey Alderman

From the letters page of the JC
10th July 2014

Dear Editor

Geoffrey Alderman (‘Shift from fads and whims’) correctly identifies that Liberal Judaism considers “righteousness in action” to be of more importance than matters of ritual, but goes on to quote highly selectively from me -and indeed (Reform) Rabbi Romain - to claim that Liberal Judaism is merely concerned with the “public mood” and “the times”.

Judaism has never stood still. Its history is one of continuity and change, and its genius is its capacity to take account of the people’s needs and to respond to change in knowledge and circumstances.  All strands of Judaism show evidence of constant development in belief and practice whether described as the ‘Oral Law’, the decisions of the sages, or something else.

Further, Alderman implies that the Liberal Jewish prioritization of the injunction ‘to seek’ justice is at odds with tradition and ritual.  The founders of Liberal Judaism sought to ensure that practice accorded with conscience and intelligence, and, if Liberal Jews are ‘becoming more traditional’, they are not doing so at the expense of Liberal Jewish leadership in, for example, matters of public policy including fair pay and quality training for those who care for the most vulnerable in our society and equal marriage.

It is the strength of Liberal Judaism that it confronts the challenges of our time, and, whilst valuing truth above tradition and human needs above legal technicalities, also encourages its adherents to sanctify their lives with the habit of study, the discipline of prayer and the performance of rituals of beauty and meaning.  It rejects cruel and discriminatory traditional practices of which mamzerut is one.

The belief that every person - man and woman, Jew and Muslim and, yes, straight and gay - is created in God’s image is not merely a reflection of the current public mood but a restatement of the core values of Judaism itself.

Rabbi Danny Rich
Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism

Booklog: Israel Mattuck

The JC
July 6th 2014

by Simon Rocker

Speaking out for Liberals

Rabbi Danny Rich,
Liberal Judaism, £4.99

Israel Mattuck was one of the three "M"s who shaped Liberal Judaism in the UK (alongside Claude Montefiore and Lily Montagu). Arriving from the USA in 1912, he established himself over the next 40 years as one of the leading preachers of his generation.

Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich has sifted through a fifth of Mattuck's 2,000 sermons to produce this compact introduction to his thought. In one respect, Mattuck was a traditionalist, regarding belief in and commitment to the service of God as the essence of

But elsewhere, the radicalism of classical American Reform shows in his elevation of prophetic ethics above ceremony: "ugly" rituals were not to be kept for the sake of sentimentality. For Mattuck, Jews were a religious community, not a nationality, hence his rejection of Zionism (a position which is shared by few Liberals today).

An ardent universalist, he believed that Judaism carried an enlightened "message for the world today". The modern movement's emphasis on social action is part of his legacy. Saturday morning shul was not a cosy club to escape the stresses of the week. Unafraid to bring politics into the pulpit when he felt religious values were at stake, he expressed sympathy for striking miners and hit out at slum landlords.

For anyone who wants to know more about a formative influence on Progressive thinking, this concise booklet is a good place to start. The sermons which are quoted in the publication can be read on www.israelmattuck.org in full.

You can order your copy of Israel Mattuck by clicking here.

Shnat Netzer – Reflections on a Journey

Last month, the Shnatties returned from an eight month adventure in Israel, exploring Liberal Jewish principles, practice and ideology, as well as a whole host of other exciting things. Here are some reflections from two of our Shnatties, Fran Kurlansky and Naomi Lane:

It is not possible for me to talk about my journey with Shnat Netzer without looking back to 2011, when I went on LJY-Netzer’s Israel tour. Having never been to Israel before, I was shocked at the connection I had felt. There was also an ideological rooting in my decision to join the program, which developed as I got older. I came to realise the importance, progressive Judaism within Israel, youth movements, Reform Zionism, Tikkun Olam, and the ability to make informed decisions and feel empowered.

LJY-Netzer has always provided me with a feeling of community. Until I came on Shnat I could not harness the feeling that was evoked within me when at Machaneh Kadimah. But now, as my year draws to a close, and I have lived within a Netzer community for 8 months, I realise that this feeling was one of belonging. I am part of a worldwide movement of young, progressive Jews, who share rituals, traditions, ideals, but most of all, who share a common goal in the bettering of the state of Israel. And that, along with the drive to pass this goal to future pioneers of Netzer, is the single most powerful thing in my life.

Shnat Netzer is about creating a group of people who eat, sleep, learn, talk, cry and laugh together, at all hours of the day. This is important because it creates bonds between Netzer sniffim and allows for the realisation that Netzer is worldwide, and we are all interconnected, not only as human beings, but as a movement. It is about the actualisation of Netzer’s three pillars: Reform Zionism, Progressive Judaism, Tikkun Olam, you are living and breathing Netzer for 8 months, everything you do is spurred by the ideology. Whether it is working on Kibbutz, volunteering in fields of Israel’s society that need development , or planning and running ma’amadim for each other. You are constantly surrounded by and implementing Netzer’s ideology. Moreover, it is about intellectual stimulation, your opinions and viewpoints are constantly challenged through your classes, as well as through conversations had over meals, early in the morning and late into the night. Lastly, it is about growth as a young adult as you learn to cook for 19 people at a time, keep your living space not only tidy but also clean, make sure you have enough clean clothes, and figure out how to travel in an unknown country.

I feel as though the power of the Liberal Jewish movement in the UK is flying below the radar. We have some of the most dedicated Jewish Leaders and Youth Leaders from across the UK and definitely some of the most active. The bogrim of LJY-Netzer are extremely active and will shape the future of our religion and society. We have a duty to create members with the education and hadracha skills to pass down the essence of our movement to younger generations. Shnat Netzer is a year of immersing and living out a progressive Jewish ideology in one of the most important and controversial places on earth for us. It has taught me more than I could ever have hoped.

You can read the whole report here: http://www.ljy-netzer.org/2014/06/shnat-netzer-201314-reflections-on-a-journey/

Reaction to killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir from Liberal Judaism

Further to his statement following the deaths of the three Israeli teenagers, Liberal Judaism's Chief Executive, Rabbi Danny Rich, has made the following statement about the killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir:

"Alongside the parents of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar, we now also share the grief of those of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, killed yesterday in the Jerusalem forest.

Although there are individuals and groups amongst both Israelis and Palestinians whose reaction is to call for revenge, my fear is that this may lead to dangerous communal responses.

It is beholden on all leaders both in Israel/Palestine and elsewhere to ensure that the response to these terrible murders is not violence and dehumanisation but a redoubling of efforts to seek peace and justice for all."

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