Yom Shlishi, 9 Iyyar 5775
Tuesday, 28 April 2015

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Rabbis Unite in Discussions About Food Poverty

In response to the rise in food poverty and issues surrounding the increased need for - and use of - foodbanks in the UK, Liberal and Reform rabbis wrote a joint letter to the Guardian. In it they expressed the need to think beyond foodbanks as a solution to poverty and hunger.

Their letter is below, or you can click here to read the full article. 

What do we need to do to get the government to listen and attend to the warnings of the archbishop of Canterbury concerning the shameful level of poverty endured by children and their families in the UK (Church v state rift over hunger, 8 December)?

As Jewish religious leaders, we share the archbishop’s concerns. We live in a time of gross injustice in which the rich are getting richer and the poor only becoming poorer. We watch with increasing incredulity phenomena such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, leading to overconsumption and waste, while too many others are forced into diluting milk or missing meals so that their children are able to eat.

We must think critically how changes to the benefits system are impacting on poor families, many of whom are in work yet do not earn enough to sustain themselves and their families. The answer lies not in creating more food banks, for these should never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British life. We must instead change the conditions which make food banks necessary.

Rabbi Alexandra Wright, Rabbi Charley Baginsky Rabbinic Conference, Liberal Judaism, Rabbi Sybil Sheridan Chair of the Assembly of Rabbis, Movement for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rachel Benjamin, Rabbi Miriam Berger, Rabbi Dr Barbara Borts, Rabbi Douglas Charing, Rabbi Cliff Cohen, Rabbi Howard Cooper, Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith, Rabbi Janet Darley, Rabbi Colin Eimer, Rabbi Helen Freeman, Rabbi Ariel J Friedlander, Rabbi Anna Gerrard, Rabbi Amanda Golby, Student Rabbi Naomi Goldman, Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, Rabbi Dr Michael Hilton, Rabbi Harry Jacobi, Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi, Rabbi Richard Jacobi, Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, Rabbi Yuval Keren, Rabbi Sandra Kviat, Rabbi Rachel Montagu, Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, Rabbi Jeffrey Newman, Rabbi Rebecca Qassim Birk, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Rabbi Dr Judith Rosen-Berry, Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild, Rabbi Irit Shillor, Cantor Gershon Silins, Rabbi Michael Standfield, Rabbi Jackie Tabick, Rabbi Pete Tobias, Rabbi Roderick Young, Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, Rabbi Dr Andrea Zanardo, Rabbi Kathleen Middleton, Rabbi Monique Mayer, Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah

Liberal Judaism to host landmark transgender project Twilight People

2nd December 2014

Liberal Judaism is proud to announce that the movement will host Twilight People: Stories of Gender and Faith Beyond the Binary – a new project supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Launched after a very successful Transgender Awareness Month, Twilight People is a landmark project that discovers and celebrates the hidden history of transgender and gender-variant people of faith in the UK past and present.

This collection will become the first source of faith and transgender history in Britain.

Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich said: “Liberal Judaism has always seen part of its mission to give voice to the unheard. Our hosting of the Twilight People project is yet a further example.”

Gender-nonconforming people have always existed in every culture and community, including religious communities, yet little is known about the people of faith who don't fit neatly into the binary categories of male and female.

Twilight People will explore the narratives around 'body and ritual', documenting the interconnection between faith and gender journeys.

The images and stories of more than 40 members of the various Abrahamic faith (and other) communities – Christian, Muslim and Jewish – will be documented by means of oral history, film and portrait photography.

The collated materials will be mapped, catalogued, deposited and shared with the wider audience via free and accessible channels including an archive collection, website, interactive digital hubs, touring exhibition, booklet, educational resource packs and other current learning tools.

A national symposium will be held in spring 2016 at the University of Warwick.

Other partners in the project include the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement, London Metropolitan Archives, Gendered intelligence and Islington Museum.

Rev Sharon Ferguson said: “Twilight People is a new and innovative idea that responds directly to the needs put forward by  gender-variant people of faith. This project will impact on interfaith and cross-community dialogue, enhancing inter and intra-community cohesion and connections in wider British society.”

Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence added: “There is very little discussion around gender variance across the wider community. More so regarding the ways in which religion and faith play a part in gender variance, and where it is discussed it is often seen as quite negative and unproductive.

“Consequently this timely and much-needed project seeks to redress some of this in the hope that it may ignite new discussions and perspectives, tackle stereotypes and instead grapple with our identities in more complex and meaningful ways.”

  • For more information please contact Twilight People project manager This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 
NLPS history recorded by London Metropolitan Archive

2nd December 2014

Alison Turner, archivist of Liberal Judaism, is very pleased to announce that the London Metropolitan Archive (LMA) have finished cataloguing the extensive collection of material from Liberal Judaism’s second-oldest congregation, North London Progressive Synagogue.

The papers, photographs and other materials cover the whole of the congregation’s life from its beginning in 1929 to its closure in 2002 and subsequent transfer of members to almost every other Liberal congregation in England.

The collection can be seen at the LMA in the City of London, though not all material is available for general access. There are photos of rabbis and members from the days of Reverend Dr Maurice L. Perlzweig, Viscount Reading, Dr R. Brasch, David Kossoff and Millie Miller to Rabbi Bernard Hooker, Rev Herbert Richer, Judith Fox and Eva Morrison, interiors of the old Belfast Road Synagogue in 1933 and the new synagogues in Amhurst Park, trips to Israel, services and festivals.

Papers include those related to administration, youth activities, burial scheme, finance, membership, meetings, synagogue magazines and newspaper cuttings.

There are also interviews with members and historical letters for 1937-1945. Overall it is a very full collection of one of the very few congregations to celebrate a 75th anniversary – and will be useful to researchers for many years to come.

Liberal Judaism are delighted that the LMA have given it a new home for the 21st century.

Further information and the full catalogue is available online at the LMA - please visit http://search.lma.gov.uk/opac_lma/index.htm and search for LMA/4659 under reference code.

Liberal Judaism Chief Executive praised in Lords debate

Liberal Judaism and Rabbi Danny Rich have been praised in a debate in the House of Lords.

During a discussion on ‘Religion and Belief: British Public Life’, Lord Haskel (Labour) quoted Liberal Judaism’s Chief Executive.

With many members of the chamber taking part, the debate covered the wide range of roles religion plays in today’s society.

Lord Haskel said: “I support liberal values. Indeed, I belong to the Liberal Jewish community - so I spoke to Rabbi Danny Rich, the senior rabbi and Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism.

“He agreed that faith-based organisations ought to be involved in social and political action, in accordance with adherent interpretations of their faith.

“Sensibly, he told me that he hoped that disagreements between and within faiths would be handled in accordance with Britain’s democratic values.

“Rabbinic decision-making is traditionally based on the view of a majority, after reasoned debate - but with the minority view being recorded, which means that we do not impose our views on others. Indeed, we try to be a blessing on others, as the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, has said.

“Rabbi Danny Rich and I both felt that the current system of civil and criminal law in the UK is satisfactory in relation to issues of religion and belief. We would prefer that religious courts did not involve themselves in the civil law, and that religious communities did not seek to use the civil law to solve issues that their own religious authorities do not have the courage or the will to resolve.

“For example, Liberal Judaism accepts civil divorce, in the sense of not requiring people to undergo any further religious divorce procedure. In the same way it accepts same-sex marriage, because it is the law of the land - and that is the way it should be.”

Selfless service and an enlightening trip to India

17th November 2014

By Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi

I have just spent a week in Amritsar, India, alongside Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu leaders and my Orthodox rabbinic colleague as part of the Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Group.

The trip was organised by the Birmingham Sikh community and their leader Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh who, as we discovered, was a revered leader throughout the Punjab. We were accompanied by 20 Sikh volunteers (Sewads) who cooked our meals and looked after our every need.

Amritsar is most famous for the Golden Temple and it is indeed beautiful; a point of tranquillity in a hectic and noisy city.

At first the Temple, with its devotees bowing down and its offerings, seemed a world away from a synagogue, but at its heart is the Holy Book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib. It is written in an ancient script and treated with reverence. The similarities with the honour we give to the Torah are striking.

During the week, we saw many beautiful Gurdwaras (Sikh Temples) in Amritsar, in remote Punjab villages and in the beautiful foothills of the Himalayas. In all, we saw their devotion to their Holy Book, which represented for them the word of God. I was moved by the devotion of the worshippers, who brought their children from a young age.

However, my strongest impression was not of scenery or buildings, but of the sense of service.

Pilgrims gladly volunteer at the kitchen at the Golden Temple. It provides thousands of meals every day, and has sent 100,000 meals to Kashmir following the earthquake there. Similar kitchens, on a smaller scale, are found at every Gurdwara and it is a religious duty to help in them and serve whoever comes to eat there. We were also moved by the sense of service of the Sewads who accompanied us.

With Mitzvah Day just gone, we can learn a great deal from Sikhs. The idea of selfless service is central to their way of life.

Mitzvah Day encouraged us to care for others for a day, but that is only a beginning. Judaism demands of us, too, a life of service, of carrying out mitzvot for the sake of others. May we be inspired to serve.

Rabbi Dr. Margaret Jacobi is rabbi at Birmingham Progressive Synagogue

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