Yom Shishi, 27 Tammuz 5774
Friday, 25 July 2014

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To tree or not to tree? That is the question

December 19th 2013
The JC

Celebrate, volunteer or avoid like the plague? Just what do Jews do over the Christmas holiday period?

Doing anything special on December 25? Christmas is a polarising time for UK Jews. Some enter enthusiastically into a secular celebration, sitting down with family and friends to a (kosher) turkey dinner, handing out presents and pulling crackers. Others get into the spirit of the season of goodwill by volunteering at a variety of charities. But, for many, it is a time to avoid — as much for the rampant commercialism as the religious connotations.

Among those who will be volunteering is Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich, who is maintaining his own Christmas tradition by chauffering the Kingston Mayor — this year Penny Shelton. “I’ve been driving the Mayor on Christmas Day for the past 15 years,” he explains. “It began when I was speaking to the Mayor’s driver, who told me that he couldn’t celebrate Christmas at home because he had to work. So I said I’d do it for him and have been doing it ever since.

“Every year, we visit a centre that gives lunch to the elderly. We sometimes go to the local radio station. This year, we’ll also be visiting the emergency services. It is what I’ve practised all my life. When I was a child, all my aunts got involved, doing whatever they could to make others’ lives easier.”

Born on December 25 — and with a mother named Mary — Kingston Liberal minister Rabbi Charley Baginsky can appreciate better than most the issues Jews face over Christmas, particularly in the smaller communities.

“In our shul in Surrey, most of our congregants’ children are the only Jewish kids in school. How do we deal with the reality that Christmas will permeate their lives? It’s a battle for people.

“How do you explain to your children that they are not going to get presents, or they can’t put lights up? We try as a synagogue to help parents articulate [their concerns] within the schools and remind them that not every child will be decorating their house or waiting for Father Christmas. It’s important that their child feels a part of his or her community, but also acknowledges that there is a difference.”  Read more

Race to hold first same-sex wedding is on

December 12th 2013
The JC

Liberal and Reform synagogues are lining up to hold the first same-sex Jewish wedding ceremony.

The government announced on Tuesday that, under new legislation, same-sex marriage services would take place in England and Wales from March 29, rather than from the summer as had been expected.

As the news was released, Liberal Judaism snapped into action, calling for couples intending to marry to get in touch.

An email, headed “Liberal Judaism begins search for first same sex Jewish marriage couple”, was dispatched, hot on the heels of the government’s announcement.

Sent by the movement’s spokesperson Alexandra Ben-Yehuda, it requested: “If you’re in a loving and committed same-sex Jewish couple and would like to tie the knot under our chupah, please contact alexandra@liberal Judaism.org.

She later told the JC: “We would be absolutely delighted if a suitable couple came forward.” Read more

Jewish world mourns Nelson Mandela

December 6th 2013
The JC

Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have joined world leaders in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela, who has died at the age of 95.

Mr Peres said: "The world has lost a great leader who changed the face of history. Nelson Mandela was a human rights fighter who made his mark on the war against discrimination and racism."

Mr Netanyahu said that Mr Mandela "was one of the outstanding figures of our time. He was the father of his nation, a man of vision, a fighter for freedom who avoided violence".

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, said: "Having visited South Africa both before and many times after the fall of apartheid the transformation is remarkable.

"Nelson Mandela is mainly responsible for the absence of bitterness and the genuine friendship which has grown up between former enemies. His is an inspiring example."  Read more

Search for first same sex Jewish marriage couple begins

10th December 2013

Liberal Judaism has started its search for the first ever same sex couple to marry under a chuppah. The search comes hot on the heels of the Government's announcement this afternoon that marriage will be equal in England and Wales from 29th March 2014.

If you're in a loving and committed same sex Jewish couple and would like to tie the knot under our chuppah, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

We are proud to have been part of this historic fight for justice right from the start, working closely with Unitarians and Quakers in Britain, and later, with the Movement for Reform Judaism.

Until March 2014, marriage will continue to be segregated in England and Wales, with our rabbis banned from solemnising loving same sex Jewish marriages and couples forced to hold two separate ceremonies - one legal and one religious.

For more information on our stance on equality, please click here.

LJ Officer Gillian Merron Addresses Chanukah in the Square

Liberal Judaism's Officer, former Government minister, and Lincolnshire Jewish Community member, Gillian Merron, joined Boris Johnson and Orthodox Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in addressing over 5,000 people at Chanukah in the Square in London on Thursday 28th November.

Gillian gave voice to the Jewish community's pride in being part of the "rich tapestry of life in London and across the UK." You can hear the rest of her speech, as well as watch highlights from Chanukah in the Square, below.

This year's Chanukah in the Square, which takes place in Trafalgar Square, featured Europe's largest ever menorah, and was organised by the Jewish Leadership Council, the London Jewish Forum and Chabad-Lubavitch UK, and supported by the Mayor of London. For more photos and information about Chanukah in the Square, visit the Jewish News website.

Reflecting on the event, Gillian said: "It was a true honour, and a pleasure, to be such a part of such a wonderful occasion to light the fabulous menorah in Trafalgar Square. My late parents could never have dreamt that it would be possible for their daughter to speak up for the Jewish community as a Vice President of the Jewish Leadership Council, alongside  the Mayor of London and the Orthodox Chief Rabbi. I know that it has become possible, because of the 'home' and support that Liberal Judaism and my Lincoln community give to me."

Gillian was speaking as Vice President of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), of which Liberal Judaism is a constituent member. Our chairman, Lucian J. Hudson, serves on the JLC Council of Membership.

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