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Introducing Liberal Judaism’s month of giving

23rd September 2014

Rabbi Pete Tobias launches Liberal Judaism’s month of giving, by asking what would Maimonides do…

If Facebook had been around in 12th Century Spain, Jewish philosopher Maimonides would have been appalled at the spate of video clips posted there, depicting individuals being doused by buckets of ice cold water.

These drenched people were responding to challenges made by their ‘friends’ to be soaked, in order to raise awareness of the disease Amotryphic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and subsequently to donate to a charity supporting research into it.

It wouldn’t just be the gratuitous waste of a vital resource that would trouble this Jewish sage. His concern would be that these acts, displayed for the entire world to see, purported to be for a charitable cause.

Chances are that Maimonides wouldn’t know what ALS stood for, though as a physician, he would no doubt have applauded efforts to raise awareness about it and encourage research into it. But as a means of raising charitable funds, the Ice Bucket Challenge would have come fairly low down his list of eight degrees of charity.

That list – which can be read at www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Levels_of_Giving.html - offers different ways of giving charity. These range from the lowest level, where donations are given begrudgingly, via different stages relating to the identity of the donor and recipient, up to the highest level, where one anonymously offers support to a person before they become needy by providing resources to enable them to become self-sufficient.

The lack of anonymity, which could be regarded as self-promotion, would, for Maimonides, have undermined any charitable intent of those accepting the Ice Bucket Challenge. Indeed a significant percentage of those seen dousing themselves on Facebook did not even make a donation to ALS.

However he would have been relieved, and his faith in humanity restored, when he checked his Twitter account, to receive a tweet challenging him to ‘quietly set up a monthly direct debit to a charitable cause’.

Pete Tobias is rabbi at The Liberal Synagogue Elstree

 
Media coverage of the new alliance for Progressive Judaism

We have received lots of media coverage this week about the announcement of our launch, with the Movement for Reform Judaism, of an alliance for Progressive Judaism. 

Jewish Chronicle
The Reform and Liberal movements have agreed a formal alliance, pledging greater co-operation in order to strengthen the overall Progressive presence within the community.

Although merger talks took place between the two movements 30 years ago, they have never been reopened.

Now, leaders believe closer ties will give them more scope to reach out to the growing pool of secular and unaffiliated Jews. Liberal Judaism chairman Lucian Hudson has long advocated closer collaboration.  Read more

Jewish News
Liberal and Reform Judaism have launched “an alliance” to speak for one-in-three synagogue-affiliated Jews in the UK.

The deal encompasses a total of 82 progressive Jewish communities.

Leaders of both movements said they would aim to build on their growth by “reaching out to British Jews who describe themselves as secular, cultural or just Jewish”. Read more

The Times (copy)
Orthodox Judaism in Britain is “withering” as it is caught between modernisation and religious conservatism, a study has found.

Some Jewish progressives believe their numbers could overtake the Orthodox mainstream within a generation as thousands of traditional Jews switch to more liberal movements, while a surge in the numbers of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, is radically altering the faith’s composition.  Read more

WUPJ
http://www.wupj.org/Publications/Newsletter.asp?ContentID=877#BREAKING

 
The Times: Orthodox faith wanes as Jews quit middle ground

22nd September 2014

This story is taken from today’s edition of The Times - http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/faith/article4213635.ece

By Oliver Moody

Orthodox Judaism in Britain is “withering” as it is caught between modernisation and religious conservatism, a study has found.

Some Jewish progressives believe their numbers could overtake the Orthodox mainstream within a generation as thousands of traditional Jews switch to more liberal movements, while a surge in the numbers of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, is radically altering the faith’s composition.

Previously unreported statistics from a survey of more than 3,700 Jews last year by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), a think-tank, show the scale of the change. Only 26 per cent of British Jews identify themselves as “traditional” — a term usually used to denote conventional Orthodox Judaism — although 40 per cent said they had been raised that way.

This represented a decline from a similar study carried out a decade before, which found that 37 per cent said they were traditional Jews, and 53 per cent had been brought up in that strand of the faith.

“The loss of one in three formerly traditional adherents has broader significance than the withering of the formerly dominant category,” the report’s authors wrote. “This switch away from traditional is suggestive of a shakeout of the middle ground within the British Jewish community.”

David Graham, a senior research fellow at the JPR, also pointed to the “phenomenal” growth of ultra-conservative movements such as the Haredim. “We’re seeing a huge polarisation with a major push to the religious right through high birth rates, and a shift to the left where formerly traditional and formerly reform Jews are increasingly identifying as cultural,” he said.

Almost half of those born into traditional Judaism “switched away”, with 33 per cent shifting to progressive or “cultural” strands, and 13 per cent moving to more conservative groups.

United Synagogue, long viewed as the main voice of British Jewry, is now thought to account for fewer than half of those who claim to be Jewish and, according to the JPR analysis, is likely to be outnumbered by secular Jews soon. Last week Liberal Judaism and the Movement for Reform Judaism announced a reformist alliance that will represent around a third of the UK’s observant Jews.

Rabbi Danny Rich, the chief executive of Liberal Judaism, said that he believed many Jews had turned away from organised religion because they were “dissatisfied” with its strictures.

“We’re conscious that many Jews are leaving the religious community altogether; large numbers of them are not attuned to Orthodox Judaism and we want to offer them a religious, modern alternative.”

 
Liberal and Reform movements launch alliance for Progressive Judaism

17th September 2014

Liberal Judaism (LJ) and the Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ) have today announced an alliance between their two movements. Together already accounting for nearly a third of synagogue-affiliated Jews, with 82 communities, the UK’s two Progressive movements are seeking to capitalise on the 30% growth in those identifying themselves as sharing their values, according to the recent JPR studies of Jewish communal attitudes.

The alliance will see an expansion of collaboration between the two movements in areas such as student chaplaincy, social justice and social action. It could also involve a strengthening of existing joint work such as rabbinic training, gap year programming and representation on Israel, cross-communal and other institutions. The alliance will see a sharing of resources and expertise across the two movements, wherever practical.

Liberal and Reform leaders stress that this is not a merger and that the two movements will retain their autonomy and distinct identities. The synagogues will remain constituent members of their respective movements practicing Judaism in the way that is most meaningful to them but the movements will unashamedly work together to speak for and reach out to the third of British Jews who describe themselves as secular, cultural or “just Jewish”.

Commenting on the alliance, Liberal Judaism’s Chief Executive, Rabbi Danny Rich, says: “The biggest dividing line in British Jewry is no longer Orthodox or Progressive, but religiously engaged or secular.  We believe that, together, the two movements can provide an outward-looking, modern and relevant alternative to a merely secular form of Judaism, which could otherwise become the primary expression of Judaism within a couple of generations.”

Senior Rabbi to the Reform Movement, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, says: “There is so much more that unites the Reform and Liberal movements than divides us.  The more we can cooperate, the stronger our voice and the stronger the expression of the core values we share in common: inclusiveness, integrity and informed choice.  These are the values which our movements believe will enable Judaism to survive and thrive in the 21st Century.”

 
Liberal Judaism Lectionary 5775/76

The Liberal Judaism Lectionary for 5775/76 is now available.

The Lectionary is a guide to recommended Torah & Haftarah readings for Shabbat, Festivals and special Shabbatot.

You can download/print by clicking here 

 
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