Away from home: conferences and Kallah

Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein
1 January 2016

This year will see two important conferences held in the UK – that of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) in April in London and then the Liberal Judaism Biennial Weekend in Solihull in July.

Both are opportunities to meet Jews from a range of communities in this country and Europe, learn new ideas and, above all, get that injection of enthusiasm on offer when we meet residentially for a few days. Then there is the social interaction that, frankly, is often more important than the actual programme.

I hope to see you at one or both of these – so please do register now. The details of the Liberal Judaism Biennial are directly below this article. For more on the EUPJ event, go to

As I write this, I have just arrived at another annual residential – Liberal Judaism’s Rabbinic Kallah. By the way, the name Kallah has nothing to do with the Hebrew word for a bride, but goes back to the rabbinic gatherings instituted in Babylon in the third century. It is said that they often lasted for two months with thousands of rabbis in attendance.

This modern Kallah – alas only 20 of us meeting for three days – sees discussions around aspects of prayer and the Liberal liturgy; further preparation to considering a new siddur. No doubt the ancient Babylonian gatherings also had their social aspects, as will our Kallah and forthcoming conferences.

I recall one Kallah, decades ago, held at a monastery in Shropshire. My car broke down on the way up and when I arrived, in the late afternoon, it was already dark.

The monastery was sited in a former baronial mansion and I entered to find my colleagues seated around a blazing fire in a huge hall. It seemed impressive, but I soon realised that only the two nearest the fire kept warm, everyone else froze, but all seemed happy.

Then came dinner and, I do not exaggerate, it consisted of one poached egg on half a piece of toast. We protested but the monks said we had eaten our main meal (which I missed) at lunch time.

Well this was not acceptable to a bunch of rabbis and so the late Rabbi Lawrence Rigal was sent off, on his scooter, to find a fish and chip shop – returning with some life-saving food.

This year we are once more at Charney Manor in Oxfordshire. The only problem is that there is too much good food on offer. It’s not easy being a Liberal rabbi!

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