The advance of Progressive Judaism

Simon Benscher
20 April 2016

Life at Liberal Judaism is never boring, and can be full of interesting surprises. From the precise moment I made the mistake of publicly declaring that our movement’s previous chair, Lucian J Hudson, had possibly overstated the time and commitment required for the role, it all seemed to go crazy.

Our communities are at the heart of Liberal Judaism and their continued success is Liberal Judaism’s success.

Along with Rabbi Danny Rich, Liberal Judaism’s senior rabbi, I have been visiting as many congregations as possible. We are committed to even closer engagement and interaction, learning about each community as every single one has individual challenges, as well as opportunities.

I am also delighted to see so many Liberal Judaism officers and rabbis working on the Alliance for Progressive Judaism with the Movement for Reform Judaism. This project allows the two sister movements to retain their distinctive identities while achieving more together than each could on its own.

The full Alliance group meets regularly, and we have now been joined by Leo Baeck College as a partner, a living symbol of how much both movements stand to gain from collaboration. There are also informal and smaller meetings, as we seek to develop closer personal links, and to build upon the far-reaching work that Lucian started. Values and a sense of purpose drive such initiatives, but it is building and deepening relationships that make them work.

We have appointed Rabbi Charley Baginsky as the Alliance coordinator, and characteristically she has hit the ground running. Charley’s role gives us a practical way of spotting and acting on opportunities to advance Progressive Judaism and harness the combined strengths of our two movements.

Liberal Judaism’s standing and profile within the Jewish community as a whole has also increased in recent years. One way to sustain that reputation is by demonstrating support for other Jewish organisations and building a better shared understanding. Lucian has often said how much a chair can learn doing the job, and I am learning a lot from getting to know other community leaders.

Finally, it is with excitement that I note Liberal Judaism’s showcase event, the Biennial Weekend, is getting closer. Taking place from July 1-3, the Biennial is the most wonderful opportunity for us to socialise, eat, study, eat and worship together (and did I mention, eat?).

The organising committee is in full swing, with a very exciting programme. We want the Biennial to bring together the different generations that make up our marvellous movement and generate fresh ideas and perspectives. It is also an opportunity for us to celebrate our achievements at every level, and build an even more successful movement, now and for years to come.

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