A word from our keynote speaker Rabbi Danny Freedlander

1 March 2018 – 14 Adar 5778

Rabbi Danny Freedlander
May 2017
World Union of Progressive Judaism Conference

“From the beginning, Judaism has evolved. From the Judaism of Abraham and Sarah to the Judaism of Moses and Miriam. From the heritage of the wilderness to the future of the Promised Land. From the priestly cult of the Second Temple to the synagogues of Rabbinic Judaism. From Torah to Talmud, and Talmud to responsa, and responsa to enlightenment. From slavery to full gender and egalitarian equality.

We have seen two thousand years of creative adaptation – not merely to survive, but two thousand years of creative adaptation to make a difference in the world. To live knowing and demonstrating that each life matters, that each person is holy. To absorb the new wisdom of each era, and then grow into more than we were a generation earlier.

We are the rishonim and tanaaim of our time. We are the Israel Jacobsons and Abraham Geigers. We are the inheritors of the imperative for innovation. When we look back, we do so in order to look ahead. We do not merely perpetuate the past. We are not rule enforcers, afraid of experiment and change.

We are inventors, engineers and entrepreneurs – the essential Jewish risk takers of the 21st century.

Our WUPJ congregations must lead the whole of the Jewish people, not merely our own Progressive Jews. We must move forward, dream and innovate. We are the ones to guide the Jewish people into the future because our theology, our philosophy and our way of life resonates with profound meaning and integrity.

In Jewish life what counts is what we do; how we enact our values and ethics every day. Bloodline merely defines inheritance. Choice inspires the future.

Progressive Judaism must champion that one’s lifestyle trumps one’s bloodline. We must publicly promote conversion, and we must also embrace our non-Jewish families. We must market publicly, resoundingly and proudly that non-Jewish spouses are welcome fully in our synagogue life.

We need to decide whether we want to increase our membership base, or make it more difficult for intermarried Jews to consider participating in our congregations.

Some of our communities have addressed this on a policy level, but not yet really proclaimed it through public marketing. Our ambivalent attitudes show the truth… that we’re demonstrating a kind of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’.

What are we afraid of? Let’s stop looking over our shoulders and start to look forward instead. We must trust that we have the wisdom and the experience. Trust our proud heritage of innovation.

We must open our doors as widely as possible. That way anyone who enters will want to help us further our powerful and impactful vision of a meaningful Jewish life in today’s world.”
[This is an extract of Rabbi Freedlander’s speech from the 2017 World Union of Progressive Judaism Conference.]
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