Liberal communities celebrate International Women’s Day

International Women's Day at East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue

9 March 2020

Liberal Judaism communities put on special events and services this weekend to mark International Women’s Day.

At East London & Essex Liberal Synagogue (ELELS), members of the Rosh Chodesh Group – a female group that meets at the beginning of each new month – led a Shabbat service and study session (pictured above). All readings and songs were written/composed by Jewish females, including We All Stood Together, by Jewish author and educator Merle Feld, and Me Too by Devon Spier, an American student rabbi. A discussion around Tamar and her role in the Torah followed.

Merle Muswell – part of the Rosh Chodesh Group and one of the synagogue’s two ‘Ask Me’ ambassadors for Jewish Women’s Aid – said: “It was an interesting and inspiring service. ELELS is blessed to have such learned and inspirational female lay leaders.”

Over at Kingston Liberal Synagogue (KLS), the community welcomed members of the local Jewish/Muslim Women’s Network, Nisa-Nashim, to attend a service to mark the day.

Nisa-Nashim is a national organisation established in 2015 with the aim of bringing the Jewish and Muslim communities in Britain closer together by setting up groups of women who build personal friendships, grow as leaders and benefit wider society through various programmes and initiatives. The South West London Group consists of about 20 women, including KLS members, who meet three or four times a year to undertake various social action projects and host social events. Over the past 12 months the group has cooked together at a shelter for the homeless, visited local mosques and synagogues and held ‘pot-luck’ lunches.

International Women's Day at Kingston Liberal Synagogue

The co-chairs of the group, Adele Hetherington (Jewish) and Fareeda Bader (Muslim), each spoke about their involvement in the group. Adele spoke about how they had formed a proper friendship with each other, and had met each other’s’ families. Fareeda spoke about how being involved in the group had led to her becoming friends with members of the Jewish community whom she otherwise would never have met.

Both women talked about how the group fosters celebration of differences and an increase of trust between the two communities – and also both explained how they had been struck by the number of similarities between the two religions, not least a shared love of food!

Fareeda, who had never attended a service in a synagogue before, said: “We received such a warm welcome. Listening to the service, I was also struck by many ideas which are familiar to my faith. It was a wonderful morning”.

Speaking after the service, Rabbi René Pfertzel (pictured left with the group) added: “What an amazing group of women! It’s been so inspiring to see the evident friendships between these women, who may not have otherwise met – and to see how these friendships really help build bridges between two communities who, ultimately, have so much in common.”


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