New Chairs for the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors


23 December 2020 – 8 Tevet 5781
Rabbi Rebecca Birk and Rabbi Dr René Pfertzel

Rabbi Rebecca Birk and Rabbi René Pfertzel are the new Chairs of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors (CoLRaC).

Rebecca has served Finchley Progressive Synagogue for the last 10 years. She loves liturgy and Torah and in particular sharing both. She brings a commitment to social justice, as well as a profound appreciation of the members and friends of our communities. Rebecca was featured in the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 list, with the paper naming her as one of London’s most influential people after she led a campaign to persuade Barnet Council to take in refugees.

Rebecca said: “It’s an honour to co-lead CoLRaC and work so closely with colleagues and Liberal Judaism – both so important to my life as a rabbi. René and I can’t wait to begin work, particularly given these strange times.”

René is the rabbi of Kingston Liberal Synagogue. Originally from France, he came to the UK to train as a Progressive rabbi at Leo Baeck College. He has worked in Liberal communities since his ordination in 2014 and is also the Chair of the European Union for Progressive Judaism Rabbinic Association.

He said: “I am very much looking forward to working alongside a colleague and friend in Rebecca, and serving our Rabbinical and Cantorial Association. Liberal Judaism has opened a new page in its history, with a new leadership, and I am very excited to be part of it.”

Rebecca and René take over from Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, whose time as CoLRaC Chair saw many groundbreaking moves around diversity and inclusion. Aaron said: “My life, my rabbinate and I hope, in a little way, Liberal Judaism have been enriched by this experience.”

In a joint message, Rebecca and René also sent warm congratulations to Rabbi Charley Baginsky and Shelley Shocolinsky-Dwyer on their appointment as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operations Officer on Liberal Judaism.

They said: “On behalf of our colleagues within CoLRaC we offer many congratulations. Charley and Shelley both bring huge skills and experience to their roles, as well as an infectious devotion to Liberal Judaism. We rabbis look forward to a close partnership with them.

“Our movement has a strong tradition of shared leadership with its rabbis and lay leaders and we feel honoured to take up the reins of CoLRaC at this time, to support and work with the new leadership team.”

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