Biennial: A showcase of what Liberal Judaism is all about

14 January 2021 – 1 Shevat 5781
Biennial 2021 - Breaking Down Walls

Rabbi Leah Jordan on what’s in store at the Liberal Judaism Biennial Weekend:

In response to the challenges of this year, Liberal Judaism’s Biennial Weekend 2021 – which will take place online from Friday 30 April to Sunday 2 May – promises to be something special and unique.

At this past year’s Biennial, moved online in the heart of the first lockdown, we learned we really could do an all-digital conference… and do it well. And we learned too that it has its advantages.

Now, with more time to plan to those strengths, we are doubling down on the silver linings. We will have speakers and participants from all over the world and use technology to engage and innovate. As Co-Chair, I can promise that Biennial 2021 will be more accessible, inclusive and interesting than ever.

And our theme of Breaking Down Walls means we can really show what Liberal Judaism is all about and what it is good at.
We will showcase how our movement creates space for the most diverse and interesting sort of Jewish community – one built on the values of progressivism and inclusion that have been at the heart of Liberal Judaism since its founding almost 120 years ago.

In true Jewish fashion, we will also hold ourselves to account to do better, to continue to push that horizon and build sustainable change within our Jewish spaces for the 21st century.

This year’s Biennial Committee is working hard to reflect a diverse, inclusive, forward-thinking Liberal identity in as many ways as possible, so that we truly reflect Jewish life as it is.

Owen Power is my inestimable Co-Chair in that endeavour. Owen self identifies as a D/deaf queer Liberal Jew and a campaigner against antisemitism, homophobia and any kind of hate. He is especially passionate about challenging the exclusion of D/deaf people from participating in their communities due to thoughtlessness and prejudice. He brings that critical lens to every bit of work he does more broadly within our communities and for the Biennial.

The Biennial Committee also includes Omar Portillo, wearing his hat as Chair of the Action Group on Black Jews and Jews of Colour Inclusivity in the Liberal Jewish Community.

“The Jewish community is a rich multi-ethnic international community,” Omar reminds us. “Our Jewish scriptures teach us that we came out of Egypt in our mixed multitudes and as a diverse nation. All Jews stood together at Sinai in all of our diversity.

“Yet despite our diverse histories, this is sadly not reflected within our national Jewish organisations and denominations. Liberal Judaism has long been at the cutting edge of British Judaism. However, we are falling short with our members who are black Jews or Jews of colour and this group is a key step in changing that.”

The Committee also includes Liberal Jewish youth leaders in their late teens and early twenties; involved LJ members whose best skills are communications and technology, which will be the engine of this all-digital Biennial; and chairs and rabbis of some of our biggest flagship synagogues, as well as some of our more grassroots communities.

Because we will be all digital, we will also be able to showcase our communities by literally ‘Zooming’ to them throughout the weekend, in prayer services and outside of it, right across the UK and Europe. We will see them all in action, whilst participating from the comfort of our own homes.

This year we are committed to putting on a Biennial Weekend that uplifts the true diversity of Jewish voices and to put on a truly content-rich and thought-provoking weekend. Biennial 2021 aims to celebrate, as our Co-Chair Owen puts it, “inclusion in action”.
If you want a weekend of stimulating discussion, fun activities and a focus on how to create a sustainable and truly multi-faceted Jewish community then please join us. We will be posting booking details soon.

  • Rabbi Leah Jordan is Co-Chair of the Biennial Weekend 2021 Committee.

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