[Comment] Rabbi Rebecca Birk – why I am a proud Liberal Jew


12 May 2022 – 11 Iyyar 5782
Rabbi Rebecca Birk

By Rabbi Rebecca Birk

I wasn’t born into Liberal Judaism. I have truly chosen it for me, and then of course for my family. My parents, who were Orthodox, even chose it too.

There are so many reasons why I admire the lineage of proud, curious Jews who wanted their heritage to be comprehensive, accessible and inspiring.

Maybe it was Lily Montagu’s plea for women to come down from the balconies in the early 1900s. Maybe it was Rabbi Harry Jacobi, spiritual Jew and committed activist, becoming urgently involved to fight the cause of the refugee children – speaking on their behalf, visiting the camps, lobbying and kvetching to try to see justice being done.

Or maybe it was Rabbi John Rayner, my much revered teacher at Leo Baeck College stating definitively and oh so persuasively “the past shall have a vote and not a veto”. Or Rabbi Alexandra Wright, who brought Liberal Jewish leadership alive for me.

Yes I’m a Jew first and then a Liberal Jew but what a legacy of Liberal values to inherit.

I’ve watched my children navigate a sense of belonging and encouragement from their youth movement, LJY-Netzer. I have watched my teachers and those who’ve gone before me invest time and thoughtfulness in this legacy of Judaism and the contemporary Anglo version of Liberal Jewishness we all share now in our community.

In the early years Hebrew was marginalised. Emotive and informal worship straightened out into something more decorous. But, and I see this as a great strength, over the past 120 years we’ve seen the need and desire for something different and so FPS along with other Liberal synagogues has adapted the early mores of the Jewish Religious Union, as was, and had the courage to change and develop customs as we have all grown these past century or so.

That’s why I am a proud Liberal Jew and a proud rabbi of a Liberal synagogue.

And I see how important it has been to all the families that find us and it becomes part of their Jewish story too.

We need to support and celebrate with the mothership, Liberal Judaism I mean. So consider joining me at our Day of Celebration on Sunday 22 May. We have much to be proud of. Anish Kapoor may even be there.

Get your Day of Celebration tickets here.

  • Rabbi Rebecca Birk is rabbi at Finchley Progressive Synagogue (FPS) and Co-Chair of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors

Share this Post