LJ Biennial Weekend 2023 – report and pictures

24 May 2023 – 4 Sivan 5783

Hundreds of Liberal Jews came together for the Biennial Weekend – reflecting on what matters most to them and using that to look ahead to a future unified with Reform Judaism.

The first major Liberal Judaism event held since the historic announcement that our movements would be creating one single Progressive Judaism, this was also the first in-person Biennial for five years.

In one of the weekend’s key moments, Liberal Judaism CEO Rabbi Charley Baginsky was joined by Reform CEO Rabbi Josh Levy to outline their vision for Progressive Judaism and the process ahead as the co-creation becomes a reality.

Paul Langsford, Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Ruth Seager and Rabbi Josh Levy

Paul Langsford, Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Ruth Seager and Rabbi Josh Levy

Rabbi Josh Levy told attendees: “This is a time that is calling out for Progressive religion. We live in a liberal and tolerant country and together we have a unique religious offering which speaks to that.

“There is a calling for us to create something different and be something different. This is our moment and we are best placed to do this if we do it together.”

Rabbi Charley Baginsky added: “Liberal and Reform Judaism today have more in common than we ever have in the past, but also we are also not trying to make a homogenous movement with no differences.

“There is an amazing breadth and diversity not just across the movements but within the movements – and that is one of the great strengths of Progressive Judaism.

“This is not a merger or a takeover – but our time and our opportunity to work together and build something new.”

Liberal Judaism Chair Ruth Seager then ran a joint session with Reform Judaism Co-Chair Paul Langsford where delegates could share their excitement, thoughts and feelings about this shared future.

Rabbi Larry Hoffman and Dr Joel Hoffman

Rabbi Larry Hoffman and Dr Joel Hoffman at Biennial

She said: “The Biennial was warm, engaging and meaningful. It was an amazing opportunity for us to learn, pray, laugh, dance, and eat together as Liberal Jews and also to be joined by Josh, Paul and our friends and partners from Reform Judaism – as we invite each other into our houses and show how much we both have to offer.

“People told me that they were excited that a single Progressive Judaism will have a strong voice and clear brand, and there is much that I will take away from the Biennial as we continue to develop this new movement.”

More than 200 people from 30 communities attended the Biennial Weekend in person, with a similar number watching via YouTube, Facebook and interacting live on Zoom. The theme of the conference was ‘LJ Matters’.

The event’s three keynote speakers all came from America, among a number of international guests.

In a candid address that resonated with everyone present, Rebecca Soffer – the co-founder and CEO of www.modernloss.com – explored meaningful, practical and often humorous ways to address loss and grief.

Rabbi Larry Hoffman and Dr Joel Hoffman delivered talks throughout the weekend, offering in-depth and highly entertaining insights into everything from the development of the Hebrew language to the future of prayer to all the bits that were cut out of the Bible.

Young Liberal Jews on the LJY-Netzer programme

Young Liberal Jews on the LJY-Netzer programme

The Biennial’s services saw rabbis and musicians from many different communities join together to showcase the best of Liberal Judaism in prayer and song.

Touching moments during Shabbat morning included a memorial for all those who had died since the last in-person Biennial and a rendition of happy birthday for 102-year-old Liberal Jew and Holocaust survivor Ruth Shire, who was watching from home on Zoom.

Speakers at the Biennial included Board of Deputies CEO Michael Wegier, Leo Baeck College principal Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris and the Co-Chairs of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors, Rabbis Rebecca Birk and René Pfertzel – as well as numerous Liberal Judaism rabbis, student rabbis and community leaders.

The weekend also featured an Emerging Leadership track, to develop the next generation of lay leaders, and a full programme of activities, talks and games for young Liberal Jews run by LJY-Netzer.

• Pictures by Richard Bloom / www.tigerpink.co.uk

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