Shirei met Chagigah and welcomed in the future

21 March 2024 – 11 Adar II 5784

Uplifting, joyous, meaningful, and musical were some of the comments at the end of the Movement for Reform Judaism’s flagship event, Shirei meets Chagigah.

It was an all-singing, all-learning four days away with rabbis, cantors, leaders, community members, and speakers from around the world, all coming together to enjoy and immerse themselves with all aspects of Reform and Progressive Judaism.

There was a full contingent of 185 attendees. A wide ranging programme offered plenty of choice to keep everyone engaged, within a unique atmosphere of joy, learning, and friendship that will be remembered for some time to come.

There were opportunities to discuss the situation in Israel from Jewish thought to the relationship with the Jewish state today. Delegates were given space to be together, to talk freely and to share their hopes and fears.

One of the highlights of Shirei meets Chagigah was a special simcha service for the new Reform Judaism Machzor. Ten years in the making, the two new volumes are written using inclusive language to reflect the nature of prayer for modern times.

The joint editor, Rabbi Paul Freedman, took particular delight in parading the volume on its very first public appearance.

Another highlight saw Rabbi Dr. Andrew Goldstein and Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain MBE deliver a fascinating history of the UK’s Reform and Liberal movements, which underlined why the Movements are now working to create Progressive Judaism.

Speakers at the event included the co-Leads of Progressive Judaism, Rabbis Josh Levy and Charley Baginsky. They were joined by MRJ Chair Paul Langsford and LJ Chair Karen Newman.

Paul said: “The weekend was a huge success. Everyone who attended had a great time and there was a wonderful blend of music, learning and spending time together.”

Karen added: “I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome I received as Liberal Judaism Chair, and hugely encouraged by the enthusiasm for our working together to bring to fruition the Progressive Judaism project.”

Sarita Robinson – MRJ’s Director of Community Partnership who was instrumental in putting the weekend together said: “All the hard work was worth it to see the joy as new friendships were forged and ideas shared. There really was something for everyone, delivered with enthusiasm by our talented Clergy and lay leaders.”

It was a fitting finale for Reform Chagigah as the next one will be under the banner of Progressive Judaism. The comments left by members on their way out summed it all up.  “I felt uplifted particularly by the beautiful Shabbat service,” wrote one.

“It is the individual connections which I will take away as special memories,” commented another.

And it was clearly a time to meet old friends, summed up by the member who said; “It was so special to catch up with people across the country who we hadn’t seen since Covid.”

Whilst a final post revealed: “Amazingly, I found a cousin who I haven’t seen since I was about nine years old!”

Photographer: Simon of