More than 180 Progressive Jews came together to discuss care, community and social justice at the Liberal Judaism Day of Celebration.

The movement’s flagship event of 2019 had the theme of ‘If I am only for myself’ and focused on how to meet the desire and need to care for oneself, the congregation and wider society with limited resources.

Held at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue – and attended by members of 27 Liberal and two Reform communities – the event’s keynote was a discussion between Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge and Jean Gaffin OBE, a distinguished figure within British healthcare.

They spoke about everything from intergenerational inequality to their pioneering work in care to the importance of having women in leadership positions. Margaret Hodge also recounted her battles with racists in both the BNP and her own party, promising: “I will always continue to call out and fight antisemitism in Labour and anywhere it rears its head.”

Throughout the day there were 19 sessions for delegates to choose from covering a diverse range of topics such as teenage mental health, social work, death and mourning, the experiences of carers, including those with additional needs, and creating a volunteer culture.

There were also singing and dancing workshops and a parallel programme of LJY-Netzer youth activities including art, games and a ‘Kindness Olympics’.

Sessions were presented by Liberal rabbis and leaders, as well as representatives from the Israeli Embassy, Limmud, Citizens UK, Norwood, Jewish Care, Jami, JVN and the Paperweight Trust.

Over lunch, in a first for Liberal Judaism, delegates were able to vote on what they would like to see as the movement’s next big social justice campaign – with the choices being climate change, child poverty, disability and inclusion, domestic violence and dignity in dying. The result will be announced next month.

Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships Rabbi Charley Baginsky said: “There is perhaps no greater area of concern within our congregations than that of how we care for our members and how we can use our positive influence on the wider community. The Day of Celebration tackled these vital questions, while providing the opportunity to celebrate both voices that too often do not get heard and the incredible work that is being done within our congregations already.

“Liberal Judaism may be a small movement but we are, without question, an impressive and dedicated one with the potential to leave the world a better place because we were here.”

The Day of Celebration concluded with the graduation of the latest cohort from Liberal Judaism’s Ba’alei Tefillah lay leadership programme, the announcement of the winners of the LAFTAs competition for short films on Judaism made by Liberal religion schools and a performance from some of the session leaders from the Day of Music, held the previous day at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue.

The final prayer and address was given by Rabbi Richard Jacobi, who noted the first choice to close the day was his father Rabbi Harry Jacobi MBE who died in April.

Reflecting on the event, Richard said: “The rabbis debated why the Torah ends, spoiler alert, without the Jews getting to the Promised Land and then we wind the scroll back and start again at the beginning.

“One possible reason was that getting to live in houses you did not build and eating food you did not grow makes us complacent and lazy. Then we stop trying to be better. The message for us is to strive always to be better, a better Liberal Jew, better every day at whatever you are.”