LJ Today Jul/Aug 2024

Page 1


Supporting and learning from our Israeli partners

THE Co-Leads of Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Charley Baginsky and Rabbi Josh Levy, spent a week in Israel meeting civic and Progressive Jewish leaders.

They spent time with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, historian and writer Fania Oz-Salzberger, Deputy Chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency Yaron Shavit and leaders and colleagues from the Israel Movement for Reform & Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), World Union for Progressive Judaism and Hebrew Union College.

Two key meetings were with Rabbi Gilad Kariv – former CEO of the IMPJ and current member of the Knesset –and Rabbi Yael Vurgan, whose Reform community was devastated by the 7 October terrorist attacks and who has led many of the funerals held for the victims.

Rabbis Charley and Josh also joined colleagues from the IMPJ and IRAC on the Jerusalem Interfaith March for Human Rights and Peace.

Rabbi Josh said: “Meeting with the President gave us the chance to discuss the current situation in Israel and Gaza, and share the experiences and conversations happening in our communities. We were also able to speak about the exciting future that is Progressive Judaism in the UK.

“But our really significant meetings were in getting to see the amazing work being done by so many people, in a deep and engaged way, to think about how Israel/Palestine can look different.

“These actions are not currently being seen by others. Therefore our job, now, is to raise up these voices and the inspiring work that is being done.”

Rabbi Charley added: “We have come back with two takeaways. The first is that we have strengthened and deepened our bonds with our Progressive partners in Israel, especially those who suffered so much on, and since, 7 October.

“The other is a sense that we now have to write the narrative. The world that we live in, and encounter, in regards

to Israel/Palestine is often one that is imposed on us and not one that we take control of. We need to better articulate our relationship.

“It is often asked where we can find hope for the future of Israel. The people who we met gave us a glimpse.”

Raising awareness of those still being held hostage by Hamas was also a key part of the trip, as well as Progressive Judaism’s ongoing work in the UK.

Members of our communities were among the 40,000 people marching through London, calling for the hostages to be released. They have also been taking part in vigils around the UK.

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith represented our movements at the London event, where he recited the closing prayer – while holding aloft a picture of Keith Siegel, who is still held captive.

Rabbi Mark said: “The atmosphere of the march was full of love, support and solidarity. As we passed buses and cars, we often heard and saw gestures of support and understanding.”

Rabbis Charley Baginsky and Josh Levy with colleagues from the Israel Movement for Reform and
Progressive Judaism on the Jerusalem Interfaith Peace March, and meeting with Israeli leaders including President Isaac Herzog and historian and activist Fania Oz-Salzberger

B’nei Mitzvah programme now open across Progressive Judaism

WE are pleased to announce that the Kivunim National B’nei Mitzvah programme is now open to all young people from small and medium-sized Liberal and Reform communities.

The Movement Reform Judaism has been running the acclaimed programme, for school years 7 and 8, for some time. As we create one unified Progressive Jewish movement, this exciting opportunity is now available to Liberal Jewish communities as well.

The friendly and supportive programme brings young Progressive Jews together, from across the UK, building strong year group cohorts and adding fun, friendship and lifelong memories to the B’nei Mitzvah preparations.

There will be lots of challenges and activities, and all those who complete Kivunim will celebrate with a never-tobe-forgotten theme park trip.

The two-year programme has six main areas of focus explored over four residential weekends - in November and April of each year - and including many exciting outdoor adventure activities:

Jewish Identity (year 7)

Tikkun Olam (year 7)

Community (ongoing)

Jewish Ritual (ongoing)

Informed decision making (year 8)

My life as a Jewish adult (year 8)

Each young person is encouraged to collect ‘footprints’. These are earned by attending synagogue, preparing for ceremony, volunteering, working on a tikkun olam project, celebrating festivals and learning a new skill.

To find out more about Kivunim, please visit www.reformjudaism.org.uk and click the banner at the top of the website.

Rabbinic reunion in Slovakia

There was an international reunion in Slovakia when Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein and Sharon Goldstein of The Ark Synagogue helped Rabbi Misha Kapustin (all pictured) celebrate his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in the newly restored synagogue in Trencín.

Rabbi Misha was ordained by Rabbi Andrew after graduating from Leo Baeck College and also served as a Student Rabbi at The Ark.

To complete the circle, he and wife Marina invited Rabbi Andrew and Sharon to make the trip to Trencín, 60 miles north east of Bratislava, to lead Kiddush on their daughter Hannah’s special day.

The service made history as the first to take place inside the newly restored artdeco Art Centrum Synagóga

After leaving the UK, to return to his native Ukraine, Rabbi Misha led communities in Kharkiv and then Crimea. When the Russians invaded Crimea in 2014 he and his family had to flee. He became the Progressive rabbi in Bratislava and also minister to several provincial Slovak communities.

He said: “This was a very moving and meaningful moment for me and my family. We were very glad that my teacher, colleague and friend Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein and his wife Sharon joined us and shared the joy with us.”

Celebrating patrilineal Jews

AN article in The Jewish Chronicle on how, in Progressive Judaism, Jewish status can be inherited from either your mother or father has become one of our most liked and shared Facebook posts.

Writing on Father’s Day, the paper’s Karen Glaser explains why the approach of both Reform and Liberal Judaism is so important for her and many others.

Karen tells how it was her father who introduced her to wonderful books about Judaism, when she was a girl, and helped make her the proud Jew she is today.

She then explains that, even though her mother is also Jewish, it was our recognition of both matrilineal and patrilineal Jews that led her to join a Progressive synagogue.

Karen writes: “On Father’s Day, the day when we honour dads and their role in our lives, I am going to use this column to reprimand you if you buy into the whole illusory purity of the matrilineal line thing. Just in case it’s not already blindingly obvious, my view on the matter is as unequivocal as that of the halachists: you are wrong.

“Where to start? Nuremberg is as good a place as any, I guess. If our patrilineal fellows were good enough for Hitler to murder as Jews, they are, surely, good enough for us to let them live as Jews.

“Next up, the sacred writings of Judaism. Whenever I make the case for patrilineal Jews being as Jewish as Jews like me, someone will invariably cite the Hebrew bible. Unwise. The matrilineal definition of Jewish status does not appear in the Old Testament. In that collection of writings, Jewish status is actually patrilineal, with the father’s family still determining our tribes today. It was altered to the female line in rabbinic times because of the perceived needs of that age. I’d go as far as to say this is a stain at the heart of rabbinic Judaism.

“But not a stain that spreads to all rabbis. As I never tire of reminding people, only one denomination of Judaism insists on the rule of matrilineal descent, the one that can be loosely be described as Orthodox.

“Well, other strains of Judaism are available, people. When I decided to join a synagogue 10 years ago, with my family, I automatically went for a Progressive shul because I could never pay membership fees to a synagogal movement that doesn’t recognize patrilineal Jews.

“Or as a rather famous Jew, Groucho Marx, put it – I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

Together on Shavuot and Yom Ha’Atzmaut

THE recent festival of Shavuot, as well as Israel’s Independence Day Yom Ha’Atzmaut, saw many communities once more collaborating with each other for joint events that really showed the best of Progressive Judaism in action.

Kingston Liberal Synagogue, North West Surrey Synagogue and The Wimbledon Synagogue united for Shavuot in Weybridge. Led by Rabbis Kath Vardi, Adrian Schell and René Pfertzel, the joyful service was filled with anecdotes and explanations of the different melodies and minhagim (traditions) people use in their own congregations –and how the festival reminds us that both tradition and innovation are important factors in developing our communities.

Mosaic Jewish Community, Kol Chai Reform Synagogue, The Liberal Synagogue Elstree, Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue, Radlett Reform Synagogue and South Herts and Edgware Masorti gathered at Mosaic for a night and morning of learning and discussion. More than 100 people attended the Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, which concluded at dawn with an outside Shacharit and the reading of the Ten Commandments.

There was also a Tikkun Leyl Shavuot at Sukkat Shalom Reform Synagogue, where the community were joined by East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue and Oaks Lane Reform Synagogue. Guests included Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick, the former Convener of the Reform Beit Din, who spoke about conversion and its history in both of our movements.

Other collaborative Shavuot services took place in Manchester and North Herts, where there were celebrations and cheesecake aplenty.

Rabbi Adrian Schell of The Wimbledon Synagogue said: “These joint events were a wonderful reflection of the potential that the coming together of the Liberal and Reform movements has for all of our congregations.”

Yom Ha’Atzmaut and Yom Hazikaron – Israel’s Day of Remembrance – were another chance to come together, this time for reflective and moving services.

Sha’arei Tsedek North London Reform Synagogue hosted Southgate Progressive Synagogue, Finchley Progressive Synagogue and The Liberal Synagogue Elstree for a collaborative event to mark both of these important days.

A PROGRESSIVE community has won a prestigious interfaith award for an Iftar they hosted in the shul.

The congregation at Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue (EHRS) were honoured at the first ever Camden Faith & Belief Awards, as part of the Faiths Forum for London winning team, in the category of Building Connected Communities and Neighbourhoods

The Forum organised a series of interfaith Ramadan meals around London, and beyond.

Sha’arei Tsedek’s Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu shared testimony heard from ordinary Israelis during the recent visit to Israel by a group of Progressive Rabbis and told how it has helped to build a depth of understanding and support.

New choral pieces were arranged by Louise Katin, who directs the Sha’arei Tsedek choir, as a time like this requires music that has never been sung before. The event also included some wellknown melodies, written in Israel during previous wars.

Rabbi Gershon Silins, of The Liberal Synagogue Elstree, said: “As meaningful as it is to mark Israel’s Independence Day, and the day of memory and mourning that is inseparable from it, it is especially profound when we observe these solemn yet joyful days in community with other synagogues and their rabbis and leaders.”

Finchley Progressive Synagogue’s Rabbi Rebecca Birk added: “We are grateful to share these memorial moments with other synagogues. The power of connection and collaboration is strengthening and powerful right now for us as Progressive Jews.”

The judges praised EHRS and the other Iftar hosts for “holding events that, for many, have been the first or only interfaith meeting since the recent outbreak of conflict in the Middle East.”

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers of EHRS was part of the Faiths Forum for London team collecting the prize. She is pictured with all the evening’s winners (photo by Justin Thomas).

Other Jewish victors on the night included Mitzvah Day CEO Stuart Diamond and the JW3 Foodbank.

Rabbi Cantor Gershon Silins, Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu, Rabbi Rebecca Birk, Rabbi Danny Rich and Louise Katin at Sha’arei Tsedek North London Reform Synagogue on Yom Ha’Atzmaut (left) and Rabbi Kath Vardi, Rabbi Adrian Schell and Rabbi Dr René Pfertzel on Shavuot

LJY-Netzer graduates discover the Jewish history of Madrid

LJY-NETZER’s bogrimot (graduates) spent four days exploring the city of Madrid and its Jewish history.

The trip marked the return of LJY’s Bog Tour. A popular educational and fun visit to a part of Europe, Bog Tour gives participants the opportunity to explore what were once thriving Jewish hubs and think about key issues in the past, present and future of our people.

Freddie Fiber, who took part in this year’s trip, said: “We enjoyed walking tours around Madrid, learning about the Spanish Inquisition and what it meant for Sephardi Jews, as well as the impact it has on modern-day Spanish culture.

“On day three we visited the Jewish quarter in Toledo, the old Spanish capital about an hour from Madrid, and saw two beautiful old synagogues there.

“We also spent time taking in the beautiful scenery Madrid has to offer, and enjoyed meals in some of the various parks and vegan tapas restaurants in the city. We swam, sang and even saw a couple of Picassos at the Museo Reina Sofia!

“It was a jam-packed and brilliant trip all around… a big thank you to all who helped organise it.”

Leo Baeck and the Library of Lost Books

THE extraordinary library of the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (Higher Institute for Jewish Studies), in Berlin, was stolen by the Nazis in their attempt to rewrite history.

After the war these Jewish books were dispersed around the globe. Now the Library of Lost Books is recruiting book detectives to search for them and reunite them in a digital version of the library.

Britain’s Leo Baeck College (LBC) was founded by refugees, who had been students and teachers at the Hochschule.

They had the vision to create a new Progressive rabbinical school and centre of Jewish learning after the destruction of the Holocaust.

To honour them and their work –and help restore a collection that was once the beating heart of European Progressive Jewish thinking – the LBC Library will be running book detective workshops to track down and reunite the Hochschule volumes.

LBC Senior Librarian Cassy Sachar said: “Working initially with students, and then opening up to the wider community, this is a unique opportunity for young people to right a Nazi wrong and write history themselves.

“The Library of Lost Books has an exciting website where you can learn more about the Hochschule, its library, the lives of its students, and this fantastic citizen science project taking place in libraries around the world.

“LBC Library is proud to work with the Leo Baeck Institutes in Jerusalem and London leading the search, enabling a

new generation of young people from all backgrounds to engage directly and deeply with Jewish history.”

The project is accompanied by a free exhibition at the Wiener Holocaust Library – running until Wednesday 10 July – which includes some of the treasures previously inherited by the LBC Library from the Hochschule, and telling the amazing stories behind their survival.

• The Library of Lost Books is a joint project by the Leo Baeck Institutes in Jerusalem and London and the Freunde und Förderer e.V. Berlin. It is part of the Education Agenda NS-Injustice, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and the Foundation EVZ/ Remembrance, Responsibility, Future. Find out more at www.libraryoflostbooks.com

Community grants

THE NLPS TRUST welcomes applications for its next round of grants to support community projects.

The closing date is Friday 23 August. Please visit www.nlpstrust.org.uk for guidance on how to apply and examples of recent awards. This website explains the objectives of the Trust and the organisations to which it has tended to make grants, based on existing policies. Please send any queries to admin@nlpstrust.org.uk

Rabbi Gershon Silins inducted

Kingston Liberal Synagogue welcomes Rabbi Lev Taylor

RABBI Cantor Gershon Silins was officially welcomed to The Liberal Synagogue Elstree (TLSE), after working in the community for the last year.

Rabbi Danny Rich and Cantor Tamara Wolfson led the service induction service, along with Franklyn Gellnick on the keyboard, Dan Renak and the TLSE Singing Group. It was introduced by TLSE Chair Leigh Renak with concluding blessings led by Rabbi Alan Mann.

Following the service there was a reception, Israeli dancing and a delicious afternoon tea.

Rabbi Gershon said: “I found it particularly moving that this induction took place after I had been in post for over a year. This was, therefore, not only a hopeful wish for a good future (which it was) but also a recognition of the time I have already served as rabbi at TLSE.”

The congregation were joined by many guests and dignitaries including Liberal Judaism Acting Chair Karen Newman, Mayor of Hertsmere Cllr Apha Collins, and his wife, the Rev Louise Collins, as well as Cllr Graeme Alexander and synagogue member Deputy Mayor Cllr Dr Dan Ozarow.

During his induction address, Rabbi Gershon reflected on the inspiration he still takes from the late Rabbi Harry Jacobi, saying: “Harry Jacobi, with his devoted service to our movement and to the larger Jewish world, spoke not of MY duties but rather of OUR duties.

“What we do as rabbis is not done FOR the community, it is done WITH the community. Our congregation here at The Liberal Synagogue Elstree is already devoted to that understanding of Jewish life and responsibility, the spirit of volunteerism and showing up, and of taking responsibility for the health and life of this community.”

RABBI Lev Taylor has been appointed as the new rabbi of Kingston Liberal Synagogue (KLS), taking over from Rabbi Dr René Pfertzel.

The KLS community celebrated with a very well-attended installation service and party.

Rabbi Lev said: “Kingston’s reaction to my appointment has been so wonderfully warm. René has served them brilliantly, and leaves a community that combines a strong sense of Jewish tradition with a progressive and modern outlook. I am so excited to join this special synagogue.”

The event gave the Kingston community their first opportunity to experience one of Rabbi Lev’s Shabbat services. Leading alongside Rabbi René, he read the Torah and delivered an engaging and participative sermon.

The service took place on the day of the Eurovision Song Concert.

Rabbi Lev ended the morning with the Israeli 1979 winning entry Hallelujah –accompanied by Rabbi René and KLS Co-Chair Craig Simmons on the Bimah, and Co-Chair Rebecca Singerman-Knight on piano.

Rebecca said: “We are really sad to be saying goodbye to Rabbi René who has led our congregation for seven years. However, we are very excited for Rabbi Lev to be joining us. It was wonderful to get a glimpse of what his services will be like on Shabbat morning – there is a lot of excitement at KLS about the future.”

Rabbi Lev was ordained by Leo Baeck College in 2022 and previously served Oaks Lane Reform Synagogue. He is a Co-Founder of Queer Yeshiva and recently wrote for the Jewish News on the history and importance of LGBT+ inclusion in Progressive Judaism. Rabbi René is moving to Maidenhead Synagogue.

Faiths unite at mayoral reception

The Mayor, whose term of office is coming to an end, held the event to thank the assembled clergy and faith leaders for everything they do for the city.

Rabbi Gabriel, who serves Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue, said: “At a time of rising religious tension, it was lovely to celebrate the togetherness of Brighton and Hove’s faith groups.

“All clergy have had a difficult year, and the chance to share our experiences over tea and cakes was a valuable one.”

Rabbi Levy Taylor cuts his Kingston welcome cake alongside Rabbi Dr René Pfertzel
Leigh Renak, Cantor Tamara Wolfson, Rabbi Cantor Gershon Silins and Rabbi Danny Rich
Photo by Amber-Jade Bernard
RABBI Gabriel Kanter-Webber attended an interfaith reception hosted by the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Councillor Jackie O’Quinn.

am determined that the Board will be an inclusive organisation’

IT is a pleasure to be writing to you as the new President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

The Board has a long and distinguished history – 264 years of it. We are proud of our democratic nature, which enables all of our Deputies – themselves elected –to vote for a team of Honorary Officers, who they trust to reflect the hopes and concerns of all Jews living in this country.

As the UK goes to its own election, we will be doing everything to ensure that the views of our diverse community are represented in Government, Opposition and all the major public institutions.

One of my favourite things about the Board of Deputies is its inclusion of every part of our community. It really does model the Psalm 133: “Hinei Ma Tov uMa Na’im, Shevet Achim Gam Yachad” – “How good and how pleasant to see siblings sitting together.”

Our Deputies cover the spectrum from left to right, Progressive to Orthodox, observant to secular. And, as an organisation, we are here for everyone.

One area of immediate priority for me is inclusion. The Deputies elected a diverse Honorary Officer team. I am the youngest-ever president – and first of part-Mizrachi heritage – and we also have representatives of Progressive and regional communities. But, for the first time in 15 years, they did not elect a single woman.

I will be working with our women Deputies to ensure that the Board has strong female leadership, both now and into the future.

Over the next three years I am determined that we will be an inclusive organisation which reflects communal diversity. This means ensuring that each of our four divisions has a woman at a senior level. They will work with LGBT+ Deputies, to ensure they are maximally included, and will implement the recommendations from the Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community, which I was intimately involved in as Director of Public Affairs. I am also looking to launch a new commission on disability inclusion.

It is an honour to be the youngest President in the Board’s history. I am well aware that in many walks of life young people do not feel properly represented and justifiably perceive that there is a lack of focus on their concerns.

I want to change this. I want to particularly encourage young members of Progressive congregations to reach out to their synagogue or to the national movement(s) with a view to standing for election as a Deputy. We don’t just want your voices – we need your voices.

There are plenty of issues presently confronting our community and I have plans to deal with the most pressing concerns. Since 7 October, the increase in antisemitism has been frightening.

I plan to launch a Commission on Antisemitism to ensure focus on the issue and make recommendations to tackle this hatred at its roots.

I will also be calling for a review of all legislation relating to hate crime, policing and prosecution, to ensure we have the toughest possible framework in place for offenders.

While Israeli politics provokes a range of views in the community, I am convinced that, while it is fine to disagree “le-shem shamayim” – “for the sake of heaven”, it is even better to agree “le-shem shamayim”. And there are many things on which the community is united. We need to continue to campaign vociferously, and at every level, until all hostages are released. We need to push back against Iran and its proxies. And we need to expand and deepen the Abraham Accords and pursue that elusive twostate solution with the Palestinians.

I have already repeatedly raised the concerns of Progressive Jewish communities in meetings with Israeli government officials and the Board will continue to champion Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, a state for all streams of Judaism, and a state for all its citizens – including Arab citizens.

While there are many challenges that face our community at this time, I am determined that we face the future with positivity – celebrating our faith, traditions, heritage and culture. We need to remain positive.

This is a pivotal time for this community but when we work together, we have a strong voice; as President I have both the energy and experience to get things done.

I look forward to working with you over the next three years and hearing about your priorities for our future – so that together we can build a community of which we can all be proud.

• To find out more about the Board of Deputies and how you can get involved, please visit www.bod.org.uk

Phil Rosenberg with the North West Deputies, including Liberal Judaism Officer Owen Power

‘Our university students need us’

RIGHT now, our university students really need us.

As well as the stress of exams and the general pressures of being away from home, since 7 October they have also had to cope with Israel being at the forefront in the news and in student politics. At present, the vast majority of Jewish chaplaincy at UK universities is Orthodox. It is offered by Chabad, Aish and University Jewish Chaplaincy. These organisations do an excellent job in catering for students who seek an Orthodox form of Jewish life. But this is not sufficient.

A recent UJS survey showed that 1 in 4 Jewish students identifies as Progressive. For many of them, the form of Jewish life available at university is not their Jewish home.

Young Progressive Jews often can’t find a prayer or study space that meets their needs, one that echoes the rich, inclusive and musical Jewish life they grew up with. It can be especially alienating for the thousands of young people whose Jewish identity is not recognised by existing organisations – those who may have grown up secular, who have converted, who are from mixed-faith families, who are queer.

Those who have nuanced or critical views on Israel can also feel Jewishly homeless, now more than ever.

One of the things that can get lost in the current conversation about the campus experience is the diversity of views. Some Jewish students are involved in the current protest camps. To others they are alienating or threatening or unnuanced. And many sit in an ambivalent space in between their more certain peers to either side, or hold multiple, competing views within themselves.

This spring, we relaunched Progressive Jewish Students. Our goal is to create a Progressive Jewish life on campus that is meaningful, robust, diverse, inclusive and safe — creating a positive space for students to explore their Jewish identity and practice with peers.

We are working to ensure students can continue to practise their Progressive Judaism on campus – through university visits for Shabbat services, pastoral care and lunch and learns; posting out festival packs, as we just did for Pesach; and seeking to ensure that students are in touch with their nearest of our 80+ Reform and Liberal communities.

We aim to offer students opportunities for Jewish learning, experience and pastoral support that will give them resources in this period of their lives, so that they are equipped during their time at university with the leadership skills to organise and take responsibility for their Jewish life as adults.

We aim to make sure that every student has a safe Jewish space.

It is especially important that there is a diversity of Jewish culture and religious practice visible on university campuses, that our students all have access to the practical and emotional support that they need, and that whatever their identity and background, every student can be part of a community that cares about their belonging and wellbeing.

‘Pride is a significant part of our calendar’

JUNE was Pride Month.

Historically, very many religious communities have not been welcoming places for LGBTQI+ people. Often built around heteronormative assumptions, religious institutions have been guilty of ‘blindness’ at best and outright discrimination at worst.

Progressive Judaism is different. We are founded on the values of justice and diversity – and that is the kind of religious community we strive to build together.

Our Progressive congregations are communities of all our members and all those who love them. It is through embracing and celebrating our differences and richness that our communal thriving is born.

We recognise that Judaism is a living, changing and thriving force in the lives of our members and that our ancient tradition has much wisdom to offer a contemporary world that can sometimes feel confronting.

Ancient wisdom however is not the same as outmoded and narrow views of what is deemed to be ‘proper’ and what is not. And whilst, for many, the unique challenges faced by members of the LGBTQI+ community may feel less pressing than in previous decades, we would be wise not to fall into complacency. LGBTQI+ rights and protections are being rolled back in many parts of the world – both explicitly and in more hidden, but no less detrimental, ways.

It is for all these reasons that Progressive Judaism is proud to support Pride Month and Pride Shabbat, which have both become significant moments in our ritual calendar.

However, let us also remember that Pride Month is just one month out of 12. Becoming truly diverse and inclusive means committing to building shared spaces where we each are honoured in our uniqueness, every day of the year.

Rabbi Leah Jordan teaching Torah at Hackney Moishe House on a recent university visit
Rabbi Kath Vardi during Pride at North West Surrey Synagogue

Reflecting on a decade of YLJC

Ben Rich looks back on the creation and growth of York Liberal Jewish Community

FOR years after leaving York University, my wife Rachael and I aspired to move back to the city, regularly visiting for a relaxing weekend. When, in 2013, events conspired to provide that opportunity, we felt we were having our bluff called: move now or admit it was forever a pipe-dream.

One of the things that had held us back was the lack of a Jewish community. Yet, during our visits, and in my time as Chief Executive of the Movement for Reform Judaism, I had met at least a dozen people who had lightly informed me that they were “the only Jew in York.”

By the time we moved, it was clear that the potential was there to set up a York Jewish community.

I discussed the idea with my cousin, Rabbi Danny Rich, who was then the Chief Executive and Senior Rabbi of Liberal Judaism. He offered his full support and introduced me to Ros Clayton, another Liberal Jew who split her time between York and Reading.

I was, at the time, on the Mitzvah Day Board, so Ros and I agreed to do a food collection at the Fossbank Sainsbury’s –site of the medieval Jewish burial ground – to see if we could identify other Jewish people living in the city, while also doing some good for the wider community.

We spent much of the day collecting food and giving out flyers and stumbled across perhaps another half dozen Jewish and Jewishly-interested shoppers. A handful more responded to publicity in the local press.

By January 2014, we decided to take the next step and Ros kindly offered to host a get together at her beautiful home in Clifton, in the north of the city. A couple of dozen people showed up and over the next few months our plans took shape.

We reached agreement to host one service a month in the Friargate Meeting House and set a date, with Danny, for a first Shabbat morning service and inaugural York Liberal Jewish Community picnic in Rowntree’s Park, a tradition we have maintained ever since.

We started placing stories in the local media, not just in York, but in Scarborough, Whitby and beyond. A political activist at the time, I trained the Liberal Democrat canvassers to look out for Mezuzot on their delivery rounds, interrogated the staff at Cohen’s Pharmacy on Gillygate (oddly no Jews there!) and randomly accosted people in the streets wearing Stars of David around their necks.

By the morning of Saturday 14 June 2014, Ros and I were confident that a couple of dozen people would show for the first formal Jewish service within the York City walls for 40 years. We were, however, taken aback when more than double that number turned up.

Among them were: Lilian Coulson, who went on to become YLJC chair; Tina Anderson, who became Social Action Officer; Katrina Blackmore and her family (our first Membership Secretary); and Yasmin King, with a small child – Bearwho is now preparing for B’nei Mitzvah.

That first service was magical: the children sat in little chairs at the front and were encouraged at every stage to take part in the service. My own children – then just seven and nine – were a major motivation for establishing the community and helped us to understand what our younger members would enjoy –a challenge which our current parents of young children need to help us to rise to again for a new generation.

Over the years, YLJC has had many other firsts and magical moments: the first admission service that same autumn and the first baby-naming in early 2015; the arrival of our first Torah scroll on loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust (2016); and the installation of our handmade portable(ish) ark in 2018.

We set up a cheder (also in 2016) under the brilliant direction of Orly Askew, who came from Israel via Ossett in West Yorkshire for that first service. Meanwhile Pam Morris and Hava Fleming helped to secure a new Jewish cemetery in the city (in 2018).

Diana Brittan, the widow of Leon –the Jewish MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire - made a generous donation in his name to enable our younger members to attend LJY events, a tradition we have managed to maintain even though the original donation has been spent.

In 2023, we appointed Rabbi Elisheva Salamo - not only our first Rabbi, but the first in York in more than 800 years.

It seems remarkable that - as we enter our second decade - we now have our own Rabbi, an established community, regular busy services and an outstanding leadership.

We are incredibly proud of what we have created here and hugely appreciate the support we have received over the years, especially from Liberal Judaism.

Now, as we look ahead to the next 10 years, we are seeking further support to be able to make our new Rabbi’s position full time and perhaps, in due course, to acquire a synagogue building. If you share our vision and would like the revival of Judaism in York to be part of your personal legacy, please do get in touch with me on ben@jewsinyork.org.uk

York Liberal Jewish Community’s inaugural picnic event back in 2014, and this year’s Passover Seder in the thriving congregation

Packed civic service as The Ark turns 60

AN overflowing sanctuary of dignitaries, MPs, clergy from other faiths and leaders and members from across Progressive Judaism helped The Ark Synagogue mark its 60th anniversary in style.

A special Shabbat celebrated the history and future of the congregation, which began in May 1964 when 30 families gathered to pray together as a new community – then called Pinner and District Liberal Synagogue.

The service was led by The Ark’s Rabbis Aaron Goldstein, Lea Mühlstein and Andrew Goldstein – with those in attendance including the Mayor of Hillingdon Cllr Colleen Sullivan, Mayor of Harrow Cllr Ramji Chauhan and Progressive Judaism Co-Lead Rabbi Charley Baginsky.

They heard how the congregation really took off in the mid-1960s after recruiting a young Student Rabbi, Andrew Goldstein, moving to a former Methodist Church and becoming Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue. In 1981, the community moved again – to its current building on Oaklands Gate.

Following the retirement of Rabbi Andrew – now The Ark’s Emeritus Rabbi – Rabbi Aaron became Senior Rabbi in 2008, with Rabbi Lea appointed Senior Rabbi alongside him in 2017.

Another key moment came in 2020 when, following a reflective period triggered by the pandemic, a new name was adopted... The Ark Synagogue.

Today, 60 years after its formation, The Ark has grown from 30 to 860 families.

These include a dedicated group of supporters from all over the world who actively participate in the life of the synagogue through the programming and services available online.

A highlight of the anniversary service was the moment when everyone in the congregation who had ever taken on the mantle of civic leadership was asked to stand up – and almost everyone present got to their feet.

In her sermon, Rabbi Lea reflected: “As a community, we show up – for each other, for the wider Jewish community in the UK, for our siblings in Ukraine and Israel and for the Czech and Slovak communities tied to us through the legacies of their Torah scrolls. And we show up in civic society.”

A quartet of simchas in Bedfordshire

BEDFORDSHIRE Progressive Synagogue is one of the smaller Liberal congregations. So it was quite an occasion when no fewer than four simchas took place on the same Shabbat.

The community, also known as Rodef Shalom, celebrated two baby blessings, the 80th birthday of synagogue President Geoffrey Ben-Nathan and the golden wedding of shul Secretary Hilary Fox and her husband Gerald.

Synagogue Chair David Young led the service, just as he has done, remarkably, for the last 36 years.

“This is a big event for our members,” explained Geoffrey. “It’s one of those memorable occasions that will stay with us for a long time.

“I’ve been connected here for more than 50 years and it’s so important we make a contribution to Judaism. We have a huge challenge to attract younger people which is why the baby blessings are wonderful.”

Lyndsey and Jonathan Silver with their three-week-old Freya were the first to receive the blessing.

Jonathan said: “Although I now live in South London, I was Bar Mitzvah in Bedford and I wanted to keep the link.”

Baby Esther was also impeccably behaved as she took her turn next, with proud mum and dad, Rosie and Paul Comb-Clark, in front of the Bimah.

Rosie said: “It’s important for our heritage to continue these traditions –and any opportunity to celebrate right now is important for everyone.”

Bedford Progressive Synagogue meet on Zoom every Friday night and hold a Shabbat morning service around twice a month. To find out more, please visit www.bedfordshire-ps.org.uk

Rabbis Aaron Goldstein, Lea Mühlstein and Andrew Goldstein greet guests at The Ark Synagogue’s anniversary service. Pictures by Victor Shack
Bedfordshire’s two baby blessings - Esther (left) and Freya
Gerald and Hilary Fox / Geoffrey Ben-Nathan

A year supporting communities in India

SOUTHGATE Progressive Synagogue member Rebekah Quixano Henriques is currently in Maharastra, India, as part of a project with the charity Gabriel Project Mumbai, supporting rural communities.

She is also helping humanitarian organisation JDC Entwine find another young British Jew to spend a year there, as part the Jewish Service Corps Fellowship.

Rebekah said: “If you are up for the challenge of moving to India and getting to know the communities here, you will be in for the experience of a lifetime.

“JDC Entwine are a USbased organization known for their global work with both Jews and non-Jews. They cover all expenses, provide you with a stipend and support you entirely with flights, orientation, accommodation and bills.

Rosie wins top award

ROSIE Anfilogoff (pictured) of Norwich Liberal Jewish Community has won a prestigious journalism award for her article on the exclusion of

disabled people from higher education.

Rosie was named as the winner of The Guardian Foundation’s Hugo Young Award (19-25 age category), which was created to recognise young talent in political opinion writing.

Her op-ed for The Guardian argues that higher education was easily accessible to disabled people during Covid – but that they are being shut out now.

“This fantastic opportunity involves getting to know Mumbai and the Jews of India, while primarily living with rural tribal communities in Mokhada, part of the Palghar District, Maharastra.

Mazel tov...

• COUNCILLOR Rabbi Danny Rich (pictured) is the new Deputy Mayor of Barnet and his wife Laura Lassman is Deputy Mayoress. Both have a lifelong association with Liberal Judaism.

Rabbi Danny is a Vice President of our movement and Senior Rabbi of Southgate Progressive Synagogue.

“I am on this same year-long placement in India with the charity Gabriel Project Mumbai (known in India as Grameen First) and cannot recommend it highly enough. You will learn how to create social impact and grow enormously as a person.”

To find out more about this Fellowship opportunity, email eliannekr@jdc.org

• COUNCILLOR Dr Dan Ozarow, a prominent member of The Liberal Synagogue Elstree, has become Deputy Mayor of Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council.

• ROBERT Behrens CBE, a member of Radlett Reform Synagogue, has been awarded a Knighthood in the King’s Birthday Honours List. Robert is the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and has received the honour in recognition of his public service. The Government website stated: “He has become an increasingly influential voice on patient safety.”

• MIKE Frankl was awarded an MBE at Windsor Castle. Mike – a former Deputy Chief Executive of the Movement for Reform Judaism and former chair of Beth Shalom Reform Synagogue in Cambridge – was honoured for services to charity, homeless people and the Jewish community.

Rosie said: “I’m honoured to have been selected for this award and so grateful to The Guardian Foundation for this opportunity. While the failure of higher education to adequately accommodate disabled students is something I face personally, the issue is so much bigger than me. I hope my piece can bring attention to the unnecessary exclusion many students experience.”

Commenting on Rosie’s article, the judges said: “This is a powerful and interesting piece that was written passionately and convincingly on a topic that is not frequently written about.

“It shows originality in discussing the intersection of disability and universities, engagement with counter-arguments, bringing in a relevant post-pandemic debate and the ability to prompt the reader with some of their own thoughts.”

Hadley’s new book and essay

PROGRESSIVE Judaism member and Sunday Times columnist Hadley Freeman has both a new book and long essay out.

The book, Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia, has been described by The Guardian as giving “a clear-eyed view of a debilitating and misunderstood illness”.

The essay – titled Blindness: October 7 and the Left – looks at how many on the left have been unable to condemn the actions of Hamas. It is part of the new edition of the Jewish Quarterly.

Rebekah Quixano Henriques in India with some of the team

Social action on LJY

The Movement Workers on ‘welcoming the stranger’

EACH year, on Veidah (our annual decision making event), LJY-Netzer’s members vote for a new Tikkun Olam Of The Year (TOOTY). This year’s TOOTY is ‘welcoming the stranger’.

The most commanded statement in the Torah, demonstrating love for, and inclusivity of, the stranger is essential to our Progressive Jewish values.

Interpreting this, throughout the year we have been participating in social action campaigns that show solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers. Where migration is deeply entrenched in many of our pasts, it is now our duty to advocate for those seeking asylum today

Each week, we have been volunteering at the Home from Home club at Finchley Progressive Synagogue (FPS). The club offers the 1,400 asylum seekers living in Barnet hotels a warm welcome, nutritional food, a place to talk, outdoor play for children and a chance to meet new people. It has given the three of us the chance to build relationships with the kids and families staying in the hotels. In this time of polarisation, interfaith work is essential. LJY helped to host an Iftar at FPS, attended by many families who attend the Home from Home club.

This was a truly memorable event, with a diverse presence and a sense of communal hope, action and solidarity.

These local actions are part of a wider project - the Citizens UK campaign to grant free bus travel to asylum seekers in London. Through building these relationships, we are able to listen to, understand and advocate for the various struggles that asylum seekers are facing.

LJY-Netzer, in collaboration with Screenshare UK, has also organised a tech collection of laptops and phones to be redistributed amongst local asylum seekers. Screenshare UK is an incredible organisation, based in London, that seeks to tackle the digital exclusion of refugees by providing working technology and support. So far, they have received 625 devices to refurbish and redistribute.

Collecting items on spring camp, and from our bogrimot (graduates), we have donated four laptops and eight phones. The tech has already started to be distributed, and we will be updated on its uses and the positive impact that this will have on different people’s lives. Screenshare are always collecting technology, so do get in touch with us if you have anything you are able to donate.

LJY-Netzer is Liberal Judaism’s Zionist youth movement. It gives young people the opportunity to develop a strong Progressive Jewish identity, make lasting friendships and have loads of fun

Getting ready for Kadimah

WITH Machaneh Kadimah, our flagship summer camp, coming up in just a couple of months, we are busy beginning our preparations!

We recently spent a long sunny weekend with all of our rashim (leaders) – learning, visioning and planning.

The first day was focused on Israel/ Palestine, bringing in a variety of speakers. The day provided an important space of education and processing.

The next days were spent creating tochniot (timetables) for Kadimah and filling them with outdoor kef (fun), engaging peulot (sessions), themed days, water fights, murder mysteries and more.

Sign up for Kadimah closes on Saturday 6 July. Our biggest event of the year –running from 12-25 August – it brings together hundreds of young Liberal Jews from all over the country. With two weeks of magical, creative, fun and engaging activities – it will be the Jewish experience of your lives.

Book your place today via our website: www.ljy-netzer.org/machaneh-kadimah

We are committed to making sure that everyone who wants to come on our events is given the opportunity to do so. We have bursaries for those who need financial assistance. To find out more, please email becca@liberaljudaism.org

Contact LJY-Netzer: Email Mia Bogod (m.bogod@liberaljudaism.org ), Mia Harris (m.harris@liberaljudaism.org) and Hannah Gellman (h.gellman@liberaljudaism.org) or visit our website www.ljy-netzer.org

LJY Netzer’s Mia Harris and Mia Bogod with youngsters at the FPS Home from Home club

Liberal Judaism congregations

The Ark Synagogue (Northwood and Pinner)

T: 01923 822 592

E: admin@arksynagogue.org W: arksynagogue.org

Bedfordshire Progressive Synagogue T: 0845 869 7105

E: info@bedsps.org.uk W: bedfordshire-ps.org.uk

Beit Klal Yisrael (London) E: admin@bky.org.uk W: bky.org.uk

Birmingham Progressive Synagogue T: 0121 634 3888 E: bps@liberaljudaism.org W: bpsjudaism.com

Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue T: 01273 737 223

E: info@bhps-online.org W: bhps-online.org

Bristol and West Progressive Jewish Congregation T: 0117 403 3456

E: info@bwpjc.org W: bwpjc.org

Crawley Jewish Community T: 01293 534 294

Crouch End Chavurah E: naomi@crouchendchavurah.org W: www.crouchendchavurah.org

Dublin Jewish Progressive Congregation

E: djpc@liberaljudaism.org W: djpcireland.com

Ealing Liberal Synagogue T: 020 8997 0528

E: admin@ealingliberalsynagogue.org.uk W: ealingliberalsynagogue.org.uk

East London & Essex Liberal Synagogue T: 0208 989 7619

E: administrator@elels.org.uk W: elels.org.uk

Eastbourne Liberal Jewish Community T: 07376 916 920

E: eljc.contact@gmail.com W: eljc.org.uk

Edinburgh Liberal Jewish Community T: 0131 777 8024

E: info@eljc.org W: eljc.org

Finchley Progressive Synagogue T: 020 8446 4063

E: fps@liberaljudaism.org W: fps.org

Kehillah North London T: 07706 354 602

E: info@kehillah.org.uk W: kehillah.org.uk

Kent Liberal Jewish Community T: 07384 993 553

E: enquiries@kljc.org.uk W: kljc.org.uk

Kingston Liberal Synagogue T: 020 8398 7400

E: kls@liberaljudaism.org W: klsonline.org

Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation

E: chair@lpjc.org.uk W: lpjc.org.uk

The Liberal Jewish Synagogue (St John’s Wood) T: 020 7286 5181 E: ljs@ljs.org W: ljs.org

The Montagu Centre 21 Maple Street London, W1T 4BE T: 020 7580 1663

E: montagu@liberaljudaism.org W: liberaljudaism.org W: pathtoprogressivejudaism.org.uk

Liberal Judaism is the dynamic, cutting edge of modern Judaism. It reverences Jewish tradition, seeking to preserve the values of the past, while giving them contemporary force.

Charity Number: 1151090

lj today is edited by Simon Rothstein. Please send news to s.rothstein@liberaljudaism.org

The Liberal Synagogue Elstree T: 020 8953 8889

E: office@tlse.org.uk W: tlse.org.uk

Lincolnshire Jewish Community W: lincolnsynagogue.com

Mosaic Liberal Synagogue (Stanmore) T: 020 8864 0133 E: office@mosaicliberal.org.uk W: mosaicliberal.org.uk

Norwich Liberal Jewish Community E: nljc@liberaljudaism.org W: norwichljc.org.uk

Nottingham Liberal Synagogue T: 0115 962 4761

E: info@nottinghamliberalsynagogue.com W: nottinghamliberalsynagogue.com

Peterborough Liberal Jewish Community T: 07561 331 390 E: info@pljc.org.uk W: pljc.org.uk

Reading Liberal Jewish Community E: readingliberaljewishcommunity@ gmail.com W: readingljc.org.uk

Shir Hatzafon (Copenhagen) E: shir@shirhatzafon.dk W: shirhatzafon.dk

South Bucks Jewish Community T: 07377 157 261 E: info@sbjc.org.uk W: sbjc.org.uk

Southgate Progressive Synagogue T: 020 8886 0977 E: office@sps.uk.com W: sps.uk.com

Acting Chair Karen Newman

The South London Liberal Synagogue (Streatham) T: 020 8769 4787

E: office@southlondon.org W: southlondon.org

Stevenage Liberal Synagogue T: 01438 300 222

E: stevenageliberalsynagogue@gmail.com W: stevenageliberalsynagogue.org.uk

Suffolk Liberal Jewish Community (Ipswich) T:01473 250 797

E: sljc@liberaljudaism.org

W: suffolkljc.co.uk

Three Counties Liberal Jewish Community (Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire)

T: 07900 612 058

E: info@3cljc.org.uk

W: 3cljc.org.uk

Wessex Liberal Jewish Community (Bournemouth) T: 01202 757 590

E: secretary.wljc@gmail.com

W: wessexliberaljudaism.org.uk

York Liberal Jewish Community T: 0300 102 0062

E: info@jewsinyork.org.uk

W: jewsinyork.org.uk

Developing and affiliated

Beit Ha’Chidush (Amsterdam)

E: info@beithachidush.nl W: beithachidush.nl

Oxford Jewish Congregation T: 01865 515 584

E: connections@ojc-online.org W: ojc-online.org

Treasurer Leslie Moss Youth Hannah Stephenson Communities and Social Justice Owen Power

Inclusion Alexandra Boyd Strategy Alex Kinchin-Smith

Officers Penny Beral, Sue Head and Tommer Spence

President Rabbi Alexandra Wright Vice Presidents Simon Benscher, Monique Blake, Nigel Cole, Lord (Stanley) Fink, Louise Freedman, Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, Sharon Goldstein, Jane Greenfield, Lucian Hudson, Dr Edward Kessler MBE, Josie Kinchin, Ann Kirk BEM, Bob Kirk BEM, David Lipman, Frank Maxwell, Baroness (Gillian) Merron, David Pick, Rabbi Danny Rich, Tony Sacker, Joan Shopper, Phil Stone and Beverley Taylor

Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors Chairs Rabbi Alexandra Wright and Rabbi Anna Wolfson

Chief Executive Officer Rabbi Charley Baginsky

Chief Operating Officer Shelley Shocolinsky-Dwyer

Director of Development and Membership Alexandra Gellnick Lifecycle Administrator Lisa Godsal

Administration Manager Tanya Garfield Finance Janet Manderson PR Simon Rothstein

Archivist Alison Turner Student Chaplain Rabbi Leah Jordan

LJY-Netzer Support/Mentor Becca Fetterman LJY-Netzer Events Coordinator Jess Mindel

LJY-Netzer Movement Workers Mia Bogod, Mia Harris and Hannah Gellman

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.