Yom Rivii, 12 AdarI 5781
Wednesday, 24 February 2021
Review of Welcome to the Cavalcade PDF Print E-mail

WELCOME TO THE CAVALCADE: A FESTSCHRIFT IN HONOUR OF RABBI PROFESSOR JONATHAN MAGONET edited by Rabbis Howard Cooper, Colin Eimer and Elli Tikvah Sarah £5 eBook, £12 paperback, £20 hardback

Review by Lucian J Hudson

I HAVE a very simple view of happiness, born out of my conversion to Judaism, and it is this: being able to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, and to consider that meaningful.

Rabbi Jonathan Magonet has inspired this wonderful festschrift (collection), a veritable treasure trove of stories and perspectives. It perfectly captures his rich and diverse contribution to Judaism, spanning Jewish learning, biblical exegesis, liturgy, poetry and song, his critical role in exploring inter-faith relations and, one of his biggest achievements, developing and growing Leo Baeck College for the training of future Jewish rabbis and teachers.

Magonet’s search is for religious truthfulness, manifesting itself in so many different ways, combined with a sense of celebration and an appetite for life, hence the call to join the cavalcade. We owe a collective debt to that generation who not only survived World War II and the Holocaust, but revived and revitalised Judaism, especially Progressive Judaism. The festschrift is not only a gift to him, but to all of us, providing evidence of the insight and legacy of that prodigious generation. Through their weaving, they reworked the tapestry that is today’s Judaism.

Reading this collection is like getting pleasantly lost in an attic, and discovering and rediscovering the past in ways that still resonate with the present. I have not yet met Magonet, so this book serves as an introduction to a man who commands respect and affection among his peers and students, many themselves distinguished in their leadership and scholarship.

Magonet is a man after my own heart. Running alongside a deep seriousness is sense of play that pervades his work, and his effect on others. This book, released to celebrate Magonet’s 70th birthday, contains more than 40 articles from his colleagues and friends, including Jan Fokkelma, Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris and Reuven Silverman. Awraham Soetendorp, who survived the Nazi occupation as a "hidden child", speaks movingly about friendship, praising Magonet as one of the great leaders who paved the way for a paradigm shift in interfaith dialogue.

The editors are to be congratulated in trawling so wide and deep. As they rightly remark, Magonet has influenced believers and non-believers, traditionalists and progressives, to think afresh, think more deeply, more searchingly.