Yom Rivii, 18 Elul 5779
Wednesday, 18 September 2019
Award winners influence by example PDF Print E-mail

I INAUGURATED the Chairman’s Awards at the Liberal Judaism Biennial Weekend in 2010, because I wanted to honour the dedication of those outstanding individuals in our communities who make our movement so vibrant.

Continuing the tradition at this year’s Biennial, every Liberal congregation was asked to enter a nomination with a panel of judges – led by Rosita Rosenberg and including Rabbi Pete Tobias and Sam Grant – then making a final recommendation, which Rabbi Danny Rich and I wholeheartedly approved.

Every single nominee was excellent and the panel found it extremely difficult to single out this year’s Award winners. Highlighting their contribution inspires each of us to do more, to be more. This fits with what Rabbi Charley Baginsky describes as our movement’s Philosophy of Co-operation. It is only when individuals work together, selflessly giving their skills and their time, that we will all truly thrive.

Birmingham Progressive Synagogue is home to one of the most indefatigable Liberal Jews, Loretta Cohn, who leads services in the rabbi’s absence. She instituted the runaway success of chavurah-style Pesach Seders. She leads inspiring visits of local school groups. She continually deepens her knowledge of Judaism by taking courses at Leo Baeck College, as well as elsewhere.

Pearl Phillips from Southgate Progressive Synagogue has done so much in almost 60 years of membership that I almost do not know where to start. Organising mitzvot for High Holy Days services, chavurah suppers, choirsinging, cross-communal events and numerous committee roles. Above all, she has always stood out for her courage in standing up for Liberal Jewish values.

Dr Alex Keller of Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation has served his community for four decades. A distinguished university lecturer, he brought his educational skills to the youngest of his community, captivating spellbound cheder pupils. He has served as chairman, bulletin editor, cheder headmaster, lay leader and president, as well as representing his community on the local Council of Faiths and Council of Christians & Jews.

Peter and Mavis Hyams from Bristol & West Progressive Jewish Community are a dynamic couple who, through chutzpah and hard work, founded a thriving congregation. They even took to looking through the local phone directory to find Jewish-sounding names in order to recruit new members. That was over 50 years ago and they, and the community, are still going strong today.

Robin Moss from Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue, and a member of Liberal Judaism’s Board of National Officers, is a most popular choice. Youth worker, educator and intellectual, Robin is one of our most gifted and promising young leaders who always goes the extra mile in contributing to community life.

Suzanne King from Eastbourne Liberal Jewish Community has been a veritable catalyst. Her list of credits includes working on Holocaust Memorial Day, a regional Shabbaton, a Jewish music extravaganza, Rainbow Jews, Shabbat services, local interfaith and cross-communal projects, social media management, Mitzvah Day blood drives, planting trees in Israel and, who could forget, Torah on the Beach.

There are some people to whom only the word “mensch” comes close to describing and that is precisely how the nominators summed up Derrick Silk from Nottingham Liberal Synagogue. A dearly loved member of more than 40 years, Derrick has served as treasurer, chairman and president of his community, as well as chairing the national provincial committee.

One of the most important miztvot is that of visiting the sick. Kingston Liberal Synagogue is truly blessed to have Jenny Osorio as a founding member and former chair, for Jenny has set a stellar example in this area. As well as visits and helping those with mobility needs, she also coordinates transport for people in need on the peripheries of her community and organises tea parties for older members. In some months she will visit up to 15 individuals or, to put it another way, one person every two days.

The final award goes to Lionel and Sheila King Lassman, who have served their synagogue “with alacrity” for longer than I have been alive. They’ve done everything from ferrying in a greenhorn American rabbi from the airport to feeding the shul’s fish. Together they have served as chair, gardener, president, book club convenor and many other important roles. Their attitude and contribution has been fundamental to the robust health and vitality of Finchley Progressive Synagogue.

Let’s hold up these Chairman’s Award winners as an example of the very positive influence that an individual (or couple) can bring to bear on their community. Mazel tov!