Yom Shishi, 21 AdarI 5781
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LJY-Netzer announces new movement worker team

4 April 2016

LJY-Netzer, the youth movement of Liberal Judaism, has announced its three movement workers for the next year.

Twenty one year-old Hannah Stephenson is joining the team and will work alongside Sam Alston and Anna Craven, both 23, who are staying on after a very successful first year of movement work.

Hannah, a member at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, said: “After 14 years of LJY-Netzer, I still can’t get enough. I have an undeniable love for the movement. It has given me friends, values, beliefs and unforgettable experiences. It has been my life and shaped the person I am today.

“I’m now ready to take the ‘LJY-Netzer reins’ and bring all that I can in one incredibly intense year – making a difference to the movement that has made such a difference to me.”

Tom Francies is leaving Liberal Judaism after three years as an LJY-Netzer movement worker.

Speaking on route to LJY-Netzer’s Machaneh Aviv spring camp – which begins tomorrow with more than 60 young Liberal Jews in attendance – Tom said: “Finally, it’s time to say goodbye. It was always going to happen, but it kept magically being put back by a year.

“If I were to describe the job in two words they would be ‘life changing’. I’ve been given amazing opportunities to meet new people, do new things and have new experiences. These three years as a movement worker, and the seven before them in LJY-Netzer, have been the best of my life.”

LJY-Netzer employs three movement workers each year, a team of salaried professionals based at Liberal Judaism’s Montagu Centre head office in London. A handover takes place during the summer.

There will be more on Hannah, Sam and Anna in the upcoming edition of LJ Today.


The history of the LJ Quiz

4 April 2016

It’s one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the Liberal Jewish calendar – where communities from all over the country battle it out in a test of knowledge.

The next Liberal Judaism Annual Inter Synagogue Quiz will take place on Sunday November 13 at Northwood & Liberal Synagogue. Full details, and booking information, will be released shortly.

And to get you ready for this year’s event, Liberal Judaism vice president Rosita Rosenberg has compiled a history of the LJ Quiz, below.


In 1975, when Geoffrey Davis retired from chairmanship of the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues (ULPS) – the former name for Liberal Judaism – he inaugurated the Annual Inter Synagogue quiz and donated the trophy on which winners’ names were inscribed. The competition has taken place every year since, usually in the synagogue building of the previous year’s winner or runner-up.


Winners have been as follows:

1975 - Finchley Progressive Synagogue

1976 - Finchley Progressive Synagogue

1977 - Finchley Progressive Synagogue

1978 - Southgate Progressive Synagogue

1979 - Finchley Progressive Synagogue

1980 - Woodford Liberal Synagogue

1981 - Finchley Progressive Synagogue and South London Liberal Synagogue

1982 - Harrow & Wembley Progressive Synagogue (now Mosaic Liberal Synagogue, Harrow)

1983 - Southgate Progressive Synagogue

1984 - Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue

1985 - Kingston Liberal Synagogue

1986 - Finchley Progressive Synagogue

1987 - The Liberal Jewish Synagogue

1988 - The Liberal Jewish Synagogue

1989 - Harrow & Wembley Progressive Synagogue (now Mosaic Liberal Synagogue, Harrow)

1990 - Finchley Progressive Synagogue

1991 - Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue

1992 - The Liberal Jewish Synagogue

1993 - The Liberal Jewish Synagogue

1994 - Finchley Progressive Synagogue

1995 - Kingston Liberal Synagogue

1996 - North London Progressive Synagogue

1997 - The Liberal Jewish Synagogue

1998 - North London Progressive Synagogue

1999 - The Liberal Jewish Synagogue

2000 - Hertsmere Progressive Synagogue (now The Liberal Synagogue, Elstree)

2001 - Hertsmere Progressive Synagogue (now The Liberal Synagogue, Elstree)

2002 - Harrow & Wembley Progressive Synagogue (now Mosaic Liberal Synagogue, Harrow)

2003 - Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue

2004 - Harrow & Wembley Progressive Synagogue (now Mosaic Liberal Synagogue, Harrow)

2005 - Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue

2006 - Harrow & Wembley Progressive Synagogue (now Mosaic Liberal Synagogue, Harrow)

2007 - The Liberal Jewish Synagogue

2008 - Finchley Progressive Synagogue

2009 - The Liberal Synagogue, Elstree

2010 - The Liberal Synagogue, Elstree

2011 - Kingston Liberal Synagogue

2012 - The Liberal Synagogue, Elstree

2013 - The Liberal Synagogue, Elstree

2014 - The Liberal Jewish Synagogue

2015 - The Liberal Jewish Synagogue

Hardliners ‘alienating diaspora from Israel’

1 April 2016

Fears that Netanyahu will backtrack on historic Kotel deal under Charedi pressure

Rabbis and community leaders around the world have warned that extremist stances taken by Israel’s Charedi leadership are alienating members of the diaspora.

This week, the Israeli government was poised to rethink — under Charedi pressure — a plan to develop an area for non-Orthodox prayer at the Kotel, and MK Meir Porush was reprimanded by the Knesset ethics committee for saying that the feminist group Women of the Wall should be “thrown to the dogs”.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that while he still wanted to implement the Kotel plan, it had hit “difficulties” — prompting fears among non-Orthodox groups that it may be watered down or scrapped completely.

The Charedi political parties that prop up the governing coalition have threatened to resign if the plan is implemented. They have also launched bitter attacks on Women of the Wall and the Reform and Conservative movements since the scheme was announced.

Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the liberal Orthodox Shalom Hartman Institute in the US, said: “Around the world, especially in North America, there are many people sitting on the fence and wondering whether they should give up on the Israel enterprise.

“The language and the issue of the Kotel are the same — they are symptomatic of a group that thinks that Judaism is theirs and they are the sole arbiters of Judaism, and are willing to use political power to further their ideology.”

In a Knesset speech on Monday, Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist party Yesh Atid, said that American Jews could start shunning Israel as a result of the Charedi tirades. He said: “There is real harm to our strategic alliances because the Jewish communities are a political force for Israel across the world.

“Last year, again and again and again and again, I was told by senior leaders of Jewish communities: ‘If that’s how you treat us then don’t ask for our help.’

“No one approached my grandfather in Mauthausen and said: ‘You’re Conservative, so you’re not really Jewish. We won’t murder you’.”

Mr Lapid said that US Jewish community leaders, asked by Israel to lobby against the Iran deal, had told him: “This is the last time because we can’t keep taking the insults that are hurled at us from the Knesset podium.”

In the UK, Liberal Judaism’s Rabbi Charley Baginsky, who is responsible for Israel programming and strategy, argued that Mr Netanyahu has an opportunity to show he recognises that Jews in Israel practice their religion in many different ways. She added: “The recent Kotel decision does not exclude anybody from praying at the Wall in the way in which they wish to. To reverse the decision, however, would be to exclude the fundamental right of Progressive Jews within Israel to be able to pray at an ancient site that so many Jews have always turned their hearts towards.”

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the Rabbi of the Western Wall defended the Orthodox position on the Kotel in a letter to a Muslim visitor to the site.

After the woman wrote a Facebook post about her positive experience visiting the Kotel, Rabbi Rabinowitz wrote: “The Western Wall is open to any worshipper, on any day of the year, at any time of the day.Now, when the fire of hatred is burning among the descendants of Avraham Avinu, your letter is a beacon of light.”

To add to the controversy, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said in a sermon this week that it was “forbidden for a non-Jew to live in the Land of Israel unless he has accepted the seven Noachide laws”.

Rabbi Danny Rich, the senior minister of Liberal Judaism in the UK, said he was “saddened” by what was going on in Israel. He said: “It saddens me that many of these attacks on ‘liberal Jews’ and non-Jews are so personal in nature.

“For Israel to be a real light unto the nations, non-Jewish citizens need to feel an equal part of a country that was established less than 70 years ago.”

Click here to read the full article

OPINION: I’m an out and proud trans Jew – others aren’t so lucky

30 March 2016

By Surat-Shaan Knan, Twilight People Project Manager

Tomorrow sees Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) take place, the annual day to show your support for the trans community.

It aims to bring attention to the accomplishments of trans people around the globe, while fighting transphobia and cissexism.

Many in the wider Jewish community will have heard of Transgender Day of Remembrance, but TDOV is very different – it’s not a day for mourning, but one of empowerment and celebration.

This year’s day has the theme and hashtag #MoreThanVisibility – with a call to use visibility as a vital tool for justice.

But how does this theme resonate with trans people of faith? Has being more visible helped trans Jews, like me, in the UK and worldwide?

In the past two years we have certainly seen increased global coverage of trans issues in the mainstream media, and celebrity coming out stories a la Caitlyn Jenner.

Visibility has certainly has had the effect that most people nowadays would have come across the word transgender. It helps. But does it help everyone? And has this ‘mainstreaming’ made things better overall?

Amazon’s Emmy Award-winning programme Transparent – about a Jewish family coming to terms with their father’s decision to transition – has perhaps allowed viewers to develop a greater understanding of the transgender experience in a faith context.

But, despite all of this, many trans and gender nonconforming Jews have experienced first-hand that visibility is not enough.

Personally, I am probably one of the trans Jews who is blessed enough to benefit from certain privileges.

I am an out and proud Progressive Jew, and international LGBTQI campaigner with my latest project being Twilight People, the UK’s landmark multi-faith heritage project exploring gender & faith beyond the binary, which is hosted by Liberal Judaism. My family, friends, work place and faith community are supportive.

I don’t mind my picture and story being out there – as long as I am portrayed in a respectful and authentic way, of course. So far, I have been lucky and it’s been a positive journey for me.

Yet, some participants in Twilight People had to remain anonymous. Others did not take part at all, fearing reprisal from their religious community and family. Not all branches of Judaism, or indeed all faiths, are as welcoming as Liberal Judaism.

A friend of mine, a British trans woman who came out after a long struggle within her ultra-Orthodox Charedi community, told me: “The government should demand that every school be exposed to [trans issues]. I’ve had to spend countless hours explaining to Charedi Jews that this [being trans] is not a choice, it’s real.

“I have not seen my kids for so long – the court system is too slow. I have received death threats and so have my friends. These threats are made indirectly, so the police are not interested in dealing with them as a result.

“The law has to change. I had to move away; I cannot move around my hometown freely anymore. I wouldn’t feel safe.”

It really seems, that visibility is not enough anymore and never was enough for some trans and gender nonconforming people of faith.

I believe we now need better education around trans issues, improved legislation, especially when it comes to dealing with hate crime.

I am excited to be working alongside groups like Stonewall and on projects such as Twilight People, and hopefully beginning to change hearts and minds in the more conservative faith communities.

Click here to see the original article

Hear Anat Hoffman speak on the Kotel

30 March 2016

Anat Hoffman, the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center and founding member of Women of the Wall, will be part of a unique event for young Jews in the UK.

'Deal Deal or No Deal: The Kotel' – an intimate conversation between Anat Hoffman and Student Rabbi Deborah Blausten – will take place on April 12 from 7.30pm.

The event will be jointly hosted by the New Israel Fund, Liberal Judaism and the Movement for Reform Judaism.

The discussion will focus on the Israeli Government’s recent deal to create an egalitarian prayer space, and the worry that its implementation is now being called into question with cabinet ministers refusing to back the plan.

Anat and Deborah will discuss the latest on this landmark deal in the context of Israel’s religious freedom, question how relevant the Kotel actually is to young Diaspora Jews and explore what this means for our relationship with Israel.

Liberal Judaism’s student and young adult chaplain, Rabbi Leah Jordan, said: “This is the symbolic issue around Judaism in Israeli politics right now. The Western Wall is the central symbol of Jewish life for many people and it has been run as an ultra-Orthodox synagogue for decades.

“The Government conceded, after much Progressive Jewish activism, to change this and now, because of right wing religious Orthodox pressure, this deal looks to be in jeopardy.

“Anat is the leader in the Progressive Jewish fight, and a proud Progressive Jew who spoke at the Liberal Judaism Day of Celebration, and I encourage everyone to come and hear her in conversation with Deborah, who is one of our most engaging Progressive Student Rabbis.”

This is a young adult event and for strictly under 35s only. For more details, including venue, please visit: http://www.newisraelfund.org.uk/anat/



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