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Rabbi Richard Jacobi welcomes first grandchild

21 March 2016

Woodford Liberal Synagogue was full to capacity on Shabbat for the baby blessing of Rabbi Richard Jacobi’s first grandchild.

Family, friends and congregates gathered for a Purim family service and the ceremony for baby Zachary, whose great-grandfather, Rabbi Harry Jacobi, carried out the blessing.

The community’s youth read out many prayers that they had written themselves from Woodford cheder's own service book.

Synagogue vice chair Bob Kamall presented a baby blessing certificate to Zachary’s proud parents Philippa & Josh Newham. Josh was formerly the headteacher at Woodford’s cheder.

Bob said: “It has been a wonderful occasion and so nice to see the synagogue full of family & friends.”

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A special KT celebration at Northwood

21 March 2016

A class of 11 teenagers celebrated their Kabbalat Torah at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue (NPLS) this Shabbat.

The youth – three of whom are fourth generation Liberal Jews – took part in the Kabbalat Torah ceremony, which was the culmination of a programme of study and participation in the religious and cultural life of their community and beyond.

Northwood’s Rabbi Aaron Goldstein said: “Kabbalat Torah is about celebrating the strength of Jewish identify and continuity. I was so proud of this class, which contains future mathematicians, artists, musicians and performing artists, lay leaders and even a dark horse for the rabbinate.”

Rabbi Lea Mühlstein added: “Our fabulous KT2016 class made me and Rabbi Aaron so happy. I would also like to thank the amazing Leo Baeck College rabbinic students, Elliott Karstadt and Anna Posner, for inspiring the class to be that great.”

Kabbalat Torah is a long-established part of the Liberal Jewish lifecycle. It takes place around the age of 15, when it is felt students are able to have a more mature and personal understanding of Jewish values and are able to affirm their commitment to Judaism as a consequence of a personal decision.

The programme leading up to the final service encourages students to think about issues in their lives and in society as a whole, through the lens of Jewish tradition and Liberal Jewish values.

(Pictures by Phil Stone)

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Faith leaders and MPs call on government to admit 50,000 Syrian refugees on fifth anniversary of Syria conflict.

15 March 2016

Civil society leaders, including Tim Farron MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party, today (15 March) marked the fifth anniversary of the Syrian conflict by calling on the British government to admit more Syrian refugees. They stated that offering sanctuary to 50,000 Syrians would only represent a tiny percentage of those already helped by Germany, and that the UK should take its fair share of Syrian refugees.

They also called on the government to uphold British values, and lift blocks on local authorities helping Syrian refugees. Thousands of people and local authorities up and down the country have signed up to help Syrian refugees, however their efforts are being hampered by central government. In a telling sign of popular support for the campaign, Citizens UK reports that there are significantly more people in the UK offering to help resettle Syrians than there are Syrians to resettle.

Citizens UK has calculated that if the UK were to take 50,000 refugees over five years, it would represent only four Syrian families per year in each constituency. 34 groups across the UK are taking action this week to press for more help for Syrian refugees, groups will call on their local MPs to sign the Citizens UK Resettlement Commitment. In signing the Commitment, the MP pledges to do all in their power to ensure the government commits to resettling 50,000 Syrian refugees, including tabling questions in parliament, supporting changes which would promote a greater welcoming of refugees, and supporting local organisations to establish Refugee Welcome committees.

Father Simon Cuff, a leader with Citizens UK, said: "We are asking that the UK is allowed to play its fair share and increase the number of Syrian refugees resettled to 50,000 over the course of Parliament - that’s just 4 families per constituency per year over five years and only 5% of the number already resettled by Germany in one year alone. We thank the Government for committing to resettle 20,000 but as a country with one of the strongest economies in the world, and a proud tradition of offering sanctuary to those fleeing the horrors of war, we can and should do more."

Liberal Judaism’s senior rabbi, Rabbi Danny Rich, added: “Today marks 5 years since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, yet the refugee crisis is worse than ever. Jewish teaching demands that we find ways of alleviating the suffering, and it is in the name of our faith that we call on the British government to take in 50,000.”

Citizens UK has seen huge levels of public support for refugees; thousands of people have signed up to help Syrian refugees through the Refugees Welcome website, including 727 landlords who have offered their properties to local authorities to house Syrian refugees.

 
Citizens UK and Rabbi Janet Darley win major award

14 March 2016

Liberal Judaism’s Rabbi Janet Darley has collected a major human rights award.

Janet – who is rabbi at South London Liberal Synagogue – was part of the Citizens UK group who won the Champions of the Year prize at the Women on the Move Awards at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday March 11.

Citizens UK is the largest broad-based community organising alliance in the UK and has been campaigning on refugee and migrant issues for more than a decade.

The award recognised how Citizens UK has promoted the rights of refugees and migrants in the past year – successfully campaigning to increase the number of Syrian refugees resettled in the UK in 2015, as well as helping to find appropriate homes for families, creating the National Refugee Welcome Board and coordinating the ‘refugees welcome’ movement in 85 towns and cities.

Most recently, Citizens UK won a major legal victory for children in the refugee camps in Calais, who have relatives in the UK, which will enable these children to come and join their families and have their applications for asylum examined here.

The judges concluded: “Citizens UK went beyond what would be expected from mainstream civil society groups to show their support for refugees and migrants, including women, and that is why they have been named Champions of the Year.”

Janet collected the trophy from BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed, alongside fellow campaigners Reverend Karen Rooms, Joon Lynn Goh and Razan Al Akraa.

She told a packed crowd: “South London Liberal Synagogue is a member of South London Citizens and, since 2014, we have been campaigning for our local councils to publicly commit to take at least 50 Syrian refugees from the camps in Jordan and Lebanon, to put the pressure on our government to accept more people, and to ensure that Britain does its fair share in this humanitarian crisis.

“On 36, some say 46, occasions, the Torah warns us against the wronging of a stranger. For us, this is core teaching and not an optional extra.”

The Women on the Move Awards celebrate and support the contribution that migrant and refugee women, the media and their champions can make towards facing down prejudice, supporting integration and inspiring others.

The awards formed part of the Southbank Centre’s Women of the World (WOW) Festival and were co-hosted by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Migrants Organise.

Talking about her involvement with Citizens UK and the campaign to resettle refugees, Janet added: “I have become increasingly involved with the work we are doing with the children of Calais. There are around 150 unaccompanied minors there who have nuclear family here and who should be able to be reunited with them.

“I co-chaired the memorial we held for a fifteen year old, one of the boys we were working with there, who decided he couldn't wait any longer and hopped on a lorry. He died in horrific circumstances in that lorry.

“And for me, that was the deal breaker – I knew I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do everything I could to make sure there were no more dead children.

“We are in the middle of a long and painstaking campaign, but it does finally look like the system is beginning to work – a couple more children’s claims have been accepted this week.

“Community organising is able to make real change in systems, not just put sticking plasters over problems. That is why I do it.”

The ceremony also saw Mariam Ibrahim Yusuf named as Woman of the Year. Mariam arrived in the UK in 2008 fleeing war and gender-based violence in Somalia and leaving behind her two children, convinced that they would soon join her. But eight years later, having been detained, destitute and homeless, Mariam is still stuck in the asylum system. Wanting something positive to come out of her experience, Mariam has dedicated her time to campaigning to ensure that asylum seekers are not forced into similar hardships.

The Young Woman of the Year award was presented to 21 year-old Seada Fekadu. At the age of 16, Seada fled Eritrea and found her way to the UK, via Calais, on the back of the truck, on her own.  She was quickly granted refugee status and soon started volunteering, becoming a mentor and a role model to many young people and a powerful advocate for many of those who often do not have a voice.

To find out more about the great work being done by Citizens UK and South London Liberal Synagogue to help refugees and migrants, please visit www.citizensuk.org and www.southlondon.org

Janet_and_Citizens_UK_Team

 
Send us your Purim pictures

14 March 2016

With Purim around the corner, Liberal Jewish communities are going to be full of fun, food and fancy dress.

And we want to share the pictures of all the great things you get up to – from sensational spiels to cheder creativity.

We will be publishing your Purim photos in LJ Today – the bimonthly magazine of Liberal Judaism – and on our Facebook page. We’ll even send the best ones on to appear in the Jewish press.

Simply send 1-2 photos from your event, along with 35 words describing what your community did, to LJ Today editor Simon Rothstein on  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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