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Danny speaks out on a woman's right to choose

16 February 2016

Liberal Judaism’s senior rabbi, Rabbi Danny Rich, could be heard this weekend on radio throughout the UK speaking up for a woman’s right to choose.

Danny spoke to seven different radio stations, supporting the right of women in Northern Ireland to have access to abortion and supporting the decriminalisation of 'self-induced' abortions throughout the UK.

Danny was interviewed on radio in the West Midlands, Northampton, Cornwall, Sheffield, Guernsey, Oxford and Kent.

His intervention followed last week’s rejection by Northern Ireland’s Stormont Assembly to allow terminations in cases of rape and incest, or where foetus cannot survive outside womb.

At present, under a 19th-century law, medical teams in Northern Ireland could be sentenced to life in prison for carrying out abortions even under these circumstances. Currently, a termination is only permitted in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Stormont Assembly members voted 59 to 40 against amending the legislation. One commentator put the result down to "the traditional alliance of Catholic and Protestant conservatism, plus election anxiety and anti-choice lobbying".

Speaking today, Danny said: "Religion can and should be first and foremost compassionate, putting the needs of individuals before doctrine and dogma.

"I am horrified by the idea that people would seek to compel a woman to give birth to the child of a man who has raped her.  Unless that woman is able to choose the right route for herself then we are compounding the original tragedy and placing both mother and child in an impossible position.

"That that should be done in the name of religion, I find a strange perversion of the values of caring and compassion which should underpin all faith which seeks to maintain its relevance to the modern world."

Danny added: "Women need a genuine choice at this difficult time. The criminal law is not the appropriate way."

Behind the headlines as LJS makes history

15 February 2016

Jeanne Myers

You may have seen some of the recent media coverage about The Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) holding Friday evening services in French. 'Sacrebleu', you might have thought... what’s all this about?!

Around a year ago, it occurred to me that, with the large number of French people in London, it would be a nice gesture to offer the French Progressive Jewish community services in their own language. I have lived abroad, and when in Switzerland had very much appreciated the English-language services there.

The LJS was looking for a new rabbi at this time and the appointments committee decided, irrespective of nationality, that French-born Rabbi René Pfertzel was the best candidate. He also wanted to provide a service to the French community in London and so, with the agreement of Rabbi Alexandra Wright, a date was set for the first service to take place in Hebrew, French and English.

After contacting French schools in London and the consulates of French-speaking countries, I wrote a press release and sent it to media. I was supported in these efforts by the LJS rabbinic team and their PA Naomi Richland.

The Evening Standard responded quickly and did a great piece. We also had a storm of requests for interviews with Rabbis René and Alex, as well as with one of our French members, David Herz, who generously gave his time for this.

On one particular afternoon, we had interviews every hour with different news, camera and radio crews from BBC London TVBBC Radio 5 LiveBBC News (online), Russia TodayBBC Radio 4, the Press Association (TV) and even the Swiss station Radio Fribourg.

BBC 1’s The One Show filmed on the day of the service, as did DW, a German international broadcaster. The actual service was attended by many of the media already mentioned, as well as the international news website Vice News.

Other coverage included pieces in NewsweekThe Daily Telegraph, The Jewish ChronicleJewish NewsThe Jewish TelegraphFranceInLondon.com and Tribune Juive, as well as the Israeli press. More coverage is in the pipeline, with TV channels from all around the world still requesting interviews.

And the event itself? Approximately 60 people attended the first tri-lingual Friday night service at which the sermon was given by René in French - a landmark for our synagogue, our movement and Judaism in the UK.

The date of the next such service will be on the seventh night of Passover, Thursday April 28. If you would like to attend, please visit www.ljs.org or call 0207 286 5181 for timings.

Jeanne Myers is a PR consultant and member of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue

Rabbi René Pfertzel with Jeanne Myers

LJ’s Surat-Shaan named as LGBT role model

15th February 2016

Liberal Judaism’s Surat-Shaan Knan has been selected as a Stonewall ‘role model’ for LGBT History Month.

Celebrated every February, the aim of the month is to celebrate the lives and achievements of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people from the past and present. The theme this year is Religion, Belief & Philosophy.

As part of the month, Stonewall – the campaigning and lobbying organisation – is profiling the inspirational LGBT people of faith it has worked alongside to challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

One of those is Surat-Shaan, the project manager for the Rainbow Jews and Twilight People projects – both of which are proudly hosted by Liberal Judaism and supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A posting on the Stonewall website says: “Surat-Shaan is a Jewish trans man. He spent most of his young years in the Mediterranean, and now lives in London. He is an international speaker, writer and campaigner. He feels he’s never quite fitted neatly into ‘those little gender boxes of female and male’.

“He’s also an active member of the Liberal Jewish community, working for UK charity Liberal Judaism, and feels blessed to be part of a welcoming and inclusive faith community.”

Surat-Shaan is also a member of Stonewall's Trans Advisory Group, which supports the integration of trans equality across all of Stonewall’s campaigns and programmes, as well as advising the chief executive and senior management team.

Twilight People is Britain’s first ever project and exhibition highlighting the heritage of transgender and gender nonconforming people of faith.

A collection of photographs, recordings and artefacts exploring this ‘hidden history’ are on display at Islington Museum in London until March 5. The exhibition will then go on tour around the country.

For more information on the exhibition please visit www.islington.gov.uk/heritage and www.twilightpeople.com


Book a FREE trip to Israel

9th February 2016

Are you aged between 19 and 26? Do you want to discover Israel with fellow Progressive Jews? Fancy a FREE 10-day tour taking in the best the country has to offer?

UJIA Birthright with Liberal and Reform Judaism are planning a FREE trip to Israel for 19-26 year olds from August 15-25.

In the past, such Birthright trips were only open to those who had never been to Israel before on an organised education programme. But, for the first time this year, those who have been to Israel on an organised trip that was less than a few months – such as LJY-Netzer Israel Tour – are able to apply.

For more details, and to apply, please email progressivebirthright5776@gmail.com

One big Friday night dinner

8th February 2016

The Gloucestershire Liberal Jewish Community (GLJC) gathered most of its members together in January for a simultaneous Friday night dinner party.

Eighty people united in nine houses around Gloucestershire, enjoying home cooked food contributed by those taking part. Members were grouped together into convenient geographical locations to cut down the travelling time.

The event was the brainchild of Rabbi Anna Gerrard, in order to give a unique opportunity for members to enjoy each others’ company, get to know new people and to set up social opportunities to improve the cohesiveness of a small but growing Jewish community.

GLJC’s Louise Radford said: “The event was a tremendous success and it could become a regular annual dinner party. This is yet one more example of Rabbi Anna’s abilities to develop stronger community links and encourage membership. It shows that the GLJC is a vibrant and welcoming community of Jewish and potential Jewish members of all ages.”


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