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Gay Jews in the U.K. to document life over the rainbow

28 December 2012

A new grant from the UK Heritage Lottery Fund will allow the gay Jewish community to research, record and archive its colorful roots.

Coming out to your rabbi can be a nerve-wracking experience, particularly when he's the head of the United Synagogue, which represents much of England's Jewish community – and your boss. But Mark Solomon, an Orthodox minister at the time, recalls that the reaction of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks at their pivotal meeting in January 1992 was "quite kind."

"Under his breath, he said 'Oh my God.' Then he gave me a little spiel about why he thought homosexuality was wrong – but he wished me well and said that the door was always open."

Most significantly, says Solomon, who had already decided to leave his job as a rabbi at an orthodox London synagogue, Sacks allowed him to work out the remainder of his job.

The experience of Solomon, now 49 and a prominent rabbi in UK's Liberal Synagogue, is likely to be part of a landmark project launching next month to record the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews in the United Kingdom.

The two-year "Rainbow Jews" initiative, the first of its kind in the UK, has been awarded a grant of nearly 60,000 pounds by the UK Heritage Lottery Fund to research, record and archive the experiences of British LGBT Jews from the 1950s until the present day. The theme of the project, conducted under the auspices of the Liberal Judaism movement, is "Pioneers and Milestones."  Read more 

Morocco trip is an interfaith affair

20th December 2012

Liberal Judaism will be running an interfaith trip to Morocco from June 25 – July 3, open to ALL members aged 18-24 at a cost of just £50, plus flights and some meals.

The tour will be run in conjunction with Salaam Shalom Media, an interfaith youth council, and we’ll be joined by groups of British Muslims and Christians of the same age. The tour will explore the Jewish and Islamic history in the cities of Marrakesh and Fez, as well as featuring an excursion through the Atlas Mountain range and into the Sahara Desert.

LJY-Netzer movement worker Sam Cohen, who is organising the trip, said: “We’ll spend an amazing eight days travelling, learning and breaking stereotypes.

“I would recommend signing up right away, as flights will go up in price as we approach the summer. Also the number of subsidized £50 place is limited.”

While participants will have to buy their own flights, and bring spending money for some of the meals, the tour itself including all accommodation, travel, breakfasts and guides costs just £50. Flights are currently available via EasyJet for £100.

Liberal gain in Herts

The JC
December 17 2012

Stevenage-based North Herts Liberal Jewish Community has become a full constituent member of Liberal Judaism.

The congregation was given “developing community” status in 2010, including rabbinic and financial support. As a result of its progress, Liberal Judaism’s council voted unanimously on Sunday to upgrade it.

Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich said: “North Herts is another example of where Liberal Judaism has invested effort and money. The congregation is now in a position to make financial and other contributions to help us establish the next new community.” Part-time NHLJC rabbi Ariel Friedlander said the community had developed “from a few people holding services together into a congregation making the commitment to become part of the national movement.”

On the same weekend, North Herts celebrated the graduation of lay leader Linda Paice as part of Liberal Judaism’s second Ba’alei Tefillah programme.

NHLJC chairman Terry Wolfe said the congregation held “numerous social activities, including quizzes and excursions. One new member commented that she had made 40 friends. How wonderful is that?”

A special celebration in Weymouth

19th December 2012

Liberal Rabbis Anna Gerrard and Pete Tobias were privileged to lead Chanukkah celebrations in Weymouth this year.

More than 20 people shared prayers, stories, memories, latkes and doughnuts at the home of Lord Morris Mendoza.

The service included two poetic renditions of the Chanukkah story by Rabbis Anna and Pete and concluded with joyful singing that led one 12-year-old participant to comment that it had been "the most enjoyable party" he'd ever experienced.

Rabbi Anna, who is outreach director for Liberal Judaism, said: "We are so appreciate of Lord Mendoza for enthusiastically gathering up the Jews of Weymouth and surrounding area.

"It was incredible to light Chanukkah candles with people who hadn't celebrated the festival for 20 years - since they had moved away from more Jewish areas - and were moved to tears by the opportunity to reconnect with their heritage."

Liberal Judaism is planning more visits to Weymouth in 2013, as Lord Mendoza and others seek to revive the Jewish community there.

Campaigning for a living wage

19th December 2012

Liberal Judaism is playing a leading role in the cross-communal campaign to pay a Living Wage to all public sector workers.

Liberal Judaism's chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich joined Citizens UK to deliver a letter to David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, congratulating the Prime Minister on action taken so far and urging him to make the living wage the norm across Whitehall.

The event, which was covered by BBC Newsnight, was also in support of Valdemar Ventura - a cleaner who transferred from Nick Clegg's office by his employer after leaving a letter on the Deputy Prime Minister's desk in support of the campaign. Nick Clegg has since requested his return.

In a speech to Citizens UK, Danny said: "Last week, and for the next three weeks, from the final chapters of the Book of Genesis and the early ones of the Book of Exodus, Jews across the world will read the story of the first Joseph.

"Joseph, in common with many of us, came from a dysfunctional family, and as a result of sibling jealousy, and parental favouritism, was thrown into a pit in the middle of a desert. He was rescued – if that is the right term – by human traffickers – those people who trade in the lives of others – and Joseph found himself an enslaved foreign worker in an alien land, namely Egypt.

"The Biblical story tells us that his employers took advantage of his vulnerable status and he was soon in prison. His innate skills, and according to the Biblical story, the intervention of God enabled him to earn his freedom and by the end of his life he was the second most influential person in the land, the Minister of Corn, or Prime Minister to the Egyptian Pharaoh.

"Jewish tradition asks elsewhere: 'What could one do that would be heroic?’ It suggests, for example, making a friend of one’s enemy, or learning from every person.

"The story of Joseph perhaps reminds us that the most heroic person would be one who enables the foreign worker, the marginalised person to become a legal resident. But not merely a national, but the first Minster of the land.

"Thus, rather than cleaning the desk of the Deputy Prime Minister, Valdemar Ventura will be sitting at the desk of the Deputy Prime Minister.

"Jews are in the midst of the festival of Chanukkah, meaning rededication and light. May these festivals of Chanukkah and Christmas and the Campaign for a Living Wage bring light where there is darkness and hope where there is despair."

See a report about the event on Newsnight here:

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