Yom Sheini, 15 Iyyar 5779
Monday, 20 May 2019
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Liberal youth bake in the winter sun

Twenty-four young Liberal Jews enjoyed a weekend of praying, playing and baking at the LJY-Netzer POW4NOW event on October 26-28 at Southgate Progressive Synagogue.

The youngsters, ranging in age from 7-13 and including six new LJY-Netzer members, took part in the residential weekend, which offers a taster for larger get-togethers and camps later in the year.

Overseen by a team of leaders and LJY-Netzer’s movement workers, the children took part in Shacharit, Kabbalat Shabbat and Havdalah services and a group outing to the park.

LJY-Netzer members enjoying POW4NOWThe highlight of the weekend was the ‘Great LJY-Netzer Bake Off’, which saw everyone compete to make the most wild and wacky desserts.

 LJY-Netzer movement worker Sam Cohen said: “The POW4NOW weekend was a fantastic success and showed both the fun and serious sides of Liberal Judaism.

“The most common question we got asked afterwards was how people can sign up for our Spring Camp in February, which is always a good sign!”

 
Crouch End Chavurah celebrates first batmitzvah

Crouch End Chavurah, north London’s newest Jewish community, has celebrated its first batmitzvah.

Crouch End Bat MitzvahThirteen-year-old Sadie Goswell co-led this weekend’s Shabbat service (October 27) with Rabbi Sandra Kviat, surrounded by more than 150 family, friends and well-wishers.

It was a landmark moment for the community, which affiliated to Liberal Judaism in 2011 and now has more than 50 families as members.

Rabbi Sandra said: “The occasion of our first batmitzvah is another milestone for the community to witness and share.

“Sadie's batmitzvah was an occasion for us to celebrate both her coming-of-age and our community's maturity.”

 
Women of the Wall arrested

The JC
17th October 2012

Three members of religious rights group Women of the Wall have been arrested for praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem wearing a tallit.

Woman of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman had been holding prayers for the “Rosh Hodesh Heshvan” at the Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City when she was arrested for “disturbing public order” and placed in prison overnight. Her crime had been to sing the Shema, and wear a prayer shawl – practices forbidden to women by the Orthodox rabbinate, which controls all services at the site.

Director Lesley Sachs and board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun were arrested on Wednesday morning for the same offence.

The arrests highlight the organisation’s mission: “To achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.” Currently under Israeli law, it is illegal to hold a religious ceremony in the women’s section of the Wall

The group have been holding - or attempting to hold - services at the Western Wall for 25 years and over that time have frequently been confronted, attacked and arrested.

Liberal Judaism and the Movement for Reform Judaism said they were “dismayed” at news of the arrest. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism said: "When women are intimidated and treated as criminals for asserting their basic human and Jewish right to pray as Jews, it's wrong. These women pray at the Kotel because it is a place of holiness and remembrance. The policy of giving one group complete control of the Kotel must be changed."

 
Creating a cross-communal atmosphere

The JC
October 11th 2012

At Birmingham JSoc, cross-communalism is at the centre of our ideals, in line with UJS policy which states that "UJS and J-Soc activities should be open to all Jewish students regardless of religious affiliation or denomination". In reality however, this ideal presents a number of challenges.

Birmingham is an extremely popular university for Jewish students. At our first Friday night this year we hosted 250 people, around half of whom were freshers! It's far enough from home (usually London or Manchester) for people to escape overbearing Jewish mothers, but close enough to rush back if in need of some home-made chicken soup. Add to that a thriving nightlife and a number of decent universities, and it's easy to see the appeal.

With a small but welcoming Orthodox community, a fantastic chaplain with years of experience and even a group of students who organise their own minyan, it's clear Birmingham is an attractive option for observant Orthodox students too, who may have previously stayed in their home city. The worry is that the huge influx of observant Orthodox students has left many non-affiliated or Progressive Jews feeling uncomfortable or even unwelcome.

Pluralism is hard to do right. Many suggest that it can't be done at all. Why should pluralism mean compromise of one denomination or another's Judaism? And what can we do to turn the tide of what has come to be seen as an Orthodox-centric JSoc? One thing we tried to encourage and implement was an egalitarian service on a Friday night.

It ran a couple of times last term and we hope, with the help of a number of Progressive students, to get it back up and running again. We have started a dialogue with Jeneration and a group of more active progressive students in Birmingham, with whom we hope to be able to support in their activities and work with to find solutions to problems they encounter.

Last term we welcomed Benji Stanley of Liberal Judaism to speak and we have featured articles by progressive rabbis in our weekly "Insight" leaflet including Birmingham's own Dr Margaret Jacobi. This term we look forward to hearing Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner. Our most recent endeavour to counter the hegemony of Orthodox Judaism in JSoc and move towards a more inclusive society, is our safe space policy.  Read more

 
How rabbis are wasted on Jews

The JC
October 7th 2012

 

Recently, my elder son sealed himself into The Book Of Life As A Married Man. As he used a Scrabble-like word game and a ring made of jelly to propose to his bride, some solemnities and precious metal were required. I haven't been involved in arranging many weddings so I wouldn't presume to give readers advice but every now and again a newcomer makes a useful discovery - after all, how many burning bushes do you think Moses had seen when he came across the one that mattered?

Has it ever occurred to you that the start of proceedings isn't the best time for the solemnities? Mid-afternoon and the shul is filled with dinner-jacketed men and backless, shoulderless, dressed women ready to party. But I think they've got it wrong. Ours happened in our garden. We had the religious part of our day not at the start but in the middle and to wonderful effect; it wasn't announced in advance and it became the centrepiece.

People had been talking and eating and drinking not immoderately but for quite a time when the rabbi took the stage. So the ceremony was both after and before the party, a time to stop and think what it was all about when they were already warmed up. And that was precisely the effect it had.

It was a blessing, not a marriage service. The bride isn't Jewish and the legalities had been executed elsewhere. But here was David Goldberg, emeritus rabbi of London's Liberal Jewish Synagogue, bringing what both bride and groom wanted - a proper spiritual dimension to their commitment to each other. Rabbi Goldberg first conducted this sort of ceremony more than 30 years ago and his beautiful speech expressed what, through meeting such couples, he knew to be true: here were two intelligent people in love with each other who feel connected with Jewishness.  Read more

 
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