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Liberal Judaism hails deal to create “egalitarian” prayer space at the Kotel

1 February 2016

Jewish Chronicle

A plan was approved on Sunday for a mixed-prayer space to be built at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The deal to create an area where men and women can pray together at the holiest site in Judaism, was described by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “an appropriate, creative solution”.

“I know that this is a sensitive issue, and yet I think that is an appropriate solution, a creative solution,” he said. “Usually the most complex issues demand this type of solution”.

The move comes after nearly 30 years of campaigning by various groups, including Reform and Conservative Judaism and Women of the Wall.

Women of the Wall spokeswoman Shira Pruce said the decision was a “revolution for women and Jewish pluralism in Israel”.

The area will be located at the south of the Western Wall Plaza, near Robinson’s Arch, the area of the Kotel where, in 2013, women were first allowed to wear prayer shawls while praying at the Wall.

The space, which will be accessible from the same entrance as the rest of the Wall, will be 9,700 sq ft and is estimated to provide space for around 1,200 people.

Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism, said of the proposal: “This is a landmark decision for Jews throughout the globe. It recognises that Judaism is an inclusive religion with a variety of different but valid expressions.

Read more.

WomenoftheWall2PhotoFlash90

Photo: Flash 90

 
Historic deal allows men and women to pray together at Western Wall

31 January 2016

The Guardian

Israel approves official separate area for mixed gender praying that will be registered in country's Law of Holy Sites.

A battle lasting more than a quarter of a century over the Western Wall, the religious site revered by Jews all over the world, has resulted in a historic deal to create a space where men and women are permitted to pray together in equality.

On Sunday, the Israeli government approved the creation of a permanent and official separate area for mixed gender praying at the site in Jerusalem’s Old City. Liberal and reform Jews hailed the move as a victory for Jews everywhere.

Women of the Wall has campaigned for equal prayer rights at the Western Wall for the past 27 years, holding monthly protests in the plaza in front of the wall’s ancient golden stones. The gatherings frequently ended in physical tussles and arrests.

The women’s demands were anathema to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious establishment, which manages the site. The rules governing worship – set by the Western Wall rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz – forbade men and women from praying together. A small section of the wall is sectioned off for women.

Women of the Wall also demanded an end to ultra-orthodox bans on women praying aloud, reading from the Torah and wearing traditional prayer shawls, known as tallit.

Thousands of Jews pray every day at the site, the last remnant of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount, pushing scraps of paper bearing handwritten prayers into the cracks between the ancient stones. The site also attracts thousands of tourists and international dignitaries, with Pope Francis, Barack Obama and Madonna among global figures who have prayed at the wall.

The new section for non-Orthodox mixed gender prayer will double the size and make permanent an area designated under a temporary compromise reached in 2013 after Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered a solution to be found to the dispute. The expanded area, costing £6m, will accommodate 1,200 worshippers and be officially registered in Israel’s Law of Holy Sites. It will be administered by government officials.

The Israeli cabinet approved the plan without a formal vote. Ultra-Orthodox cabinet members criticised the move, with interior minister Aryeh Deri saying: “For all the years of its existence, the state of Israel has conducted itself based on traditional Judaism.”

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, the sister movement of Reform Judaism in Israel, said: “This is a landmark decision for Jews across the globe. It recognises that Judaism is an inclusive religion with a variety of different but valid expressions.

“Equality of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation are central to Liberal Judaism and now at last liberal Jews can celebrate a Judaism in keeping with the modern world at our most holy site.”

Read more

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Women of the Wall at the Western Wall. Photo: Jim Hollander/EPA

 
Rabbi Charley Baginsky appointed to Alliance role

21 January 2016

The Alliance for Progressive Judaism, a partnership of Reform and Liberal Judaism, has appointed Rabbi Charley Baginsky as its part-time coordinator whose remit is to develop projects that the two movements will work on jointly to advance Progressive Judaism, its principles and ethos in the UK.

The Reform and Liberal Movements work together in a number of areas including, but not limited to, education, chaplaincy and the Leo Baeck College as well as both the European and World Unions of Progressive Judaism.

To deepen the activity of the Alliance, Rabbi Charley will be fostering a number of new projects, one of which will be the establishment of an Israel Desk the focus of which will be education, engagement with our members, the coordination of Reform and Liberal messages and work with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and our many partners in Israel.

Rabbi Danny Rich, Senior Rabbi and Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism, said: “The appointment of Charley Baginsky is a real move forward in the work of the Alliance and shows our commitment to this project. I am sure that with her efforts we will begin to see added benefits from what is already a productive relationship”.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism, added: “This appointment crystallises a very strong relationship, and enables us to work together on areas of mutual interest and strength for the benefit of each of the movements and for Jews in Britain as a whole.

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Join the Leo Baeck College adult learning programme

13 January 2016

Leo Baeck College, Europe’s main centre for Progressive Judaism teaching and training, has announced it’s spring adult learning programme.

After a very successful first two years, 2016’s courses promise to enthuse those taking part with their richness, variety and quality.

All are taught by Leo Baeck College’s outstanding faculty staff, who will guide participants in subjects about which they are passionate and deeply knowledgeable.

Courses include Dr Joanna B Michlic teaching on ‘Shoah through film: The impact of WWII on Jewish children and families’ and ‘The Sound of Prayer: Learn traditional Jewish prayer chants’, taught by Dr Annette Boeckler. There is also the chance to learn Biblical Hebrew.

All courses are held at Leo Baeck College on weekday evenings.

For the full spring programme click here -> http://www.lbc.ac.uk/images/stories/Courses/lehrhaus2015/15.12.01.spring_Lehrhaus_A4_flyer_Frankfurt.pdf

To register and pay for a course, please email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 
An insight into faith in prison

12 January 2016

Rabbi Danny Rich, the senior rabbi of Liberal Judaism and a prison and hospital chaplain, has given an insight into prison life for people of faith.

Delivering a speech to the Council of Christians and Jews, and then to Limmud, Danny discussed what prison chaplaincy, as he has experienced it, can teach us about faith dialogue.

After giving the facts and figures, Danny discusses what we can say about those who choose to utilise the services of chaplaincy?

At the last count, in 2012, there were 252 prison inmates who identified as Jewish, which works out as 0.3% of the current prison population.

Danny discusses the various Jewish people he meets in prison, before concluding: “They frequently fall into one of two categories. There are those who seek to use both their Judaism and their life story as an excuse for poor behaviour. They are the victim in a perverse sort of way and their inability to see beyond their own pain makes genuine dialogue difficult to achieve.  The others use their Judaism and their own life story as a means of wielding soft power and their desire to be triumphant often makes remorse difficult to achieve.”

You can download a copy of the speech, entitled ‘A peek over the prison wall’, by clicking here.

Limmud


 
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