Yom Chamishi, 18 Iyyar 5779
Lag B Omer Thursday, 23 May 2019
British Liberal Jews told to 'interfere' in Israeli politics

9th June 2015

A succession of speakers at Liberal Judaism’s Day of Celebration have urged British Liberal Jews to get more involved in Israeli politics.

Rabbi Miri Gold – the ‘poster girl’ of the fight to recognise non-Orthodox rabbis in Israel – and Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, both told delegates how important the support of the Diaspora was to those fighting for religious pluralism and human rights inside of Israel.

In conversation with Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich, keynote speaker Miri said that support from the UK greatly helped as she battled to become the first Progressive rabbi to have her salary paid by the Israeli government, as well as in the continuing fight for equality for non-Orthodox strands of Judaism.
She poignantly added: “I remind myself that hope is a mitzvah, a commandment, and one which sustains me when times get rough.”

Anat, who is also a founding member of Women of the Wall, then urged British Jews to write to Israeli Ministers and the Embassy to add to the growing pressure for a pluralistic, open and inclusive Israel.

Responding to the issues raised, Rabbi Charley Baginsky – the chair of Liberal Judaism’s Rabbinic Conference – said: “Israel and the Diaspora need to seek a new relationship that has at its core mutuality. A sense not only that we need each other but that this relationship has the potential to be mutually beneficial and creative.”

Three hundred Liberal Jews from more than 30 communities gathered at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) in St John’s Wood, London, for the Day of Celebration on Sunday June 7. The ages of delegates ranged from a four-month-old baby to members in their 90s.

It was the first ever Liberal Judaism event to be streamed over the internet making it a truly global occasion, with members and friends watching via a live feed in America, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and all around the UK. 

Guest presenters from Israel included Reut Michaeli, who talked about her work as CEO of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, and Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman and Nir Cohen from the World Zionist Organisation. Other speakers included Liberal Rabbis Harry Jacobi, Shulamit Ambalu, Sandra Kviat and Alexandra Wright, as well as representatives from the New Israel Fund, UK Task Force, Yachad, JW3, UJIA, the Centre for the Study of Jewish Culture at Durham University, Leo Baeck College and the Movement for Reform Judaism.

The event ended with a farewell speech from Lucian J Hudson, the outgoing chair of Liberal Judaism, and the presentation of the Liberal Academy of Film & Torah Award to Gloucestershire Liberal Jewish Community, whose cheder won the competition to produce the best short film on the topic A Day in the Life of Israel.

Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich said: “This was Liberal Judaism at its best. A sizeable but friendly crowd - representing more than 3/4 of our congregations - came together to discuss an issue, the Israel/Diaspora relationship, that can be divisive and controversial, but which we all agree needs to be examined and thought about.
“As a result of this day, Liberal Judaism’s policy towards Israel will continue to be supportive but nuanced, principled and occasionally critical.
“Overall, this was a great showcase for the Liberal Jewish family.”