Yom Rishon, 16 AdarI 5781
Sunday, 28 February 2021
Liberal Judaism elects a new chair at AGM

handshakeSimon Benscher has been unanimously elected as the new chair of Liberal Judaism. He was voted in by the movement's communities, rabbis and officers at the Liberal Judaism AGM on Tuesday July 7.

Simon - a former chair of Woodford Liberal Synagogue who has held many positions in the national movement - takes over from Lucian J Hudson. After a very successful six year term, Lucian will now serve as deputy chair, after also being unanimously elected to the position at the AGM.

Simon said: "It is with some trepidation, but enormous pride, that I step into the chair of a movement that I've been a part of for five decades. My aims for the future of Liberal Judaism are simple in theory, and we will have to see how simple in practice.

"These aims are to build upon the extraordinary legacy that Lucian has left and the massive impact he was made, by taking Liberal Judaism in someways backwards. That's not a contradiction, it's an acknowledgment that a large part of our recent successes, and I believe our future, is in the enormous strength that we have in our communities and with their members. Going back to our grassroots and getting hands on with all of our 41 communities is a big part of our way forward.

"Liberal Judaism is also blessed with the most inspirational and driven rabbis, who have taken on an enormous, but none the less exciting task, in authoring a new prayer book. Whether this happens under my watch or not, I'm looking forward to being a part of the process.

Lucian added: "I am thrilled to be handing over to Simon, a big man in more ways than one. He will take Liberal Judaism to new heights, with his deep experience and understanding of our movement, his generosity of spirit and extraordinary dedication.

"I might have changed Liberal Judaism, but Liberal Judaism has also changed me. It's been a great honour being chair, completing two full terms and now stepping down as the longest serving lay-leader of a synagogal body in the UK.

"In this time, Liberal Judaism saw an expansion in the number of communities, increased profile, the creation of the Alliance with Movement for Reform Judaism and legal incorporation as a modernised civil society organisation. Liberal Judaism has gained in confidence, been very innovative and given an ethical and strategic direction on critical issues that matter to Jews and wider society.

"None of this could have been achieved without the support of an exceptional Board of National Officers, including Simon and Jackie Richards. I am particularly grateful to Rabbi Danny Rich, our outstanding chief executive, and Rabbi Charley Baginsky, who has been a phenomenal chair of Rabbinic Conference."

Liberal Judaism's AGM saw the re-election of officers Howard Cohen, Amelia Viney, Ed Herman, Tamara Schmidt, David Hockman and Ruth Seager and the creation of a new music standing committee, which will be led by former LJY-Netzer movement worker Graham Carpenter.

It was also announced that Rabbis Richard Jacobi and Alexandra Wright have been elected by their peers as the new co-chairs of Liberal Judaism's Rabbinic Conference. Richard opened the AGM by remembering the victims of 7/7, as well as paying tribute to two prominent Liberal Jews who died in the last year - former youth director Tony Halle and vice president Jeremy Jessell.

Those in attendance at the AGM included Liberal Judaism president Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, Leo Baeck College principal Rabbi Deborah Kahn-Harris and visiting Israeli Rabbi Oded Mazor.