Yom Chamishi, 18 Iyyar 5779
Lag B Omer Thursday, 23 May 2019
Meet the new chairs of Rabbinic Conference

24 August 2015

Rabbis Alexandra Wright and Richard Jacobi are the new co-chairs of Liberal Judaism’s Rabbinic Conference - where rabbis meet on a monthly basis to support each other and to forge religious and spiritual messages to the movement and beyond. Below, they tell lj today about their backgrounds, goals and beliefs.

 

Can you tell us a little about yourselves...

Alexandra: My connection with Liberal Judaism goes back to my grandmother. She was an early member of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) and was spellbound by the sermons of Liberal Judaism’s first rabbi, Rabbi Dr Israel Mattuck. My earliest religious and spiritual influences were formed at the LJS – I attended religion school and was ‘confirmed’ there.

I was ordained at Leo Baeck College in 1986, worked at the LJS with Rabbis David Goldberg and John Rayner until the end of 1989 and then moved to Radlett & Bushey Reform Synagogue (now Radlett Reform), where I was the sole rabbi for 14 years. I returned to the LJS as senior rabbi in 2004.

 

Richard: Growing up in the home of a Liberal rabbi and rabbi’s wife – the ‘Harry-and-Rose’ partnership: one a paid role, the other not, but fulfilled every bit as much – I absorbed Liberal Judaism from a very young age. Through youth clubs at Southgate and then Wembley, I became deeply involved in ULPSNYC (the forerunner of LJY-Netzer).

Then, after a career providing management development, I shocked my family by changing course and becoming a rabbi! With the support of my wife Lyn and children Josh, Abigail and Hannah, I studied at Leo Baeck College, was ordained in 2008, and am still enjoying ministering to my first congregation – Woodford Liberal Synagogue.

 

What are your aims for the new role?

Alexandra: Outgoing Rabbinic Conference chair Rabbi Charley Baginsky worked hard keeping us all in order, building strong relationships with Liberal Judaism’s council and Board of National Officers and investing in the new Progressive Alliance with the Movement for Reform Judaism, as well as chairing our Day of Celebration and Biennial events and being a passionate advocate for Liberal Judaism. Richard and I are already working together closely, firstly just to listen and find out from Charley and Rabbi Danny Rich, as well as new chair Simon Benscher, what their concerns and aspirations are. We want to build on the relationships that Charley has developed during her two years and continue the support that she has offered colleagues. We’d also like to see more rabbis engaged in leading Rabbinic Conference and the movement, and are looking to work out how to achieve this.

 

Can you update us on the progress with the next Liberal Judaism prayer book?

Richard: The current state of the project is that we are developing ways of finding out how Liberal Jews and their communities currently use Siddur Lev Chadash, and what other liturgies or bespoke services they also use. We also intend to explore what spiritual needs bring people to Liberal Judaism and to their synagogue communities. One way of doing that is through a study pack on prayer, which we hope most, if not all, Liberal communities will explore over four or five sessions. Not everyone is convinced that we need a new prayer book, us included. I am confident we won’t need to make a decision – the way forward will emerge from study and reflection together.

 

Finally, what are you passionate about when it comes to Liberal Judaism?

Alexandra: I’m passionate about Judaism, full stop. It starts with the Torah and the prophetic books of the Bible – I have to keep reminding myself that the act of reading and re-reading weekly the parashiyot from the Torah, explaining, learning from commentaries and re-interpreting these texts for our own time, is something that has been happening for over two millennia. I’m also inspired by LJY-Netzer and am always reminded, when I am with our movement workers and madrichim, of the inextricable connection between our spiritual work as communities at prayer and the pursuit of social justice.

 

Richard: We are the latest stewards of a wonderful heritage – Judaism as a whole, and Liberal and Progressive Judaism, in particular. The more we learn of it and from it, the better we will live our lives and influence others towards a better home, street, area, country and world.