Yom Chamishi, 18 Iyyar 5779
Lag B Omer Thursday, 23 May 2019
Shanah Tova from Liberal Judaism

September 2015

Rabbi Danny Rich, Liberal Judaism's senior rabbi and chief executive

The month of Elul and the coming Yamim Noraim (High Holy Days) are a time of reflection for Jews – demanding not only personal introspection, but requiring an examination of collective neglect.

The image of a drowned child washed up on a beach in Europe is simply the latest stark reminder of the tragedy which Syria’s neighbours, particularly Jordan and Lebanon, have been dealing with for a number of years.

A year ago, with the Conservative leader of Kingston Council, I called for each British local authority to offer sanctuary to 50 Syrian refugees so that Britain might lead the world in this moral endeavour.

The challenge of migration is, of course a local, European and international one but, despite British efforts in the region itself, there is no excuse for not making a generous and dramatic offer of sanctuary now.

History teaches us the cost to innocent men, women and children when countries and international partners delay in the face of an emergency, and the Jewish community is particularly sensitive to the fate of those who appear abandoned by the world community.

On Yom Kippur afternoon Liberal Synagogues will hear this verse (Leviticus 19:16): “You shall not stand by idle when your neighbour’s blood is being shed.”

Will we be part of the generation who stands by idly or shall we ‘pursue justice’ for the most vulnerable?


 

Simon Benscher, Liberal Judaism's chair

As we speed swiftly towards the High Holy Days, I wonder if during our hours of communal spiritual refreshment we could give some consideration to the near 40 chairs of our Liberal congregations who would have probably spent days preparing what, for many of them, is the most important speech of their year.

For some, including me, to stand on the bimah in front of fellow congregants and friends is a daunting experience, while for others public speaking doesn’t cause even the slightest concern. But the one thing they all have in common is a desire to give a heartfelt and passionate appeal, not just for money to be donated to worthy and deserving charities, but also for everyone to give more of themselves.

For the vast majority of our communities the day to day functions and maintenance falls on the shoulders of a small number of willing helpers. In my experience, all of these volunteers are busy, hardworking people with either full time commitments to their work or their families, or possibly even both. None the less, they still find the capacity in their busy lives to work for their extended family.

Ask any of these unsung heroes “why do you give yourself this extra burden” and I’m reasonably sure in most cases they won’t be able to give you a definitive answer. Our commitment to our communal Jewish homes is, for many of us, part of our DNA. It can’t be defined or labelled, but it gives the individual as much in the way of fulfilment, as they hope it gives to their congregation.

Where would we be without these stalwart members - organising and supporting without (much) complaint or expectation of praise? The answers are easy. Liberal Judaism wouldn’t be where it is today at the forefront of Progressive Jewish life. Our inspirational Rabbis would not be able to lead us through our Jewish journeys. The Board of National Officers would have little value.

This year when you hear the annual appeal maybe, just maybe, make the commitment to play your part in the future of Liberal Judaism in the UK.

L'shanah tovah!