Yom Shabbat, 15 AdarI 5781
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Rabbi Danny Rich responds to Geoffrey Alderman

From the letters page of the JC
10th July 2014

Dear Editor

Geoffrey Alderman (‘Shift from fads and whims’) correctly identifies that Liberal Judaism considers “righteousness in action” to be of more importance than matters of ritual, but goes on to quote highly selectively from me -and indeed (Reform) Rabbi Romain - to claim that Liberal Judaism is merely concerned with the “public mood” and “the times”.

Judaism has never stood still. Its history is one of continuity and change, and its genius is its capacity to take account of the people’s needs and to respond to change in knowledge and circumstances.  All strands of Judaism show evidence of constant development in belief and practice whether described as the ‘Oral Law’, the decisions of the sages, or something else.

Further, Alderman implies that the Liberal Jewish prioritization of the injunction ‘to seek’ justice is at odds with tradition and ritual.  The founders of Liberal Judaism sought to ensure that practice accorded with conscience and intelligence, and, if Liberal Jews are ‘becoming more traditional’, they are not doing so at the expense of Liberal Jewish leadership in, for example, matters of public policy including fair pay and quality training for those who care for the most vulnerable in our society and equal marriage.

It is the strength of Liberal Judaism that it confronts the challenges of our time, and, whilst valuing truth above tradition and human needs above legal technicalities, also encourages its adherents to sanctify their lives with the habit of study, the discipline of prayer and the performance of rituals of beauty and meaning.  It rejects cruel and discriminatory traditional practices of which mamzerut is one.

The belief that every person - man and woman, Jew and Muslim and, yes, straight and gay - is created in God’s image is not merely a reflection of the current public mood but a restatement of the core values of Judaism itself.

Rabbi Danny Rich
Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism