Going back in time to deal with recession

By Ben Jaglom, May 7, 2009

As a response to the recession, Reform Judaism has instigated Living in the age of Anxiety, a series examining the issue through Jewish teachings.

The course launched with a lecture on leadership at the Sternberg Centre in Finchley by Reform chief executive Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand. The series was inspired by David Karat, who explained: “I have been working in finance for 30 years and I find that every day there is new information on the economic crisis that most people struggle to absorb.

“I thought a good community response would be to put these problems into context by looking at our previous struggles and how we dealt with them.”

Rabbi Boyd Gelfand said that in the current climate, synagogue leaders “should create a safe space for people. They may be the only place of certainty for many people when everything around them is crumbling.”

A study of Exodus demonstrated how the leadership of Moses had helped the Jews through a difficult time. The rabbi also cited Martin Luther King’s role in the American civil rights movement to show that great leaders “care deeply and show extraordinary courage”. Among the audience were Brazilian Eduardo Saksida, 29, and Frenchman Benjamin Deniau, 31, friends and business partners in a company that helps people invest in emerging markets. They had attended to see how Jewish teachings and history could be applied to their venture.

Mr Deniau said: “The rabbi combined motivational speech with religious knowledge. I learned more about these texts and was able to draw great inspiration from them”

Geoffrey Marx, 55, of film and tele-vision costumiers Angels, said he wanted “to learn more about Jewish ethics and how they can be applied to business. With all the uncertainty at the moment and the attention paid to the Jewish involvement in the crisis, I think this is particularly important.”

Last updated: 3:06pm, May 7 2009