Why we must urgently co-operate: Danny Rich

By Danny Rich, September 12, 2008

Delegitimising other Jews puts our future at risk


Pluralism in thought and deed has always been at the heart of Liberal Judaism, which seeks to combine the best of Jewish tradition with the gifts of modernity.

Pluralism is a means of welcoming, and living with, diversity and divergence, of pursuing one's own fragment of truth whilst acknowledging the equal validity of another's.

Pluralism necessitates a confidence in one's own views coupled with a humility which concedes that one's own truth is only partial and may not be wholly correct.

Pluralism requires a belief that reward may come through faithful effort rather than righteous certainty, and further recognises that the truth may never be wholly known to any human.

Pluralism also demands integrity and a sense of unity; loyalty to one's own view but also a sense of the common good. It needs patience, the ability to take risks, and the humility to acknowledge that even in the face of what seems to be obvious one might be wrong.

In this spirit we welcome the Statement of Communal Collaboration because, despite genuinely held differences between Liberal, Masorti and Reform Judaism, the British Jewish community - both for its own good and because a majority desire it - needs to find a more co-operative, polite and decent way to carry out its endeavours.

Statisticians suggest an inexorable decline of 1 per cent per annum in our community. Responsible Jewish leadership must think afresh. It cannot retreat into its own comfort zone and hope to be spared the worst of whatever is to come; it cannot shrug its shoulders and let be what will be; it has to confront the challenge and work as hard and as effectively as possible to bring Judaism to increasing numbers.

The intemperate words of those who seek to delegitimise other Jews, the strident positions taken by batei din that lack compassion, and the sad failures to accord respect to rabbis of other denominations by refusals to use rabbinic titles, share platforms or even permit the giving of hespedim at controlled burial grounds, only demean those who indulge in such political posturing. Such behaviour puts at peril the future of a Jewish community whose members wish to see a society that is mature and confident enough to disagree politely, to debate respectfully, and to differ in its practice, while at the same time being prepared to demonstrate that what is common - a desire to perpetuate Jewish life - is of more value and potential than that which divides.

In spite of the sincere differences between Jews who associate themselves with the Liberal, Masorti, Reform or any other Jewish denomination, the future of our community - in both quality and quantity - is best served under the flag of "Jewish Unity, Not Uniformity": the pluralist way.

Rabbi Danny Rich is chief executive of Liberal Judaism

Last updated: 2:08pm, September 22 2008