Shining example is set by Reform's northern lights

By Jessica Elgot, December 2, 2011
Leeds Sinai Synagogue's Anna Dyson listens in with daughter Gavriella

Leeds Sinai Synagogue's Anna Dyson listens in with daughter Gavriella

Strengthening smaller communities, starting up schools, improving lay leadership and making services more musical were among topics discussed at Reform Judaism's annual conference for nothern communities, held in Cumbria over the weekend.

Organised by Sarita Robinson from Hull Reform Synagogue, the conference attracted 117 adults, teens and children.

Peter Kessler, chair of the new Eden Jewish Primary in north London - one of the first free schools under the Department for Education initiative - led a session on how to start a Jewish school.

Reform chief executive Ben Rich stressed that much of the interest in the topic was "on a purely theoretical basis. Many members were from Blackpool or Southport. They are never going to open a Jewish school but it's an area of Jewish life they aren't really connected to and it's good to hear someone talk about it."

There had also been positive discussions on sharing resources. The regional picture was that "Manchester and Leeds communities are thriving and Reform is getting a bigger market share of people. Other communities have adapted well to being smaller and having lay leadership instead of a rabbi."

Mr Rich added that it had been "amazing" to discover "how far people travelled in order to go to a synagogue. It was the most invigorating event I have been to since I became chief executive."

Ms Robinson was delighted by the relationships forged. "It was also interesting to see how many adults are interested in education and we talked about how we could expand our text-based learning sessions."

Last updated: 11:29am, December 2 2011