Reform launches outreach arm as alternative to Aish

By Simon Rocker, October 17, 2008
Rabbi Mark Goldsmith: Seeks "a non-fundamentalist alternative"

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith: Seeks "a non-fundamentalist alternative"

The Reform movement is about to take the first step to launch an alternative to Aish, the Orthodox outreach organisation for young adults.

A residential weekend next month will be the inaugural event by the Assembly of Reform Rabbis to offer a "non-fundamentalist" alternative.

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, of London's North-Western Reform Synagogue - who is leading the initiative with Rabbi Neil Amswych of Bournemouth Reform Synagogue - said: "The Assembly wants to try to provide the quality of input for young adults that organisations such as Aish do."

Aish - which enjoyed an income of more than £3 million in 2005 - is active in providing programmes for young Jewish adults with heavily subsidised trips abroad, Friday-night dinners and other social and educational events.

Rabbi Goldsmith said: "We know that many young Jews, who don't subscribe to the beliefs that Aish stands for, still really enjoy Aish events because they are well-planned, well-executed and well-supported by rabbis. We want to provide a non-fundamentalist model of true Jewish engagement."

The weekend, to be held in Worcester, is being offered at £35 a head, with sponsorship from the Reform movement and private donors.

"We know that 18- to 25-year-olds don't have serious money," said Rabbi Goldsmith. "We want them to be able to make the choice to come themselves and not ask their parents to pay.

"We're calling it ‘Real Questions Given Straight Answers', where people can put questions on any aspect of Judaism and life. It's the first time we've done this with this level of rabbinic input. We're planning to have five rabbis for 25 participants."

The Assembly initiative has the working title Mayim Chaim (Living Water) and is being run in conjunction with Jeneration, the website for young adults which also has a campus arm. The Reform-backed site includes information on Liberal and Masorti activities.


Last updated: 4:58pm, October 17 2008