As lay leaders of different sections of the Jewish Community and for ourselves we, like many members of Anglo-Jewry, have been perturbed and distressed by the divisions and dissension which have become the more apparent since the death of Rabbi Hugo Gryn, of blessed memory.
It is inevitable that with different principles and practices there exist profound differences of brief calculated to stir deep emotions and impatience.
These deep divisions within the Jewish Community have existed for more than a century. It would be wrong to minimise them or ignore them. They are not unique to our Anglo-Jewish community. We have seen them not only developing in Israel, but in many lands in the Diaspora. It is not surprising since the fundamental concepts of Jewish life are in issue: divorce, conversion, indeed the question itself as to who is a Jew.
The Jewish Community is damaged by in-fighting and mutual recrimination. It harms us internally and externally.
Internally the spectacle of Jew attacking Jew has a harmful effect on the community, its members and its morale. It tends to show Jews and Judaism in a negative light and to obscure the positive achievments of the community, our community, and the inspiring values of Judaism itself. Externally it compromises the unity we have hithero been able to bring to matters of great importance, the support of Israel, welfare and defence among them.
It would be wrong to suppose that our differences and divisions preclude peaceful co-existence, mutual respect and a considerabel measure of co-operation on matters which are not divisive.
There is a distinction to be drawn between substansive matters of contention and the protocols of respect and mutual courtesy which can and should exist between those who hold profoundly different views.
The substantive points of conflict within the community cannot be resolved quickly. That does not mean they should not be tackled. But to predicate harmonious relationship on their resolution is to defer indefinitely the quest of us all for communal peace. To that end a set of understandings and conventions will reduce the level of acrimony now and in the foreseeable future.
With these considerations in mind and with the approval of our religious leaders, there have been discussions between us with a view to establishing certain protocols of behaviour, reaching certain understandings and clarifying certain conventions, thereby avoiding misunderstandings and resentments and the suspicion of an offence when none may be intented. We commit ourselves unreservedly to the pursuit of communal peace and co-operation.
Let it be said that mutual respect and co-operation on matters which are not divisive will be achieved only if there is a recognition of the sincerity of one another's point of view and an understanding that certain beliefs and traditions impose limits on conduct and beliefs which are to be regarded as acceptable. The absense of recognition does not entail the absense of respect.
No section of the community should ask or expect any other to act against its convictions or embarrass it for being consistent with its principles: no group should seek to exploit difference for sectional ends and when shared activity or common ground is sought, the search for ti should be with due recognition for the sensitivities of the various participants. Any discussion should be conducted in a mutually respectful manner and tone.
We therefore wish the annexed conventions of Orthodox communities which are adopted by the United Synagogue to be widely known and recognised.
This statement is but a step to bring about a more harmonious and productive relationship between the several sections of the community. Much remains for consideration and we will seek to deal with problems when they arise, each of us consulting our own religious leaders.
We have accordingly agreed to take early steps to renew and revise the consultative committee with a view to continuing to deal with the whole subject of Communal Relations. Terms of reference have been agreed and are annexed hereto.
We trust that this statement will lead to the diminution of dissension within a historic community.
ELKAN LEVY- President of the United Synagogue
NEVILLE SASSIENIE - Chairman, Reform Synagogues of Great Britain
JEROME FREEDMAN - Chairperson, Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues
ALEX SKLAN- Co-Chairman, Assembly of Masorti Synagogues
PAUL SHRANK - Co-Chairman, Assembly of Masorti Synagogues
CONVENTIONS OF ORTHODOX COMMUNITIES AS ADOPTED BY THE UNITED SYNAGOGUE
1. Membership of a Reform, Liberal or Masorti congregation does not ipso facto prevent a Jew regarded as halachically Jewish by the Chief Rabbi or Beth Din from being called up for receiving a Mitzvah at an
2. Orthodox authorities do not recognise Reform, Liberal or Masorti conversions.
3. Where a marriage could have been solemnised in an Orthodox synagogue but the parties marry under Reform, Liberal or Masorti auspices, that fact does not provide any impediment to the children of such a marriage being recognised by Orthodox authoirities as being halachically Jewish and does not prevent their being admitted to Orthodox schools or marrying in an Orthodox synagogue.
4. Orthodox rabbis and ministers do not speak at or participate in Reform, Liberal and Masorti services. Their attendance at such services is within their discretion. Orthodox bodies do not invite Reform, Liberal or Masorti rabbis or ministers to speak at or participate in services under Orthodox auspices.
CONSULTATIVE COMMITTE - TERMS OF REFERENCE
The purpose of the Consultative Committee is to provide a forum at which the main synagogal organisations of British Jewry can meet to discuss all relevant issues, in the interests of communal harmony and communal development.
The committee is an independent body, "owned" by its constituent organisations.
Each grouping is to be represented at meetings by lay, professional and rabbinic leaders. Initially it is anticipated that four synagogal bodies will participate - Assembly of Masorti Synagogues, Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues and United Synagogue. Other synagogal bodies may be invited to join on an equal basis with the unanimous agreement of the "founding four". The President and Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies shall be invited to be in attendance.
The Committee will meet at a mutually acceptable venue.
Frequency of Meetings
The committee itself will meet quarterly. It may set up sub-committees, strategy and project groups which will take the work forward and which may meet at other times and other venues.
Chairing of Meetings
Particpating bodies, in rotation, will nominate a chair for each meeting from their delegates.