Jewish Lord Mayors are not new in London. Sir David Salomons was the first one in 1855, but it took until last week for the first one from a major Reform Community, West London Synagogue, to aspire to the position of the 681st incumbent. He is Alderman Ian Luder, who took up his post on Friday 8th November.
As West London already boasts as members both the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Louise Hyams and the Leader of Westminster City Council, Simon Milton, the position of the Reform Community in the life of the metropolis is on a firm and acknowledged footing.
Head of the Reform Movement and chaplain to the Lord Mayor Rabbi Dr. Tony Bayfield led an Erev Shabbat service at West London to celebrate the new Lord Mayor's accession to the post and followed this the next day by leading an early Shabbat service in the Guildhall before the Lord Mayor's procession. Participation in the parade was for Rabbi Bayfield, "a signal that Reform Judaism allows people to fulfil both their religious and civic obligations."
"I was immensely proud of the fact that one of our own congregants was being so honoured," said Rabbi Bayfield, "and obviously both humbled and thrilled to be allowed to help him celebrate our Jewish faith on the occasion. Reform Judaism is now firmly on the map and has a major and increasing role to play in the life of the UK Jewish community."
Rabbi Bayfield was asked to be chaplain due to Ian Luder's long-standing links with Reform Judaism, particularly with Southgate and District Reform Synagogue and now West London Synagogue.
At his banquet, the Lord Mayor spoke of his Eastern European immigrant background and Jewish values and quoting from "my chaplain, Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield at the service at West London Synagogue on Friday" saying, "A free market cannot operate in a value free environment" pointing out that the free market must be regulated by our ancient virtues of honesty, transparency and generosity.
Others present at the Guildhall service included Rabbi Bayfield's daughter, Rabbi Miriam Berger, and Reform Synagogue Support Director David Jacobs. "As I visit synagogues," he said "I find more and more members ready to be upfront about their Reform Judaism and its success at melding Jewish practice and tradition with a full involvement in the wider community."
On the following Sunday, as if to emphasise Reform's recognition at the highest levels of Government, Rabbi Bayfield took his place at the Cenotaph with leaders of other faith groups. "It was," he said," a superb opportunity to put our views to major players on the National scene. I was able to speak to Foreign Secretary David Miliband who is being invited to visit the Sternberg Centre and also to London Mayor Boris Johnson discussing with the latter a multi faith project for London."