£15 monthly passport eases journey to shul for young adults

Social events and business discounts are also included in Liberal Judaism attempt to bring back the lost generation


Liberal Judaism is extending its “passport scheme” for young adults by offering a £15 monthly membership affording access to any of its synagogues, tailored social activities and “discounts and exclusive benefits at businesses around the country”.

Addressing Liberal Judaism’s patrons dinner at the House of Lords, its director of strategy and partnerships, Rabbi Charley Baginsky, outlined plans to secure the involvement of those who had outgrown its youth activities.

Research showed, she noted, that as the number of those identifying as Jewish rose, the number joining synagogues was declining.

Rabbi Baginsky recalled that her time in the movement’s youth organisation, Ulpsnyc (now LJY-Netzer), “shaped my beliefs, my practice and my ethics. But perhaps most importantly, it gave me a sense of connection and made me feel part of a community.”

After leaving Ulpsnyc, however, she did not join a congregation until becoming a student rabbi, her “nomadic existence” making it difficult for her to build a relationship with a single community.

“Although some 20 years have passed since then, the situation has not changed much for young adults. We know that while our youth movement graduates — and even our movement workers — finish their time in the ranks feeling committed and loyal to Liberal Judaism, they struggle to find a place to express that identity afterwards.

“The passport scheme provides a clear pathway for our young adults, from LJY-Netzer affiliation to Liberal Judaism membership. And when those life cycle moments come along, having had a connection to and experience of our synagogues, Liberal Judaism is where they place their membership.”

Rabbi Baginsky believed that offering young adults centralised membership, which also includes a burial scheme, would make Liberal Judaism the home “for a group we know have often been marginalised and whose voice we have not prioritised”.

Speaking to the JC afterwards, Rabbi Baginsky said a scheme had been operating to give young adults access to High Holy-Day services across Liberal Judaism communities. “But we recognise that it isn’t enough.”

For £15 a month (£180 annually), someone could now “go to any community within Liberal Judaism, access their services and feel they are a member for the time they are there. They can go to a different shul a week.

“We are running an educational hub from Liberal Judaism and we do courses not only through the Montagu Centre [the LJ headquarters] but online and streamed. All these will be available for our passport members. Plus, we will have specific networking opportunities and events for the passport group.”

The life “cycle moment” at which they moved on from the passport scheme to synagogue membership could be “marriage, first kid in religion school. I’m really reluctant to put an age limit on it because we are just not in that world anymore.”

Rabbi Baginsky hoped the initiative would also serve as an incentive to congregations. “It is a push for them to say: ‘Let’s be the community that these young adults walk through on that one-off opportunity and see the great things we are offering. Let’s be as good as we can possibly be — or at least let’s work with our sister communities to be the best we can be.’”

Other speakers at the dinner included Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev and Liberal Judaism chair Simon Benscher, who said the movement had lost two shining lights with the passing of rabbis David Goldberg and Harry Jacobi.

In his concluding remarks, chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich said the growing number of donors in their 20s and 30s was a positive signal for the future. “The core of everything we do is to include.”

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