Extinction Rebellion Jews co-founder to study for rabbinate

Shulamit Morris-Evans to take the five-year Leo Baeck College course, along with a UK organiser for Democratic voting in American elections


The UK co-ordinator for two American presidential candidates and a primary teacher turned environmental activist are joining the student rabbinical ranks at Leo Baeck College.

They are Diana Shaw Clark, who worked to encourage Americans living in the UK to back Democratic candidates for high office, among them Barack Obama and John Kerry; and Shulamit Morris-Evans, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Jews. Both will start the five-year training programme for the Progressive rabbinate in September.

Ms Shaw Clark was a founding member and current board member of J Street, America’s pro-Israel/pro-peace lobbying group. In recognition of her concern for the historical vulnerability of Jews, President Obama appointed her to the council of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013, the only serving member living abroad. She currently belongs to Westminster Synagogue, sitting on its adult education committee.

Ms Shaw Clark said that after devoting much of her life to electoral politics, she felt she could achieve no more.

This was largely because she no longer believed “that every problem could be resolved by electing the ‘right people’ with the ‘right ideas’. I came to believe that people need spiritual guidance and support as much as progressive legislation. The ethos, staff and syllabus at LBC seemed to me uniquely able to fulfil my aspirations and satisfy my sense of purpose.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to study here.”

Ms Morris-Evans, a Finchley Reform member, said her climate activism was deeply rooted in Jewish teaching.

As a passionate environmentalist, she wanted to facilitate the community’s transition to a sustainable way of living and its response to “this most urgent task of tikkun olam [repairing the world].”

Ms Morris-Evans worked as a teacher after obtaining a classics degree from Clare College, Cambridge.  She said she also looked forward to uniting her interest in ancient languages with her love of Jewish learning, prayer, community and action.

At Finchley Reform, she leads the B’Yachad services, providing an inclusive environment for people with learning difficulties.

“I’ve been so lucky to grow up with a family and community that gave me the deep love of Judaism that has drawn me to this path,” she added. “I hope I will be able to bring that joy to others and be a participant of value in the tradition we all share.” 

The Finchley-based college has trained almost every serving Liberal and Reform rabbi in the UK - and many now leading communities overseas. 

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