Liberal Judaism: 'We have more to do on inclusivity'

Trail-blazing achievements celebrated at biennial weekend - but also areas where the movement accepts that further progress is needed


Leading Liberal Judaism figures have pledged to expand the movement’s inclusion agenda.

Addressing 1,500 digital guests at its flagship biennial weekend on the theme of Breaking Down Walls, Liberal Judaism chair Ruth Seager outlined areas in which it had been a trail-blazer — from the introduction of non-gendered liturgy to allowing blessings under the chupah for mixed faith couples intending to create Jewish homes.

“These were all moments of true pride and made a significant difference to those who felt included as a consequence,” said Mrs Seager, who also delivered a session on living in a mixed faith marriage alongside her non-Jewish husband Andrew.

“It is the case that after any of these changes, we look back and find that the barrier or wall that we had perceived has disappeared, leaving us wondering what exactly all the fuss had been about.

“I have come to realise that issues can look very different from different sides of the same wall. On the inside we may not even be able to see the problem; from the outside we find it quite hurtful.”

Mrs Seager acknowledged that the movement had to do more, particularly in being fully inclusive for black Jews and Jews of colour, including those from Sephardi and Mizrahi backgrounds.

“We do not have enough representation in positions of responsibility. Even in the imagery we use and the stories we tell, these Jews have felt marginalised.”

Echoing the sentiments, movement CEO Rabbi Charley Baginsky added: “I cannot promise that we will never make mistakes — in fact, I know that we will and that there is a lot more learning to do yet.

“But I can promise you that when we say Liberal Judaism is a home for everyone’s Jewish story, we are committed to bringing it into reality.”

Keynote speakers included Stephen Bush, chair of the Board of Deputies’ Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community, and Rabbi Benay Lappe, founder and head of “traditionally radical yeshivah”, Svara.

The event ended with a Dragons’ Den-style panel judging Liberal Judaism’s Inclusion in Action award, carrying a £3,000 grant to fund an inclusion project.

The winning community was Kehillah North London, which is developing an inclusive education curriculum incorporating racial, LGBTQ+, gender and disability justice.

Organising committee co-chair Rabbi Leah Jordan said the weekend “showcased how our movement creates space for the most diverse and interesting sort of Jewish community, built on the values of progressivism and inclusion that have been at the heart of Liberal Judaism since its founding almost 120 years ago”.

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