Liberal Judaism's first woman chair sets out her vision for the future

Ruth Seager wants the movement to be a home for all, 'wherever they live and whatever their Jewish story'


Liberal Judaism has its first woman chair — Ruth Seager, who was elected unanimously at the movement’s AGM .

Mrs Seager has served in many capacities at East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue and on Liberal Judaism’s national board. She had been acting chair of the movement after Simon Benscher stepped down earlier this year due to ill health.

A lifelong Liberal Jew, her parents were founder members of the former Crawley Jewish community and the family has its own scroll.

She describes herself as religious and likes “the connection to our ancestors that Talmud provides as it tussles with the issues of their day while at the same time remaining surprisingly relevant to those of ours”.

A civil engineer with a Master’s in management, she met her husband Andrew at university. They have been married for 37 years and have three children.

“Andrew has no religion but would see himself as a non-Jewish member of a Jewish family,” she explained. “We raised our children to be informed and committed Jews. I taught them to read the parashah for their bar/batmitzvahs.”

Addressing the Liberal Judaism biennial this year, Mrs Seager said that “non-Jewish members of Jewish families should be welcomed inside the boundary. I’d love never to hear another apology for not being Jewish.”

Her hobbies include running, gardening, cooking and travelling the world with her husband on their custom-made tandem.

She assumes her new role during a period of transition for Liberal Judaism, with services and events moved online because of the pandemic and Rabbi Charley Baginsky and Shelley Shocolinsky-Dwyer becoming the movement’s interim directors after the departure of Rabbi Danny Rich.

“It’s not been the easiest of times to take over but we have lots of exciting plans for the future,” Mrs Seager added.

“Wherever Jews may live and whatever their Jewish story is, I would like Liberal Judaism to provide them with a place to be Jewish with other Jews. That might be connecting them with existing synagogues, nurturing new communities — or as lockdown has taught us, providing services, education and activities via platforms like Zoom and YouTube.”

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