Liberal leader: 'Non-Jewish members of Jewish families should be welcomed inside the boundary'

Acting chair Ruth Seager tells record-breaking Liberal Judaism biennial: 'I’d love never to hear another apology for not being Jewish'


A record 1,500 delegates engaged in the Liberal Judaism biennial, transformed into an online gathering because of the pandemic.

The turnout was five times the number that could have been accommodated in the intended physical venue and those tuning in had a choice of 70 speakers and almost 33 hours of content.

Liberal Judaism’s acting chair, Ruth Seager, and prominent rabbis Charley Baginsky and Aaron Goldstein discussed ways the movement must continue to evolve to “do even better”.

In her opening address, Ms Seager urged 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.”

Rabbi Goldstein — chair of the Liberal Conference of Rabbis and Cantors — stressed the need to raise the volume on the movement’s voice on social justice.

“No person, community or movement can change everything in the world. But we can decide what we are going to change and give voice to make that happen. Liberal Judaism has been very successful in its campaigns for equal marriage and bringing more Syrian refugees to the UK. Now we need to do more.”

Rabbi Baginsky said the huge interest in the event demonstrated “the power Liberal Judaism has to bring Jewish connection into people’s lives. Together we can take those steps to help build a fairer and more meaningful world.”

The programme included 12 sessions exploring the many facets of collaboration — the theme of the biennial — multiple study workshops, three Shabbat services, two kiddushim, one Havdalah led by youth movement LJY-Netzer and an evening of entertainment with Dame Dave Lynn, a Jewish drag queen.

One of the highlights was a conversation between former British ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould and columnist Danny Finkelstein on collaboration in different settings, from The Beatles to government.

They argued that perfection should not be expected in individuals but rather in leadership teams that complement and challenge.

There was also the opportunity to bid farewell to the movement’s former chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich and chair Simon Benscher, both having recently stepped down.

Rabbi Rich spoke movingly about his 15 years in the role and his vision for the movement’s future. A “This Is Your Life” segment featured video tributes to him from around the globe.

There was also the launch of a new exhibition — Lily’s Legacy: Voices and Visions of Liberal Judaism.

Inspired by Lily Montagu and the founders of Liberal Judaism, it showcases the history and heritage of the movement as told by members of all ages and backgrounds.

Summing up the three days, Liberal Judaism president Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein said he was coming away with “a sense of immense pride and satisfaction. This conference has united us a special family.”




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