Liberals party like it's 1902 as movement completes its 120th anniversary celebrations

Rabbis recreate inaugural service as leaders reflect on 'an amazing springboard into the future'


Liberal Judaism went back in time for the final event in its year-long 120th anniversary celebrations.

Before a live audience of 100 at The Ark Synagogue in Northwood, with a further 200 watching on Facebook and YouTube, the movement’s inaugural service was recreated.

Rabbi Andrew Goldstein dressed as Reverend Simeon Singer — who, despite being an Orthodox minister, led the prayers in 1902 — with rabbis Aaron Goldstein and Rachel Benjamin playing the roles of Liberal Judaism founders Claude Montefiore and Lily Montagu.
Repeating Montefiore’s words, which have resonance today, Rabbi Goldstein said: “We believe there are many Jews in England who seldom or never attend a place of worship.

“It is possible that a new and attractive service may win the day for public worship and for religion. It is just possible that a few may be brought back from neglect to observance.”

The programme also featured a diverse panel from around the country explaining what made them a Liberal Jew and how they found a home in the movement.

A discussion on Israel and Zionism, led by Rabbi Lea Muhlstein, featured reminiscences on leading Liberal rabbis down the years.

Participants additionally learned and performed songs from the last 120 years, conducted by The Ark’s musical director, Ruth Colin.

Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, who was part of the day’s organising committee, said it had been “a mixture of nostalgia, discussion, learning and a reaffirmation of our special nature. This was a joyous celebration that fittingly ended with a good old Liberal Judaism sing-song.” Movement chief executive Rabbi Charley Baginsky added: “These last 12 months have been an amazing chance to celebrate everything that Liberal Judaism has achieved.

“But this celebration was not only a pat on the back but an amazing springboard into the future.

“Now we have the real challenge of ensuring that the generations that come are as proud of the next 120 years as we are of ours.”

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