Liberals staying cautious on shul reopenings

Liberal Judaism CEO stresses commitment to hybrid provision and says movement is reassessing 'the way we train rabbis and congregations to think'


As some Liberal synagogues are reopening for physical services, particularly bnei mitzvahs, Liberal Judaism’s chief executive has re-emphasised the commitment of all its congregations to hybrid provision.

Rabbi Charley Baginsky told the JC this week that where shuls were considering a return to in-person worship, would the numbers involved make it “inclusionary rather than exclusionary”? Livestreaming of services would continue and the movement was endeavouring to avoid a two-tier system.

She recognised that there were many “who want to be in their building, to see their rabbi and their Torah scrolls. But there are issues with some buildings [on Covid safety].”

The movement’s guiding principle was that those participating online were not second class citizens. It was reassessing “the way we train rabbis, lay leaders and congregations to think”.

It was pondering scenarios such as whether someone could lead a service from home for worshippers in a synagogue building. Or how to involve those online when a shul holds a kiddush. “We have to think about the marathon, not the sprint.”

Rabbi Baginsky reported many benefits from Liberal Judaism’s pandemic offerings. An online community, Liberal Judaism at Home, had attracted nearly 700 participants. Children from its small congregations in Manchester and Wessex had joined the South Bucks community’s virtual cheder and would continue to attend online when it physically reopened. Some adults had become members of a Liberal shul despite never having set foot in its building.

And there had been an upsurge in interest from potential converts. “However welcoming and inclusive we are, it’s really hard for someone to walk through the doors of a synagogue,” Rabbi Baginsky noted. “Online, you can creep in the back and stay there. It has opened doors for people who were fearful before.”




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