Record conference crowd debates how to take Liberal Judaism forward

More than 300 delegates from 37 communities attend biennial - and others watch on YouTube


Liberal Judaism members from around the UK and beyond discussed matters from liturgy and theology to outreach work at the movement’s biennial weekend in Solihull.

In a first, the weekend was sold out with not a spare room to be had at the hotel venue. More than 300 delegates representing 37 communities and eight countries attended. For around a third, it was a first biennial.

The keynote speaker was Rabbi Danny Freelander, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

He praised Liberal Judaism for welcoming mixed-faith families and patrilineal Jews; for establishing communities in far-flung areas and its consistent campaigning for equality.

His challenge to delegates was to move towards an even more inclusive and open Judaism. They should never be cowed by criticism from the Orthodox world.

Participants also experienced Liberal Judaism’s new draft Shabbat morning service, led by its creators, rabbis Elli Tikvah Sarah and Lea Mühlstein. This was followed by a feedback session, chaired by Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, during which a wide range of views were expressed.

LJY-Netzer, Liberal Judaism’s youth movement, ran a parallel programme. There was also a first biennial session by Skype as Barbara Winton — daughter of Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton — called in from a refugee camp in Athens to discuss how Liberal Jews could help today’s refugees as her father did those fleeing the Nazis.

In another technological advance, key services and sessions were filmed by a three-camera crew and live streamed on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the Liberal Judaism website.

Rabbis Judith Rosen-Berry and Charley Baginsky hosted the final session, which discussed how Liberal Judaism could share its messages with the world. Rabbi Baginsky, the movement’s director of strategy and partnerships, said the weekend represented “Liberal Judaism at its best, with 64 presenters covering a vast array of topics and more than 300 delegates of all ages fully engaged and empowered.

“Our challenge is to look at how we can attract all those other people who would also find their home in Liberal Judaism.”

The movement’s senior rabbi, Danny Rich, added: “This event was a sign of a Liberal Judaism that has a real confidence going forward — one with a radical message of true modernity and inclusivity to take back out into the world.”


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