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Reforming zeal is praised at movement's dinner

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A world authority on contemporary religion has praised Reform Judaism as "a beacon of hope".

Addressing over 200 guests at the Movement for Reform Judaism's annual dinner in central London last week, Linda Woodhead, professor of sociology of religion at Lancaster University, said she had "come to tell you how important you are". She noted that Reform Judaism was one of the few religious groups in Britain to have a female leader and spokesperson, to support marriage equality and to acknowledge a diversity of voices in formulating policy.

"You are a reminder that not all religion has to be a sort of National Trust for outdated values no one really believes in any more, but likes to visit nostalgically once a year. The Reform Movement really matters for this country because progressive values need religious, not just secular backing. You're doing a great job."

Another speaker was Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. Rabbi Kariv said the support shown by Reform communities to their counterparts in Israel was "powerful and meaningful - the biggest blessings in times of challenge".

For the first time, the appeal was made by a lay member, Finchley Reform's Charles Kessler, who outlined the movement's desire to increase work with students and young adults, to deliver more educational programmes for all ages, to help support synagogues with the challenges of serving older members and to be more involved in social action. Reform, he said, should "resonate with the prophetic tradition of supporting the stranger, the orphan, and the widow in our midst. Helping our members appreciate that they can change their community and the world around them."

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