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Liberal Judaism (United Kingdom): Wikis

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Progressive Judaism
Progressive Judaism

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1. North America (Reform, Reconstructionist)
2. United Kingdom (Reform, Liberal)
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4. Netherlands
5. Israel
Beliefs and practices

Liberal Judaism in the United Kingdom is one of the two forms of Progressive Judaism found in the United Kingdom, the other being Reform Judaism. Liberal Judaism, which developed at the beginning of the twentieth century is less conservative than UK Reform Judaism. Liberal Judaism considers itself the sister movement of North American Reform Judaism.[1]

Contents

Beliefs and practices

To quote the Movement's website, "It reverences Jewish tradition, and seeks to preserve all that is good in the Judaism of the past. But it lives in the present. It desires that Judaism shall be an active force for good in the lives of Jewish individuals, families and communities today, and that it shall make its contribution to the betterment of human society. And it stresses "the full equality and participation of men and women in every sphere of religious life; an emphasis on ethical conduct above ritual observance; an affirmation of each individual's freedom to act responsibly in accordance with the dictates of the informed religious conscience; a pride in combining our Jewish heritage with full participation in the civic life of this country; and an awareness of our duty not only to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel, but also to the entire human family, each one of whom is created in the Divine image".[2]

The British scholar Daniel Langton's study of the spiritual founder of the Liberal Synagogue, Claude Montefiore, has caused recent debate. In his account of the origins of the movement, Langton claims that the aspirations of Montefiore have not been realised: Montefiore's passionate anti-Zionism was soon marginalised and his declared aim to amalgamate "the best of Judaism and Christianity" led him to propound an unpopular view of Jesus and Paul of Tarsus as religious authorities of real interest to modern Jews. This did not go undisputed, and met with strong criticism in the Jewish Chronicle from the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, which sees itself as continuing on foursquare Montefiore's insistence on the best of modern scholarship, inclusiveness, intellectual honesty, and an overriding ethics-led view of what it means to be Jewish. LJS rabbis have also been notably prepared to criticise Israeli policy and some Israeli/Zionist attitudes, whenever they have felt them to be falling short of the particular ethical standards to be expected of Jews.

In recent years, also similar to North American Reform Judaism, there has also been a move towards more traditional elements in Liberal services than a generation earlier - i.e. more use of Hebrew, more wearing of tallit and kippot, more enjoyment of Purim and other traditional minor festivals. But Liberal Judaism is still distinctly more progressive than Reform. Examples would include more readily recognising as Jewish without conversion the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, [3] or Liberal Judaism's readiness to celebrate homosexual partnerships in synagogues with more of the traditional symbolism associated with Jewish weddings.[4]

Origins

The Liberal movement in the UK was founded in the early part of the 20th century by Lily Montagu, Claude Montefiore and others as the Jewish Religious Union (JRU). It began in 1902 with a supplementary prayer meeting, an adjunct to the then Orthodox and Reform synagogues, with the intention of using more English in services, men and women sitting freely together, the use of organ music, and a more inclusive form of worship which would prove attractive to members of British Jewry who felt uninvolved or out of sympathy with existing traditionalist patterns of worship.

The Liberal movement steadily gained adherents after the founding in 1911 of the Liberal Jewish synagogue, the first of more than thirty Liberal congregations in the UK.

The Liberal Jewish Synagogue

Wishing to establish a permanent home, premises were acquired in 1912 in a former chapel in Hill Street, Park Road, London. By 1918 it was evident that a larger building was needed and a site was purchased in 1924 on St. John's Wood Road, opposite Lords Cricket Ground. A synagogue seating 1,350 and a communal hall were opened in 1925. From the beginning men and women sat together, hats were not required for men, and from 1915 seats were not assigned to individuals. From its inception there was a Religion School, with correspondence classes for children who could not attend and a Youth Group from 1918.

The 1925 building was replaced with a new complex including Sanctuary, Hall, offices and residential development. It was consecrated in 1992. [5]

Senior Rabbis have included: Israel Mattuck (from 1912), Leslie Edgar (initially as assistant - 1931), John D. Rayner (initially as assistant 1957), David Goldberg (1989), Alexandra Wright (2004)

Organisations

The JRU did not intend itself to be a separate denomination. Rather, synagogues affiliated with the JRU were interested in developing a form of authentic Judaism that was responsive to changes going on in the modern world, without going down the path of classical German Reform. Many of its members were inspired by Claude Montefiore's 1903 book "Liberal Judaism - An Essay". In 1909 the JRU changed its name to the Jewish Religious Union for the Advancement of Liberal Judaism In 1944 the name changed again to the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues, more commonly known as the ULPS. In 2003 it changed its name to Liberal Judaism, which has always been the main term used for the movement.

LJY-Netzer is the youth movement of Liberal Judaism, a progressive Zionist youth movement, and a branch (or snif) of Netzer Olami.

References

See also

External links

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