SUPPORTING STATEMENTS The Jewish Chronicle has agreed to a supporting statement from each movement of 450 words. These are reproduced below: SUPPORTING STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF LIBERAL JUDAISM
Pluralism in thought and deed has always been at the heart of Liberal Judaism which seeks to combine the best of Jewish tradition with the gifts of modernity.
Pluralism is a means of welcoming, and living with, diversity and divergence, of pursuing one’s own fragment of truth whilst acknowledging the equal validity of another’s.
Pluralism necessitates a confidence in one’s own views coupled with a humility which concedes that one’s own truth is only partial and may not be wholly correct.
Pluralism requires a belief that reward may come through faithful effort rather than righteous certainty, and further recognises that the Truth may never be wholly known to any human.
Pluralism also demands integrity and a sense of unity; loyalty to one’s own view but also a sense of the common good. It needs patience, the ability to take risks, and the humility to acknowledge that even in the face of what seems to be obvious one might be wrong.
In this spirit we welcome the Statement of Communal Collaboration because, despite genuinely held differences between Liberal, Masorti and Reform Judaism, the British Jewish community -both for its own good and because a majority desire it - needs to find a more co-operative, polite and decent way to carry out its endeavours.
Statisticians suggest an inexorable decline of 1% per annum in our community. Responsible Jewish leadership must think afresh. It cannot retreat into its own comfort zone and hope to be spared the worst of whatever is come; it cannot shrug its shoulders and let be what will be; it has to confront the challenge and work as hard and as effectively as possible to bring Judaism to increasing numbers.
The intemperate words of those who seek to delegitimise other Jews, the strident positions taken by Batei Din that lack compassion, and the sad failures to accord respect to Rabbis of other denominations by refusals to use rabbinic titles, share platforms or even permit the giving of hespedim at controlled burial grounds, only demean those who indulge in such political posturing. Such behaviour puts at peril the future of a Jewish community whose members wish to see a society that is mature and confident enough to disagree politely, to debate respectfully, and to differ in its practice, while at the same time being prepared to demonstrate that what is common - a desire to perpetuate Jewish life - is of more value and potential than that which divides.
In spite of the sincere differences between Jews who associate themselves with the Liberal, Masorti, Reform or any other Jewish denomination, the future of our community –in both quality and quantity - is best served under the flag of ‘Jewish Unity, Not Uniformity’: the pluralist way.
Rabbi Danny Rich Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism
SUPPORTING STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF ASSEMBLY of MASORTI SYNAGOGUES
Our statement is a call to pluralism, a plea that leaders and members of all denominations should articulate the core values of Judaism clearly and together, so that we guide the community with vision and responsibility, in a spirit of sensitivity and inclusion. It is no more than we pray for daily in the Alenu, when we ask that God’s name be made one on earth. We fail. I once read a snippet in the Jewish Chronicle: The Jewish community spends half its time bemoaning the fact that it’s getting smaller and the other half enacting policies which ensure that this will continue to be the case. One of our worst errors is to settle down to discord when we could stand together. It’s a luxury our enemies have never allowed us. Another mistake is our failure to talk. Nowhere do all our rabbis and leaders meet, openly, to share our love of Judaism and our concern for our people. It’s time for change. Real change involves nothing less than embracing the whole community. Partial alliances are no answer; I long for everyone to join together. The first area for change concerns the public domain. As leaders we must stand together to declare our key values. We shared no platform to defend Israel at the height of the terror attacks against it. We’ve never spoken together against the genocide in Darfur, or in the campaign to end poverty, or to condemn torture. If rabbis across the denominational spectrum do sit together, it’s generally as guests of other organisations, often non-Jewish. How does this serve Judaism’s values of righteousness and compassion? The second area concerns how we allow our differences to damage people in their most vulnerable moments. Years ago I wrote a memo entitled ‘Where it hurts’ listing how people suffer rejection over the status of marriages, who may speak at funerals, and access to Jewish education. There are genuine halakhah issues at stake, but this doesn’t justify how individuals are made to suffer. The Stanmore Accords were created to address these matters. Nothing’s happened. How does this serve Judaism? We must try harder. This isn’t an attack on difference. On the contrary, distinctions between movements are genuine and not only may, but should, be debated with passion. Judaism believes in ‘argument for the sake of Heaven’. It’s been said that if only different movements would go away our difficulties would end. But diversity is strength, and the present generation needs many doors into Judaism. This, therefore, is an appeal not for uniformity, but for sharing, not to end differences, but to manage them well. Above all it’s a plea to learn together, share together and lead together, for the love of Judaism. Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg Senior Rabbi, Assembly of Masorti Synagogues
SUPPORTING STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF MOVEMNT FOR REFORM JUDASIM
The UK Jewish population is both ageing and shrinking. If you have a family of three children, the chances are that one will marry in, one will marry out and one will not marry at all - either out of choice or because they are not heterosexual. The new generation is generally more secular, more attracted to informal social networks and less attracted to Jewish institutions as the means of engagement with Jewish worship and Jewish culture. We cannot afford to lose one single Jew if we are to survive as a significant contributor to British society and inspire future generations to maintain their Jewish identity.
This is the urgent reality that Jewish community leaders have to confront today.
No one has a monopoly on truth and there is no one single pathway to leading an enriching and authentic Jewish life.
No one group in the community can meet everyone’s needs. That is equally today's reality. We therefore have a responsibility to plan together, work together and find new collaborative ways to reach out to people as individuals. We must support and encourage their personal Jewish journey.
In order to retain the next generation within the Jewish community, we must be inclusive, which is to say that we should invite and welcome people in, rather than raising barriers to their participation. Synagogues and synagogue movements cannot reach everyone as they are presently constituted. But they can develop collaborative initiatives which will.
There is a particularly urgent requirement for the movements to work together to engage more young people through easier access to Jewish schools, to provide help and resources to more university students and to find ways of encouraging those in mixed faith relationships positively to consider conversion and, failing that, to choose to bring their children up in a predominantly Jewish home environment. These are the three areas where there is the greatest risk of loss to the Jewish community.
We can no longer afford to duplicate institutions and programmes for the sake of denominational independence. The well being of the community as a whole is going to have to take precedence over our own individual interests and needs.
Collaborative leadership in this context calls for a new level of respect for each other’s movements and for the rabbis, professionals and lay leaders who work within them. It demands significant change in the ways we work together. It assigns first priority to a commitment for renewed enthusiasm for cross-communal partnership. The task is urgent as the demographic challenge is very real.
The Reform Movement believes passionately that this commitment to collaborative leadership in the interests of the community at large represents the best - and only - way forward for British Jewry at the beginning of the 21st century.
Stephen Moss Chairman, Movement for Reform Judaism
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