Northern communities join together to build for the future

This year’s Northern Chagigah was held at Hawkhills in North Yorkshire. Chagigah means celebration and the residential weekend for Reform Judaism’s communities in Scotland and northern England was a joyful, fun, uplifting, spiritual, family-friendly gathering.

The theme of the weekend was seasons changing and time passing. 120 people from 11 out of the 13 communities in the region were represented.

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Sessions looked at development in the North and communities working more strategically together and sharing resources. An example of this cooperation is the Northern Learning House sharing knowledge and skills to enable lay leaders to help their communities with service leading with online learning and residential weekends. Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky of Menorah Synagogue will be teaching shiva-leading online to Glasgow, Southport, Sheffield and Manchester.

Andrew Keene, board member for the World Union for Progressive Judaism ran a session on what Progressive Jewish communities are doing around the world to innovate in areas of ritual, social justice, and youth engagement, by looking at the global movement through the lens of social entrepreneurship.

There was an emphasis on building skills to take back to communities but there were also Limmud-style sessions on a variety of topics ranging from Judaism and agriculture with Sara Moon, a Jewish farmer in Britain, to an introduction to the social justice module of Reform Judaism’s L’Chaim adult learning programme with Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner.

The Saturday evening celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration with all things Israel and an Israel Café.

The weekend ended with a closing ceremony where each individual wrote their commitment to the future of Reform Judaism – whether it be personal or for their community.

Sherry Ashworth of Manchester Reform Synagogue said: “Chagigah is part celebration, part inspiration. We were inspired by Cantor Zöe Jacobs’ music, and our wonderful rabbis and talented student rabbis. There were also lectures from diverse Jewish professionals, storytelling, Hebrew, discussion, strategy planning – truly something for everyone.

“Celebration was the result of old friends meeting and new ones being made in a relaxed community atmosphere.

“The cumulative effect of being together with our sister northern Reform communities is terrific. Everyone’s personal passion for Reform Judaism is greatly augmented when surrounded by others who share the passion – and the dream. There was a lot of talk about the future – we all felt that Reform Judaism in Scotland and the north of England is on an upswing – we are growing in numbers, enthusiasm, learning and commitment”.

In her welcome address, Sarita Robinson, Reform Judaism’s Northern Community Partner noted that “Chagigah means celebration and Northern Chagigah is a celebration with a special northern flavour with warmth, friendship, community and humour. Reform Judaism in all its diversity is underpinning growth and well-being and devolving best practice across all our communities for their and our future together”.