2015 was a fantastic year for the Movement for Reform Judaism, the national umbrella organisation of 42 autonomous congregations in the United Kingdom. Our communities provide meaning, comfort, education, social activities, support and spiritual fulfilment to their members and are engaged in the building of a just society through social action and tikkun olam, repair of the world. We are enormously proud of them and their outstanding work.
Rabbi Benji Stanley, Reform Judaism’s Young Adult Rabbi’s work is now well underway. Regular learning groups have engaged over 100 people, building relationships with meaningful conversations. In collaboration with several synagogues, 125 young adults celebrated Purim. We are giving young adults a sense of being part of a big, exciting Reform Jewish community, reaching more people by working together.
A highlight of the year was Shirei Chagigah, our biennial music conference. With 125 participants representing over 35 communities, it was an opportunity to learn from the world’s foremost experts in Jewish liturgical music through a series of workshops and services. Through events like this we can enhance the musical and spiritual life of our members and communities across the country.
The summer saw more than 1000 young people taking part events with our youth movement, RSY-Netzer. Shemesh summer camps were a huge success and for the fifth summer in a row, we ran Reform Jewish day camps for younger children. 240 young people had an incredible experience on Israel Tour with six tours selling out. The Movement Workers have also been working in synagogues and have engaged with almost 300 young people in their home communities.
Sophie Lipton, Jeneration’s Fieldworker has engaged over 300 students and sixth-formers in the last year. Over 150 young adults and students participated in the High Holy Day ticket scheme offering them free tickets to Reform services over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
We have continued our youth workers’ forum supporting community youth workers nationally.
The recent guidance issued by our Rabbinic Assembly means that those of our communities who choose to can now find more suitable and inclusive processes to welcome individuals with only one Jewish parent.
July marked 40 years since the ordination of Rabbi Jackie Tabick as Britain’s first female rabbi, a milestone for equality.
The Beit Din, our religious court covened by Rabbi Jackie Tabick welcomed more than 250 people to Judaism and our communities.
Hugh Dennis, star of ‘Mock the Week’ and ‘Outnumbered’ paid tribute to Reform Judaism praising the community’s “absolutely fantastic” tradition of philanthropy at a packed Annual Dinner in September
In October we held our first Reform Judaism Shabbat, a chance for our communities to join Jews across the country in celebrating Shabbat. The weekend was enhanced with innovative educational materials from Reform Judaism.
Following a very well attended emergency meeting on the refugee crisis, we appointed Yael Shafritz as Refugee Response Coordinator. This is the first time a UK synagogue movement has appointed someone to coordinate a response to a crisis of this nature. She will support Reform communities in their excellent work, co-ordinate all efforts, partner with existing campaigns and to introduce their initiatives to communities.
Nine of our communities together with RSY-Netzer and LJ Nezter participated in our first congregational development course with Citizens UK, offering robust training to enable current and future leaders to strengthen their communities.
We have established a Community Development Fund that will allow us to financially support community initiatives sharing new and creative best practice to the benefit all of our members. There are now 6 communities working on exciting projects with the financial support awarded.
We provided support to six communities with rabbinic recruitment. Working together with representatives from the Assembly of Rabbis and our communities, we have implemented new rabbinic pay scales that are more flexible and aligned to our communities every-changing needs.
130 participants from 12 communities attended Northern Chagigah a joyful, fun, uplifting, spiritual, family-friendly gathering celebrating Reform Judaism.
In November we partnered with Yad Vashem for a challenging and stimulating Holocaust education seminar.
The public profile of Reform Judaism continues to grow with expanding media coverage; in the past year over 60 individual rabbis, cantors and lay members have written pieces for the media or appeared in broadcasts. Increasingly, the Jewish voice in broadcast media is a positive and engaging Reform voice.
Rabbi Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism supported the rabbinic assembly by co-organising a rabbinic kallah (retreat) on mental health, helping rabbis deal with an increasingly challenging area. She led a range of services throughout the year, and around the country, including at the High Holy Days in Liverpool and at Sha’arei Tsedek. She also played an active role in nurturing student rabbis and their relationship with Reform Judaism. Providing a strong voice for the movement, she has provided a Reform Jewish response to acts of terrorism around the world. Rabbi Laura has used her experience of meeting refugees in Calais to talk with authority about the crisis, including the new private sponsorship initiative, and has written in the Guardian and Evening Standard on British Jews’ response to refugees. She has also been published in the Telegraph, arguing against boycotts of Israel. In November, she addressed the climate change rally in London.