Let me start with a confession. Neither I, nor Michael Harris, my acting co-chair of the Movement for Reform Judaism, planned to be in this position at this time. We took on the role as short-term intermediaries, but as time passed the privilege and responsibility of leading the Movement forward has transformed our thinking. We want to stay on the journey.
Like other Jewish communities up and down the country our Reform family delivered creative and remarkable ways to keep the Movement going during the Pandemic. If we didn’t already appreciate it, we now know that when we work together as a Movement, when everyone commits and contributes, it makes our Judaism strong and vibrant.
Above all we remain confident in our Reform Judaism, its values and traditions, which always faces the world around us ready to offer a Jewish way of dealing with its challenges. What we’ve learnt is that Jewish communities can be amazingly resilient through adversity, and we have set ourselves the challenge to be optimistic and ambitious for our Reform Judaism, and what it brings to our lives.
The Movement for Reform Judaism team has been incredibly busy supporting and being supported by communities, and this effort has seen us all through – caring for each other and watching out for each other. This is what we do – community within our own Synagogues and as a Movement underpins us and will always be part of our key values.
We look back with pride over our 80 years and as we focus on the future, we realise there is no better time for positive change, and this is what we have set in motion. We are comfortable with taking and making the important decisions because we do so only through consensus.
Fundamental to everything is the moral duty to leave a positive legacy for generations to come. L’dor Vador, the essence of passing on our spiritual knowledge and cultural traditions is a powerful force for us all.
I’m reminded of a story in the Talmud. An old man was planting a tree. A passer-by wondered why he would bother to plant a tree that wouldn’t bear fruit until after he died. The old man replied: “As my father planted before me, so do I plant for my children.”
This so aptly refers to tikkun olam, “repair the world,” as well. In other words what we give is not so much for us, but for the generations that follow. Our task is to strive to do all we can to make the world better for everyone, which is why we are delighted to be part of the EcoJudaism campaign.
Our principal directive is to involve our 43 synagogues, our rabbis and cantors, and our leaders in everything we do and plan. We are keen to communicate but we also aim to be good listeners. We want to be transparent.
The possibilities for the Movement for Reform Judaism are exciting. However, a weakened economy, rising inflation, and the cost-of-living crisis means we must continue to explore new ways of development with reduced resources.
Personally, when my back is against the wall, this is when I hold on to my faith and values the most. I tell myself that sometimes things are beshert and that for every minus there is a plus. There will always be an answer. There will always be a way forward.
Recruitment of professional staff, trustees and voluntary leaders are an important and ongoing part of our work. We cannot do anything on our own, which is why we are so inspired by the support, commitment, and enthusiasm that we enjoy from all quarters.
What is clear is that we move forward best when we work together to achieve our common goals. MRJ is a movement for its members, and we are ambitious to grow. Our inclusive, diverse, and progressive approach is forward looking and appealing to anyone who wants to practice and enjoy the traditions of Judaism in a contemporary way.
At the forefront of our priorities is the recruitment of an exceptional chief executive to lead the Movement into this positive and purposeful future. We know that the right person is out there, and we openly encourage anyone with our shared passion for Reform Judaism, and with the desire and exceptional skills to lead and shape our Movement, to come forward.
Here’s another confession, we can’t wait to meet them.
This article was originally published in The Jewish Chronicle, 17 June 2022