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Historic Chanukah lightings show growth of Progressive Judaism


This Chanukah was a significant one in the growth and development of Progressive Judaism in the UK. 

Leaders from our movements were guests and lit candles at a number of major civic celebrations, including in a historic first at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. 

Progressive Judaism Co-Leads Rabbis Josh Levy and Charley Baginsky were at different Chanukah events every night of the festival. 

These included celebrations hosted in 10 Downing Street, Speaker’s House, Wembley Stadium, the Guildhall, the residence of the American Ambassador and by the Jewish Labour Movement and Standing Together. 

At the Westminster Hall event – the first to take place in that historic venue – Rabbi Charley was one of those who lit candles, alongside Home Secretary James Cleverly, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey, event organiser Lord (John) Mann and Chief Rabbi of United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth Sir Ephraim Mirvis. 

She said: “This moment, lighting Chanukah candles in Westminster Hall for the first time, was historic for so many reasons. Representing the diversity of the political and religious spectrums at the heart of Parliament was unbelievably powerful. It showed how it is possible to have a multitude of voices within shared values, or in this case a shared Chanukiah. 

“It also illustrated how far Progressive Judaism has come since we announced our plans to unite into one movement in April – that working together we are so much more than the sum of our parts.” 

Rabbi Josh lit the candles at events including the City of London Corporation celebrations in the historic Livery Hall. 

He added: “One of the aims of our new united Progressive Judaism is that, when people see Jews at events like these, they see themselves. This Chanukah, the Jewish world recognised and celebrated the wonderfully diverse breadth and depth of our community. This is vital not only for our members but for all those who have yet to walk through the door.” 

Others who represented Progressive Judaism included Liberal Judaism Acting Chair Karen Newman, Movement for Reform Judaism Chair Paul Langsford, Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors Co-Chairs Rabbis Rebecca Birk and René Pfertzel, the Movement Workers of RSY-Netzer and LJY-Netzer, and Rabbi Mark Goldsmith of Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue. 

Meanwhile, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE of Maidenhead Synagogue, Convener of the Reform Beit Din and Chaplain to the Jewish Police Association, lit the chanukiah at New Scotland Yard alongside Metropolitan Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, as well as joining the Downing Street celebrations. 

Rabbis Charley and Josh also enjoyed the weekend of Chanukah in Manchester and Leeds, as they brought Progressive Judaism Community Forums to the North West and Yorkshire. 

They were joined by members of Menorah Synagogue, Manchester Reform Synagogue and Sinai Synagogue and York Liberal Jewish Community to discuss their plans and vision for the future, answer questions and celebrate the festival. 

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