The Movement for Reform Judaism’s Annual Dinner, generously supported by Investec, took place in a celebratory atmosphere at the Montcalm Hotel near London’s Marble Arch on Thursday 10 September.
Hugh Dennis was guest speaker at the event. His entertaining speech left the audience wanting more and focussed on his encounters with religion as the son of a Bishop growing up surrounded by the Jewish community. He explained that his first meaningful encounter with Reform Judaism was at school where British tradition met with the Progressive Jewish tradition. He praised the Jewish tradition of debate as “informed, intelligent and interesting” and noted Judaism’s “great traditions” of food, family, and entrepreneurship. In a speech full of hilarious anecdotes he also praised Judaism’s “comedically rich heritage”.
In a time of crisis for so many, the evening was also an opportunity for reflection. As well as noting the Jewish community’s practical response, a special prayer was said for those in need.
The evening featured a special tribute to West London Synagogue (WLS) as the community celebrates its 175th anniversary. Mike Grabiner, immediate past Chair of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, presented WLS Chair Jill Todd and Senior Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger with a framed copy of a sermon from a 1922 edition of the Jewish Chronicle. He noted that “West London has always been a beacon of innovation; of sincerity; of progress and of leadership” and that “a strong Reform Movement has a strong West London Synagogue at its heart, working together to promote an approach to Jewish life that is vibrant, compelling, welcoming and inclusive”.
The appeal was made by Stephen Moss, President of WLS and a former Chair of Reform Judaism. He presented a compelling picture of a Movement to be proud of, paying tribute to its “vital and relevant” work “providing strategic leadership, delivering change, giving stability and suggesting a compelling vision of Jewish life”. He noted that this work is “not just Reform Judaism the organisation; it is the collective endeavour of what takes place each week in our synagogues led by our rabbis and our community leadership”.