Liberal Judaism (LJ) and the Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ) have today announced that they are to create an alliance between their two movements. Together already accounting for nearly a third of synagogue-affiliated Jews with 82 communities, the UK’s two Progressive movements are seeking to capitalise on the 30% growth in those identifying themselves as sharing their values, according to the recent JPR studies of Jewish communal attitudes.
The alliance will see an expansion of collaboration between the two movements in areas such as student chaplaincy, social justice and social action. It could also involve a strengthening of existing joint work such as Leo Baeck College and rabbinic training, gap year programming and representation on Israel, cross-communal and other institutions. The alliance will see a sharing of resources and expertise across the two movements, wherever practical.
Liberal and Reform leaders stress that this is not a merger and that the two movements will retain their autonomy and distinct identities. The synagogues will remain constituent members of their respective movements practising Judaism in the way that is most meaningful to them but the movements will unashamedly work together to speak for and reach out to the third of British Jews who describe themselves as secular, cultural or “just Jewish”.
Commenting on the alliance, Liberal Judaism’s Chief Executive, Rabbi Danny Rich, says:
“The biggest dividing line in British Jewry is no longer Orthodox or Progressive, but religiously engaged or secular. We believe that, together, the two movements can provide an outward-looking, modern and relevant alternative to a merely secular form of Judaism, which could otherwise become the primary expression of Judaism within a couple of generations.”
Senior Rabbi to the Reform Movement, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, says:
“There is so much more that unites the Reform and Liberal movements than divides us. The more we can cooperate, the stronger our voice and the stronger the expression of the core values we share in common: inclusiveness, integrity and informed choice. These are the values which our movements believe will enable Judaism to survive and thrive in the 21st Century.”
What is the nature of the alliance?
The alliance represents a long-term commitment to a partnership working under an umbrella in order to provide both LJ and MRJ with the benefits of shared expertise and resources. It is not a merger; each movement will continue to serve its own communities and members whilst retaining its unique identity, promoting our shared ambitions for a strong and expanding Progressive Jewish community in the UK. The alliance represents an aspiration to be greater than the sum of our parts through working together.
Is this a cost-cutting measure?
As we begin to work together it should be possible to be more efficient and to make better use of existing resources or combining them where there are opportunities to address unmet needs.
Why an alliance? Why can’t the two movements just work together as and when there are opportunities?
The alliance will be a way to organise ourselves more effectively and plan more consistently to tackle areas we believe to be important for both movements, e.g. the future of rabbinic career development, social justice and potentially many others.
Who will develop and run the alliance?
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and Rabbi Danny Rich will continue to build on the good existing relationship between our rabbis. It is suggested that each Board nominates its Chair and two other Trustees to sit on an Oversight Group which will be accountable to each Board. It will be for the Oversight Group to establish and agree terms of reference to enshrine accountability and clarity of purpose to ensure the alliance is of benefit to its stakeholders.
Will this affect the synagogues of Liberal and Reform Judaism?
The synagogues will remain constituent members of their respective movements practicing Judaism in the way that is most meaningful to them.
How will this work be funded?
Both LJ and MRJ will provide their professionals’ time from within their own operating budget so no additional funding will be required.