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Around the Movement in 80 Years


Prominent voices reflect on The Movement for Reform Judaism in its 80th Anniversary year.

Episode 9 – Rabbi Rick Jacobs – President of the Union for Reform Judaism

Rabbi Rick Jacobs is president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the most powerful force in North American Jewish life. The URJ leads the largest and most diverse Jewish movement in North America, reaching more than 1.5 million people through nearly 850 congregations, 15 overnight camps, the Reform teen youth Movement NFTY, and the Religious Action Center in Washington DC. A longtime and devoted creative change agent, Rabbi Jacobs spent 20 years as a visionary spiritual leader at Westchester Reform Temple (WRT) in Scarsdale, New York. Before that, during his tenure as the rabbi of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, he created the first homeless shelter in a New York City synagogue. Rabbi Jacobs has studied for two decades at Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, where he is a senior rabbinic fellow and is regularly featured in media outlets such as the New York Times, The Washington Post, Ha’aretz, The Forward, NPR, and CNN, among others.

In this final video of our series, Rabbi Jacobs emphasises the shared values of our two movements and highlights the importance of welcoming all those who are “longing for the gifts of our communities.” Alongside his message of celebration for our landmark year, he commends us to remain in the pursuit of seeking justice – living in love, acceptance, strength and security and to be a beacon of moral clarity, with civil rights at our core.

Thank you to Rabbi Rick and all at the URJ for their good wishes and mazal tov and congratulations to the URJ from all of us at the MRJ on their 150th year.

Episode 9 – Rabbi Rick Jacobs – President of the Union for Reform Judaism

Rabbi Rick Jacobs is president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the most powerful force in North American Jewish life. The URJ leads the largest and most diverse Jewish movement in North America, reaching more than 1.5 million people through nearly 850 congregations, 15 overnight camps, the Reform teen youth Movement NFTY, and the Religious Action Center in Washington DC. A longtime and devoted creative change agent, Rabbi Jacobs spent 20 years as a visionary spiritual leader at Westchester Reform Temple (WRT) in Scarsdale, New York. Before that, during his tenure as the rabbi of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, he created the first homeless shelter in a New York City synagogue. Rabbi Jacobs has studied for two decades at Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, where he is a senior rabbinic fellow and is regularly featured in media outlets such as the New York Times, The Washington Post, Ha’aretz, The Forward, NPR, and CNN, among others.

In this final video of our series, Rabbi Jacobs emphasises the shared values of our two movements and highlights the importance of welcoming all those who are “longing for the gifts of our communities.” Alongside his message of celebration for our landmark year, he commends us to remain in the pursuit of seeking justice – living in love, acceptance, strength and security and to be a beacon of moral clarity, with civil rights at our core.

Thank you to Rabbi Rick and all at the URJ for their good wishes and mazal tov and congratulations to the URJ from all of us at the MRJ on their 150th year.

Episode 8 – Miriam Kramer

Based on the model of the Berlin Hochshüle, Leo Baeck College was founded in 1956 by Rabbi Dr Werner van der Zyl and named in honour of his teacher, Rabbi Dr Leo Baeck. As the only seminary with a fully validated rabbinic training programme in the United Kingdom, LBC is the place where rabbis and educators equipped for the 21st century are trained, where the leaders of Progressive Judaism are nurtured, and where the core of Progressive Jewish thought is developed.

Miriam Kramer joined Wimbledon Synagogue in 1978 when she married Stephen, a life-long member. Among the offices she has held is chair of the education committee, senior warden and chair of the community. She then chaired Leo Baeck College and most recently the European Union for Progressive Judaism, which she now serves as co-chair. Professionally she trained as an art historian and spent most of her working life as a freelance writer on art and antiques. She has two adult children and 2.5 grandchildren.

Episode 7 – Member of Knesset, Rabbi Gilad Kariv

Rabbi Gilad Kariv is an attorney and the first non-Orthodox Rabbi to become a Member of Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, serving for the Labour Party. Former Executive Director of the Reform Movement in Israel, Rabbi Kariv MK has a strong history of fighting for the causes of religious pluralism and freedom, women’s rights, racial inclusivity, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, Human Rights, and democracy in the Jewish state.  He helped lead the effort to establish an egalitarian prayer platform at the Kotel (Western Wall) culminating with the government officially recognising egalitarian prayer there.

Gilad joins us as part of our 80th Anniversary celebrations and talks of the role we all have to play to ensure the founding principles of Reform Judaism and Zionism serve the next generation of Israelis and Jews around the world.

Episode 6 – Rabbi Josh Levy

Rabbi Josh Levy is Principal Rabbi of Alyth (North Western Reform Synagogue) which he joined in 2008. A lifelong Reform Jew, he has also served as Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors, and co-led the working group that recommended changes to our approach to those inheriting their Jewish status from one Jewish parent.

His main area of academic exploration is how we, as Progressive Jews, engage with our legal tradition – how do we know what to do as Jews; what do we do when Jewish law leads us to a place that we cannot feel reflects divine will for us; where does the legitimacy of our decision making come from?
He believes that our form of Jewish life has a distinctive answer to these important questions and is currently failing to write a book on the subject alongside his rabbinic and teaching work.
Rabbi Josh is a Lecturer at Leo Baeck College, where he teaches a course looking at these questions titled “Progressive Rabbinic Decision Making”.

Episode 5 – Anat Hoffman – Executive Director – Israel Religious Action Center

Anat Hoffman, an Israeli born in Jerusalem, serves as the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) since 2002. Her position at IRAC places her at the forefront of the effort to advance religious pluralism in the State of Israel. As Executive Director of IRAC, Anat has fought (and won) recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions by the state; and led the struggle against gender segregation in the public domain. Anat has led Women of the Wall for over three decades in their struggle towards gender equality at the Western Wall, the holiest site of the Jewish faith. She also served on Jerusalem’s city council for 14 years, heading the opposition. In this role, she pushed relentlessly for equality and tolerance in a city run by the powerful Orthodox block. Anat was selected as “Person of the Year” by Haaretz in 2013 and chosen as one of the 50 most influential Jews by the Jerusalem Post in 2014. Globes named her as one of Israel’s top women activists in 2018. Anat got her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UCLA, and her master’s degree in Psychology from Bar-Ilan University. Anat is a mother of 3 and has one grandchild. She lives with her partner in Haifa.

For further information please see: www.irac.org/

Episode 4 – Dr Josh Plaut

Circumcision – a representation of the Covenant between God and Abraham – regularly appears in secular discourse as an example of a problematic religious practice. And yet, it remains one of the most tenacious practices, even within non-Orthodox Judaism. Progressive circumcision requires the procedure to be carried out by a medical professional, yet with a lack of trained mohelim, the Progressive community is faced with a challenge when observing this most ancient of rituals. In this episode to accompany his essay, Dr Josh Plaut traces the origin of milah, and what is distinctive in our approach to this practice. Dr Josh Plaut has been a Mohel for the Progressive Community since 2012 having trained with mohelim in the UK and in Canada. He is a member of Finchley Reform Synagogue together with his wife and two children. He now works as a private GP in Golders Green and Elstree. When not being a doctor or Mohel, Josh can sometimes be seen on stage with local amateur dramatic groups in Potters Bar. For further information please visit: www.joshplaut.co.uk

Episode 3 – Jeremy Leigh

Jeremy Leigh grew up in Stanmore, a member of Edgware Reform Synagogue and committed member of RSY-Netzer. He moved to Israel in 1992, after studying Jewish History at University College London, but it is fair to say the most important parts of his Jewish education came from the movement, Israel Tour, Shnat and working for RSY-Netzer in 1988-9. Professionally he splits his time between teaching Israel Studies at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, and running travel programmes at Jewish sites around the world. He runs ‘Jewish Journeys’, which is also the title of a book he wrote a number of years ago.

With many thanks for the music to: © Rina Epstein, Shani Ben Or, Noa Tal-El, Yuval Amit, Rabbi Tamar Duvdevani.

Episode 2 – Marie van der Zyl

Marie van der Zyl was elected President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in May 2018 and in this piece for MRJ, Marie outlines the central role MRJ contributes both to the BOD as well as the Jewish Community at large. In the past three years Marie has played a crucial part in the fight against antisemitism in the Labour Party and she was at the forefront of the campaign against the so-called “cabrank” policy, by which the Inner North London Coroner delayed the release of bodies to Jewish families. Her negotiations with King’s College London resulted in its adoption of the internationally recognised IHRA definition of antisemitism and she has energetically pursued interfaith relations with Britain’s faith communities.

Episode 1 – Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE reflects on Reform Judaism’s imperative to be inclusive and to keep Jews Jewish. Rabbi Romain has been the Rabbi at Maidenhead Synagogue since 1980 when he was ordained at Leo Baeck College. Jonathan has played a wide-ranging and influential role within the Jewish community in the UK, building interfaith relations, and national awareness of contemporary religious affairs, social justice and the inclusivity of Reform Judaism.

Episode 0 – Trailer  – A Word from The Chairs

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