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New Year – and a rallying call for Progressive Judaism

Rabbi Josh Levy, the new Chief Executive of the Movement for Reform Judaism, says we must be willing to fight if we want a Judaism that remains open, tolerant and inclusive.

Delivering a powerful sermon on Yom Kippur at Alyth (North Western Reform Synagogue), before taking up his CEO duties full time, he warned that: “We have conceded the ground of religious discourse to those whose Judaism does not reflect our values. We must be willing to fight for a Judaism that reflects those core liberal ideals in our rich inheritance.”

Echoing the words of Israeli historian, philosopher and author Yuval Noah Harari, Rabbi Josh warned that: “What we see in rhetoric and in action in Israel today… is not normative Judaism. It is in conflict with core Jewish ideals expressed in our tradition, ideals which should shape the way in which Jews with power behave.

“If Israel, as the most public expression of our religion and culture in the world, comes to represent a Judaism that is based on, in Harari’s words, a principle of Jewish supremacy. If it comes to represent a Judaism that is discriminatory, intolerant, and oppressive, one that does not have at its heart concern for the vulnerable – then this will redefine Judaism for all of us.”

“We must save Judaism itself,” he declared “or suffer the threat of spiritual destruction.”

Rabbi Josh has served Alyth since 2008. He takes up his new full-time position with MRJ on 1 November and will begin the process of forming one united Progressive Judaism for the UK, alongside Liberal Judaism CEO Rabbi Charley Baginsky.

Outlining their joint vision, he added: “Judaism is a religion that speaks up for the vulnerable, and one that believes in dialogue recognising the complexity and nuance of conversation and compromise. We need to recommit ourselves to the place of progressive religion in our society, as a response to the challenges of modern society, and as a voice for good in the world.”

Read the Jewish News coverage of the sermon here

Watch the sermon in full here (from 32.15)

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