The Movement for Reform Judaism’s Annual Dinner took place in a celebratory atmosphere at the Montcalm Hotel near London’s Marble Arch on Wednesday 10 September.
Professor Linda Woodhead MBE DD, Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University was guest speaker at the event. Speaking on the vital role played by progressive religious groups she said: “I have come to tell you how important you are…” noting that Reform Judaism is one of the only religious groups in Britain to have a female leader and spokesperson, one of the few religious groups to support marriage equality and one of the only religious movements to acknowledge a diversity of voices in forming policy.
Professor Woodhead noted that: “You are a reminder that not all religion has to be a sort of National Trust for outdated values no one really believes in any more, but likes to visit nostalgically once a year… Yes, the Reform Movement really matters”. She concluded stating that: “It matters for this country because progressive values need religious not just secular backing… it really, really matters, and you’re doing a great job”.
Also speaking at the dinner was Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. Rabbi Kariv discussed the difficult last few months describing his meeting with Israel Tour participants from RSY-Netzer as “a sacred moment”. The support shown by Reform communities for their counterparts in Israel was, he said: “powerful and meaningful… the biggest blessings in times of challenge”.
For the first time the appeal was made by a lay member, Charles Kessler from Finchley Reform Synagogue. He echoed Professor Woodhead’s comments on the excellent work being done by the Movement noting that there are also challenges ahead. He outlined the Movement’s desire to increase work with students and young adults, to deliver more educational programmes for all ages, to help support synagogues with the challenges of serving older members and to be more active in social action “to resonate with the prophetic tradition of supporting the stranger, the orphan, and the widow in our midst. Helping our members appreciate that they can change their community and the world around them. To transform the world, from what it is to what it can be”.
The Annual Dinner would not have been possible without the continued generous support of Investec.
Pictured above are Robert Weiner, MRJ Chair, Professor Linda Woodhead and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism.