12/13 February 2021, 30 Shevat/1 Adar 5781

Rabbi Larry Hoffman came to London several years ago.

On a hot Thursday in July quite a few rabbis, student rabbis and Reform and Liberal lay leadership crammed into our synagogue in Hutton Grove and heard him expound on the essence of Jewish identity. It was, he explained; “Jewish conversation”.

There was a pause, we’d anticipated something more erudite, more esoteric perhaps. But no, it turns out that that is what Rabbi Larry Hoffman believes is “the essence, the heart of Jewish life and identity. Jews talking, friends of Jews talking, all can have a Jewish conversation, and such a discussion, chat or conversation needs to be about something Jewish. That’s it.” He continued to say that the topics can be learning, music, food, memories, Israel, family, preoccupation, even Jewish anxiety. As long as you are talking, then you are engaging. In his clear but far from simplistic way Hoffman captured everything.

Just “keep talking” he told us. Like Tess and Claudia on Strictly… but instead of Dancing, it’s Talking.

I was reminded of that summer as we invite you this week to two very interesting conversations.

The first will be tonight 6pm with, soon-to-be Baroness Gillian Merron, in her final months of leading the Board of Deputies. Do join this conversation about why BOD needs all parts of the Jewish community. And why we as a community should be at the table. We will hear some highlights of her time there, and maybe some of its challenges.

The second conversation will be on Israel, Thursday 7.30pm. My colleague Rabbi Lea Muhlstein in her role as chair of Arzeinu, the Progressive Zionist International organisation has much to say about talking and listening and being at the table. Again please join us for what promises to be an informative and important conversation.

I know many who excel and have excelled at Jewish conversations. Rosita Rosenberg z”l was one. was one. She died this week, and we are poorer for her loss. Rosita led Liberal Judaism for nearly a decade and brought much history, sensibility and menschlikeit to the conversations she enabled. Zichrona L’vracha.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom,