18/19 February 2022, 17/18 Adar 5782

This weekend marks the beginning of the anniversary year for Liberal Judaism, 120 years since its creation by the three famous ‘M’s; Israel Mattauck, Lily Montagu and Claude Montefiore. It kicks off with a shared service hosted by the Liberal Jewish Synagogue. Our President Paul Silver-Myer will represent us.

Anniversaries are strange events. They invite us to reflect and consider what passed in a celebratory way, even if we don’t feel part of that celebration particularly. Many of us have joined our congregation Finchley Progressive Synagogue over the years because it felt like the ‘the place’ for us, not necessarily because it is an outpost of Liberal Judaism. And there are also many that were our founding mothers and fathers creating our community as a Liberal Jewish congregation proudly and building it, brick by brick and idea by idea.

We have, grown and transformed over the years. Liberal Judaism has moved from Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues.

Creating a movement is brave and yields dividends. The initial intention for a fiercely intellectual and reasoned Jewish expression still stands and yet more has been added; more Hebrew and music and emotional connections and inclusive ideas of who belongs and an expansion of who we are as a Jewish people, into a Jewish family.

This week’s Torah portion contains the unedifying passage of the building of the golden calf, the wretched faithlessness of the people waiting for Moses and needing something tangible and easier to replace Moses and God’s leadership. I’ve often heard the appalling critique of Liberal Judaism being a distraction, a moment of idolatry even that confused and obfuscated the pure message of Judaism. Not only has this not been the case, its longevity and creativity point to its welcome addition to Jewish life and practice.

As Me’ah v’esrim is a traditional blessing on birthdays with hope for health and gathering of years. Liberal Judaism has done that.

There is much to be proud of. From Lily Montagu’s first essay Spiritual Possibilities of Judaism Today to our attempts now to ensure our Jewish practice has integrity, creativity and joy. As she captured so well 120 years ago. “There would be no value in worship services and symbols did they not… serve as aids to right living.”
What an excellent legacy.

We are inheriting well.

Shabbat Shalom and see you at LJS.