Liberal Judaism has likened itself to Tony Blair and the Third Way, saying it is the “only solution to the drift away from our tradition”.
Addressing over 300 delegates at its biennial conference at the weekend, Liberal Judaism (LJ) chairman Lucian Hudson told the crowd they were not a “step on the path from orthodoxy to secularism”.
While the headlines had covered the growth of Charedi and secular sections of the community, he said, “much less noted has been growth by almost a third of those identifying as Liberal or Reform”.
He added: “This demonstrates the ability of Liberal Judaism – in the words of a once famous beer advertisement – to reach the Jews that other denominations cannot reach.”
The upbeat event saw the movement’s leaders herald Gillian Merron’s appointment as the new chief executive at the Board of Deputies as “a step which could be a game-changer”.
Delegates also heard a highly-praised keynote speech from Rabbi Jonah Pesner, vice-chair of the Union for Reform Judaism in the USA, who spoke about the need to pursue justice in our communities and beyond.
In a year when same-sex marriage was legalised, many speeches made reference to the movement’s support of LGBT causes, 25 years after the ordination of the first openly LGBT rabbis at Leo Baeck College.
Fania Oz-Salzberger, professor of history at the University of Haifa, said: “I’m impressed to find so many like-minded people can converse with a secular Israeli like myself, about Jewish identity, Jewish humanism and secularism.”