Liberal and Reform Judaism have launched “an alliance” to speak for one-in-three synagogue-affiliated Jews in the UK.
The deal encompasses a total of 82 progressive Jewish communities.
Leaders of both movements said they would aim to build on their growth by “reaching out to British Jews who describe themselves as secular, cultural or just Jewish”.
The move will see increased cooperation in areas such as student chaplaincy, social justice and social action.
It adds to the two groups’ existing ties in rabbinic training, gap year programming and representation on Israel, cross-communal and other institutions.
“Together, we can provide an outward-looking, modern and relevant alternative to merely secular Judaism,” said Liberal Judaism’s chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich.
“This could become the primary expression of Judaism within a couple of generations.”
Senior Rabbi Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner added: “There is so much more that unites the movements than divides us. The more we can cooperate, the stronger our voice.”
Responding to concerns, however, the two leaders said this was “not a merger” and added that the movements “will retain their autonomy” and distinct identities.
“The synagogues will remain constituent members of their respective movements practicing Judaism in the way that is most meaningful to them,” they said.
The news came shortly after one of the world’s leading experts in religion has warned Reform Jews against a growing tendency to dismiss progressive religions as full of “do-gooding liberals”.
Speaking at Reform Judaism’s annual dinner, Prof. Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University said Britain was in a constant fight to preserve liberal values.
“We need to keep telling the story of equal human dignity and we need to make progress and reform constantly, [otherwise] we will be sucked back,” she said.
Woodhead praised her hosts for ordaining a female rabbi 40 years ago and for being “about the only religion in this country to have a female leader”.
— Reform Judaism (@ReformMovement) September 18, 2014
— Liberal Judaism (@LiberalJudaism) September 18, 2014