7 Reform judaism

Members of Blackpool Reform Shul celebrate Havdallah

Reform Judaism is to introduce its own movement-wide focus on Shabbat following the success of the Chief Rabbi’s ShabbatUK, writes Justin Cohen.

Communities across the country will hold communal Shabbat dinners in shuls and homes, and rabbis will deliver special sermons during a weekend designated as Reform Judaism Shabbat in October.

It will be held on the same day as ShabbatUK – the leaders of which “lamented” that the two movements will not be celebrating under the same auspices.

Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said: “Our communities turned round and said they wanted to do something. The more Jews who enjoy Shabbat the better and I’m expecting many to take part – it’s all about increasing Jewish joy. Many will use it as an opportunity for community growth and outreach.”

A toolkit with educational resources will be sent out to all communities with suggestions for marking the occasion. While Rabbi Janner-Klausner said the concept of people coming together to celebrate Shabbat that “people loved about ShabbatUK” would be replicated, communities will be able to celebrate within the framework of the differences between Orthodox and some Reform synagogues, such as the use of guitars during services.

Stressing “extremely good cross-communal relationships” with the United Synagogue, she said: “We live under the banner of British Jewry, but each with our own nuance and need to be true to differences.”

She said she nevertheless hoped there would be some crossover between celebrations held by Reform shuls and those under the banner of Shabbat UK. Tens of thousands participated in the inaugural Shabbat UK last year, including those outside the US and some who had never celebrated before, although the fact it was held under the auspices of the Office of the Chief Rabbi meant some progressive Jews felt detached from the initiative.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis recently appealed to every community member saying that ShabbatUK is for everyone, regardless of religious affiliation.

A spokesman for ShabbatUK said: “We know of people from right across the religious spectrum who are once again preparing to get involved. This is an incredible opportunity to set politics aside and to make a statement about communal unity. “Whilst we take it as a compliment that the success of ShabbatUK last year has been a catalyst for encouraging greater Jewish involvement across the community, we lament the fact that this cannot be done together.”