Progressively Speaking: Now is the time to lead from the front on vaccinations

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Progressively Speaking: Now is the time to lead from the front on vaccinations

Rabbi Dr René Pfertzel takes a topical issue and applies a Liberal Jewish response

“It is a duty to care for the body, since humans have been created in the divine image and likeness.” (Leviticus Rabbah 34:3)  

The year has begun as the last one ended with lockdowns, job losses and isolation caused by the pandemic. But there is hope on the horizon in the form of a vaccine.

According to a report from the British Academy, one of the essential elements needed for the vaccine’s success is a coordinated programme to encourage confidence and combat anti-vaxx misinformation – so that the take-up target of eight in ten people in the UK can be achieved.

The report’s author, Oxford University’s Prof Melinda Mills, writes: “We need to move from the one-way provision of information and generate open dialogue that does not dismiss people’s real vaccine concerns and hesitancy.”

Obviously scientists, doctors and government ministers will take the lead in this, but rabbis and faith leaders have an important role to play.

There is a reason the bimah is at the front of our synagogues (and Zoom screens): people look forward to our rabbis for leadership. And this is an issue we can lead on from the front.

While many in Progressive Judaism will have no qualms about a jab, some will be among the 36 percent of people in the UK who say they are uncertain or unlikely to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Our job as rabbis is to show our members, and the wider community, that the vaccine is safe, effective and part of our Jewish set of values – especially that of pikuach nefesh, the concept that saving a human life is more important than anything else.

So what practical steps will we be taking? First, Liberal rabbis are going to record a video, standing side by side with frontline NHS workers in the Liberal Jewish community, declaring our support for the vaccine. 

Second, we will be talking to people – especially those who are nervous or worried about the vaccine or have family members who are. The key here is to provide reassurance.

Finally, we need to look to inclusion and practically supporting members who may be blind, deaf, sick or vulnerable in getting the vaccine.

Now is the time for us all to put pikuach nefesh into action.

  •  Rabbi Dr René Pfertzel is co-chair of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors


Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: