This week’s Two Voices asks: what are the specific challenges facing smaller Jewish communities?
Phyllis Alden says…
Manchester Liberal Jewish Community (MLJC) marks its tenth anniversary this year, a testament to the dedication and enthusiasm of a small group of people, as ‘small’ is what we are.
MLJC was born in 2005 when founding members James Eisen, Nick Davis, James Shirrer-Bromfield and Eddie Newman came from other Liberal congregations to start a new community in Manchester.
Nurtured by Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, then outreach director for Liberal Judaism, MLJC has developed into a “proper” community. And while our numbers are still small, they have grown.
We have monthly services, festival celebrations and a part-time rabbi. Student rabbi cantor Gershon Silins will be inducted on our anniversary, taking over from Rabbi Mark Solomon.
However, despite the fact that Manchester itself has a large and growing Jewish population, MLJC faces challenges, partly because Manchester’s Orthodox and Reform communities are well established and MLJC has had to find its place. As a national movement, Liberal Judaism has to show why and how we are different so we can grow our communities. Also, while it is known there are many people within the Greater Manchester area who are Jewish, how do you reach them? And when you do, do they want you?
Phyllis Alden is treasurer of Manchester Liberal Jewish Community
Stuart Goodman says…
The Norwich Liberal Jewish Community (NLJC) evolved out of the Progressive Jewish Community of East Anglia. If nothing else, it is less of a mouthful! The challenges haven’t changed. We still have to find and retain members. Being a small community means finance is tight.
The key to success is in the name, or at least the community bit of it. We have fewer than 50 members but usually have a congregation of well over 30. Leah Jordan, our rabbi, is amazing and we have a cheder of more than 10 young people. In our May service, we will have a bar mitzvah and three of our youngsters will celebrate their Kabbalat Torah. Three of our more mature members have gone through Liberal Judaism’s Ba’alei Tefillah scheme, to become lay readers.
We go out of our way to be a welcoming shul – we share a building with the local Congregationalist Church and all who attend are welcome and important.
We also reach out into the wider community. We are involved with the Citizens UK activities, support charities such as the Norwich Food Bank and have a link with the Norwich Jewish Peace Group.
We had nearly 50 people at our recent communal seder. One wrote: “We’ve not had or been to a seder for many a year. It was wonderful!” Says it all, really.
Stuart Goodman is newsletter editor for Norwich Liberal Jewish Community