> The Hull Reform Synagogue - Ne've Shalom
The Hull Reform Synagogue - Ne've Shalom



This article was written on 9 January 2012 by Ben Rich, the Chief Executive of the MRJ, whom many of you met when he visited our Friday Night Service on 26 August 2011.

We Jews should generally save our New Year Resolutions for the Days of Awe, not append them as an after-thought to the inevitable hangover (literal or metaphoric) of the secular New Year. Nevertheless, this is a good opportunity to take stock and may be time - seven months into my new job - to nail some colours to the mast.

So here are ten things you have the right to expect from the Movement for Reform Judaism in 2012, and which I pledge I will sustain beyond my January detox.

1. Complete and start to implement the Movement's Strategic Review
With over sixty responses, the consultation process has been an undoubted success. Almost all of our 42 communities have discussed the review at some stage over the past four months and more than half have submitted detailed comments. Of course, some of the feedback is mutually contradictory: "MRJ needs to set the direction for its members" versus "MRJ needs to remember it exists first and foremost to do what synagogues want"; "our priority must always be children" versus "what about the older members". Nevertheless, some common themes are emerging and while inevitably not everyone can be satisfied by the final recommendations, I hope that they appreciated the opportunity to have a say and will welcome at least some of the outcomes.

2. Launch a Reform Haggadah in time for this year's Pesach
Almost my first commitment was to publish a Reform Haggadah. We are - thanks to the outstanding work of the rabbinic publications team under Rabbi Paul Freedman and the efforts of our Projects Manager, Andie Newman - on track to pilot one for Pesach 2012, and I am determined we will deliver.

3. Develop the profile of Reform Judaism with our new Movement Rabbi
In Rabbi Janner-Klausner, we have a new voice for the Jewish community which is as eloquent, intelligent and inspirational as any religious leader currently in the UK. Following her profile in The Times newspaper and the Today programme report which began to question the presumed pre-eminence of the Orthodox Chief Rabbi, the stage is set to establish a new Reform voice on the national stage. Expect to hear a lot more from Laura and the Reform Movement in the media in 2012.

4. Continue to grow our youth movement
RSY-Netzer is one of the most successful Jewish youth organisations in the UK. Our camps and tours are professionally run by inspiring young leaders and continue to grow year on year. The challenge is to ensure that the link between RSY-Netzer and individual communities is strengthened and all our synagogues see the very real benefit of partnering with, and promoting, RSY-Netzer. The measure of success: more Reform youngsters attending more Reform camps and tours in 2012.

5. Support our young adults and students
With the transformation of Jeneration into a Reform-focused organisation for young adults and students, we need to engage this age group with their Reform Judaism, to inspire them to become future leaders of our communities. This will mean more support on campus and more flexibility and creativity from synagogues when it comes to retaining membership and involvement. What will success look like this year? 1) A programme to help students prepare for university and to support them in running their own proudly Reform events once they arrive, and 2) Talented young adults taking up leadership positions within the Movement.

6. Take seriously cross-communal organisations such as the Board of Deputies
The Board of Deputies is the voice of the Jewish community. Its values and pronouncements must, therefore, reflect those of the whole community. But we cannot expect it to do so if we do not engage with it seriously, take up our places in full and stand for election. With the triennial elections held in 2012, our minimal challenge is to ensure Progressive voices are elected to the BoD's executive committee for the first time for years.

7. Be effective advocates for Progressive Zionism
Two Jews, three opinions. We are not all going to agree on the nuances of Israeli policy, but we cannot allow the fear of controversy to prevent us from promoting the values of Progressive Zionism. As a Movement we have a responsibility to promote an Israel which is free, secure, inclusive and pluralist - in the vision of its founders. We understand the difference between this and aligning ourselves with the individual policies of any particular Israeli Government. So expect to hear more from the Movement about Israel and know that even when we criticise we speak out of love, in line with our values and beliefs.

8. Make a difference in the wider community
Visiting the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial last year, I became aware of the extent to which our American cousins define themselves by their commitment to social action, healing the world. Through their Religious Action Center, the URJ was a prime mover in the creation of American civil rights legislation in the 60s, stood up for women's rights in the 80s and 90s and is today a leading liberal voice in promoting LGBT equality. Tikkun Olam is not just "something American Reform Jews do"; it is part of what they are. It must become integral to our identity as a Movement too and the challenge for 2012 is to work out how.

9. Remember why the MRJ exists
The Movement and its predecessors were set up to enable individual synagogues to do together the things they could not do alone: train rabbis, educate educators, run a national youth organisation, share best practice, speak on the national stage. If we don't get the basics right we can't expect our synagogues to continue to support us. But the responsibility is two-way, so I will be pressing communities to engage fully with the MRJ. So I ask communities to earn the right to challenge what we do, by engaging with it, using our services, promoting RSY-Netzer, attending best practice seminars, learning with us. The measure: to ensure every single community is represented at our biennial conference, Chagigah 2012.

10. Remember for whom we toil
The one criticism of the strategic review which comes through loud and clear is the lack of mention of God. We will put this right. So my final New Year's resolution is this: we will place the search for God and the challenges of progressive halachah at the centre of everything we do, and while I know we will have disagreements in the year ahead, may they be all for the sake of heaven.


Ne've Shalom
Great Gutter Lane
HU10 6DP



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