Board Meets Opposition Over Oxfam Deal

A food justice campaign called Grow Tatzmiach would see 25 people mentored by Oxfam over a six-month period, with the aim of developing a projects to tackle world hunger.

However, the proposal has sparked fierce opposition among deputies concerned over the influential charity’s record on Israel.

As deputies prepare to consider a motion on 20 January calling for the project to be put on hold, the Board last night undertook not “to establish a project or continue an existing project with any organisation which: supports a boycott of any types of Israeli goods; partners with or supports any organisation that promotes violence; partners with or supports any organisation that calls for the destruction of Israel”.

To ensure these red lines are not crossed an oversight committee would be established to monitor the initiative and the relationship with the charity “and reassess them after four months”.

It will report to the executive after four months and to the entire board at the project’s conclusion.

While Oxfam is described by Board chiefs as the “most moderate” NGO on Israel which has never called for a boycott of goods from the country, it does want to see settlement products labelled.

Oxfam’s positions on Israeli security measures have also been criticised by Board leaders. A policy document from the Board argues, however, that engaging with the charity does not mean it condones its policies.

But former Board vice-president Jerry Lewis, who headed the community division until last May, said leaders were “misguided” in pursuing the joint initiative, which he argued would “in affect give a hechsher to an organisation which will relish a seal of approval from the community. It will give succour to others who are avowedly anti-Israel”.

Also unmoved by the Board statement yesterday was Woodside Park shul deputy Jonathan Hoffman, who described working with Oxfam as a “season’s worth of own goals”. He was upbeat about the chances of success for his motion against the plans if it comes to a vote next weekend.

Meanwhile, Jewish News has learnt that a letter from the chairman of Hampstead Garden Suburb shul to that community’s deputies – referred opposition to the project from its rabbi.

It urges them to note the views of the rabbi and shul board, but says the Board does not mandate deputies to vote either way. HGS’s deputies include Board president Vivian Wineman.

The representatives of Barnet synagogue, however, are set to oppose any collaboration. One of them, Natalie Shaw, a key player in the campaign against the project, said she was “absolutely for chesed (acts of kindness)” but argued that there are many agencies other than Oxfam that the Board could work with.

However, Elstree and Borehamwood shul’s deputies will back the project. One of them, Rowel Genn told the Jewish News: “Our faith guides us to help others less fortunate than ourselves and the alleviation of hunger is a worthwhile cause in which to engage with Oxfam.”

He added: “A secondary motive may include engagement with those who do not see matters as we do, with a view to influencing them. We cannot only engage with people who agree with everything we believe in. Influence comes from positive and persuasive engagement, not petulant boycotts.”

And Wineman’s predecessor as president, Henry Grunwald, said: “I think it’s absolutely right that the Board seeks to engage with Oxfam and other NGOs.”

A spokesman for Reform Judaism added: “This project represents a new way forward and we look forward to working with the whole community on it.”

A policy document from the Board said the joint initiative “answers the Jewish prophetic voice to heal a fractured world” while being “the most effective means of engagement, with an influential NGO, to foster healthy and constructive debates.”

Last night, the Board’s red lines were presented to Oxfam’s Middle East director during a meeting with honorary officers. Lewis, who was also present, said: “It was very clear that what the Board considered to be red lines were not automatically endorsed by Oxfam at the meeting.”

But a spokesman for the charity said: “She wanted to double check that we understand what these red lines are and that everything is OK before signing up. We are excited about this joint work. There’s nothing wrong with having red lines.”

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Mirvis named new Chief Rabbi

The minister of Finchley United Synagogue for the past 16 years and former Chief Rabbi of Ireland was confirmed as the successor to Lord Sacks at a meeting on Monday night.

The recommendation of Rabbi Mirvis was made by an eight-strong panel before being endorsed unanimously by a larger consultative group as part of a process launched more than a year ago. A popular figure among the rabbinate and his synagogue’s membership, he been among the leading UK contenders from the start and fellow US rabbis publicly called for him to be immediately appointed just two weeks ago.

Lord Sacks is due to step down next September after 22 years in the role.

The appointment has already been widely welcomed inside and outide the US. Laura Janner-Klausner, Rabbi of the Movement for Reform Judaism, said: “I welcome the appointment of Rabbi Mirvis as another powerful voice for British Jewry. I look forward to working closely with him as a partner on areas of common interests to the Jewish and wider community.”

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Jewish Couple Among Superstorm Dead

The main umbrella group for Jewish communities, the Jewish Federation of North America, will raise the money for recovery and reconstruction efforts.

It comes after the superstorm, which tore through the Caribbean, eastern United States and Canada this week, left at least 130 dead, including more than 20 in New York.

Among the dead were Jacob Vogelman and Jessie Streich-Kest, a young Jewish couple, who were killed by a falling tree in Brooklyn.

JFNA President Jerry Silverman said in a statement: “We send our support and prayers to those affected by the hurricane, and stand beside them during the recovery and rebuilding.”

The Union of Reform Judaism also started a relief effort to help communities struck by the devastating storm, with URJ chairman Steve Sacks saying: “This storm will require a long-term, coordinated recovery effort.”

The news came as the Jewish community on the east coast slowly began opening its doors once again. The Jewish Cultural Centre in Manhattan and the UJIA Federation of New York reopened on Wednesday after the closure of schools and businesses across the city. Jewish organisations in Long Island however remained closed due to power outages.

Earlier, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had led evacuation efforts, leaving the financial capital largely shut down.

On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama surveyed the city’s wreckage and described the disaster as “heart-breaking.”

The Republican Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, was among those praising the president for his handling of the crisis so far, calling it “outstanding.”

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The Community’s Games!

The 29-year-old drummer told the Jewish News: “Danny Boyle, the English filmmaker and artistic director of the ceremony, gave us a passionate explanation of his vision, which is brilliantly ambitious. If the performers can pull it off as planned then it will be an amazing spectacle for all the world to marvel at and enjoy.”

Adam, who was born in Hampstead, is a drummer in blues band Gaby Young and Other Young Animals. He saw an advert on a drumming website to sign up for auditions. There have since been 30 rehearsals over the past eight weeks, involving 10,000 performers.

Adam shed some light on what the Olympic stadium in Stratford will look like tomorrow night: “It will be transformed from a sports ground to a typical pleasant English countryside scene with green fields, real cows, sheep grazing, a leisurely game of cricket and even clouds hanging above that can produce rain if required!” Adam works for Newham Music Academy as a drum and ukulele teacher in local schools, so is acutely aware “there is a great sense of excitement and enthusiasm about the summer ahead”.

He adds: “I can’t wait for the Games to begin. The Olympics will only come to town once in my lifetime and not only is it in London this year but it is right on my doorstep. I can see the Olympic stadium from my bedroom window! To me, the Olympics stands for unity through diversity – celebrating the talent and achievement of people from nearly every nation in the world. And London has to be one of the most successfully diverse major cities in the world. On this level, it is a perfect match.”

Adam managed to give two of his loved ones even more nachas by getting them tickets for the final dress rehearsal tonight. “I was able to bring two guests. Choosing between my parents, sisters, grandma, girlfriend Susie and close friends made my head spin! I chose my girlfriend Susie and my mum, knowing that my dad would be gracious. Keeping the important women in my life happy must be beneficial!”

Meanwhile, Olympic fever hit the streets of London this week as the torch relay passed through Ilford on Sunday and Hendon on Wednesday.

The oldest torch bearer in the country is 100-year-old Diana Gould. She was born in Lodz, Poland, and came to London as a child. Diana’s 220-metre torch route began outside Hendon Town Hall and ended on the forecourt of the Middlesex University campus, where it was carried by Harry Potter star Rupert Grint. Diana told the Jewish News that the secret to keeping fit at 100 is “keeping myself active in mind and body. Don’t think old, just get on with it!”

Hundreds of members of the local Jewish community were among those contributing to the electric atmosphere by lining the streets as the torch continued its route past the Holocaust Survivors’ Centre and Nancy Reuben Primary in Finchley Lane, where pupils chanted “Team GB!” and waved paper torches created as part of the school’s Olympic activities. After the torch passed the school – whose gates featured a Jewish News banner welcoming the torch relay. Sara Kastner, a governor at the school, said: “All the pupils have been learning about the Olympics and they were incredibly excited for today. They understand that millions are coming to London for the Games and they’ve had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of it.”

Pupil Eitan Field, 10, whose face was painted with a British flag, said it was “amazing” to see the torch up close and that it was an occasion he’d always remember.

To celebrate the relay passing its offices, Zionist Federation staff and supporters also took to the streets with British and Israeli flags to wish the teams good luck. Chief Executive Alan Aziz said: “The atmosphere was amazing and the flags were well received.”

David Gilbert also carried the torch in Hendon. He has run eight marathons and triathlons raising over £150,000 for Grief Encounter Project, a charity which helps bereaved children. He was nominated by his sister-in-law, Shelley Gilbert who was orphaned at the age of nine and founded the charity in 2003 to help others who have been hit by the loss of family members. Woodside Park Synagogue member David said: “I am overwhelmed by the excitement and support I have received from family and friends. I made sure that I savoured my 15 minutes of fame.”

Ilford’s Josh Newman, 13, national under-15 trampolining champion, held the torch in Ilford town centre on Sunday morning.
The King Solomon pupil, who hopes to compete at the Rio Olympics in 2016, said: “It was thrilling to be introduced personally to thousands of people watching the relay. Being involved in this event in my home town was a great honour.”

There will also be six Rabbinical chaplains, including from Chabad, Liberal Judaism and the Movement for Reform Judaism. Rabbi Richard Jacobi of Woodford Liberal Synagogue told the Jewish News that the chaplaincy service is there “for everyone in the Olympic Village who wishes to use it – staff, volunteers, contractors, delegation officials and support staff, and, of course, the athletes themselves. I shall be there for both the Olympics and Paralympics Olympics. It’s a fantastic opportunity to show London and Judaism at their best. Of course we all hope there will be no major incidents, but we are part of the planned response to any such event. Also, there will be personal traumas and we will help support people as they face those.

“There are daily prayers offered for each of the five major world faiths recognised by the IOC – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Kosher food is provided in the main dining room for anyone who requests it. We may need to help people order their meals. One of the important messages is that we are all working alongside each other, especially when we learn of stories such as the suicide attack in Bulgaria.”

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Chief: I Don’t

Months after both the Movement for Reform Judaism and Liberal Judaism revealed their support for the proposals, the London Beth Din – which Lord Sacks heads – and the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue described same-sex unions as being “against Jewish (Biblical) law”.

The bodies’ stance was confirmed in a submission at the end of a three-month Home Office consultation into legalising same-sex civil marriages, stressed that while Judaism “condemns all types of discrimination”, under Jewish Law “marriage is the union of man and woman” and that the “practice of homosexuality” is prohibited.

Same-sex couples can at present have civil partnership ceremonies but the government is proposing offering them the option of civil marriage. Though this would not oblige religious bodies to offer a civil marriage ceremony, both Progressive Jewish organisations have said they would do so.

The Beth Din submission cautioned that: “We are concerned that if the government were to introduce same-sex marriage through a civil ceremony any attempts to exclude the possibility of a religious ceremony for such couples would be subject to challenge to the European Court of Human Rights”. Although the Chief Rabbi’s office was not commenting further on the issue this week, Lord Sacks is Head of the London Beth Din and it’s understood the submission’s position reflects his own.

A spokesman for the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group noted with “regret but not surprise” the contribution: “We, together with our growing number of Orthodox members, draw some comfort from the fact that the response was submitted on the last possible day, which could be indicative of a struggle between those who wanted to respond, and those who would have preferred to remain silent, and also from the uncompromising condemnation of all types of discrimination with which the response opens.”

A spokesman for the UK branch of Keshet, an international Jewish LGBT advocacy group, said: “We actively support and are committed to full marriage equality. In the meantime, there are many other ways apart from marriage that the United Synagogue can show LGBT Jews that they are welcome. We hope to engage the US alongside all other sections of the Jewish community in the UK regarding these issues.”

Rabbi Cybil Sheridan, Vice-Chair of the Assembly of Rabbis of the Movement for Reform Judaism, told the Jewish News she was “not surprised at the position Lord Sacks has taken. I understand why the Orthodox take their stance. They are constrained by Orthodox teachings.

“In Reform Judaism we come from a different perspective because we interpret texts differently. We stress the importance of equality.”

The Assembly stated earlier this month that it “welcomed equal Civil Partnership legislation but also would welcome “religious marriage for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews, on the grounds of complete equality”.

Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah, of Liberal Judaism’s Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue, said that”“if you really want to be inclusive, as Lord Sacks claims to be – and to recognise gay and lesbian people as full human beings – then you need to recognise that they require equal rights”.

A spokesman for Liberal Judaism added that members have been urged to “speak out” against the fact the proposals do not include marriages conducted on religious premises. “For us that means Liberal Rabbis will be banned from officiating over same-sex marriages.”

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Mazeltov, Your Majesty

Synagogues, schools and cultural clubs were putting out the bunting and
finalising plans to join the rest of the nation in toasting Her Majesty’s 60
years on the throne.

The Chief Rabbi, during a special debate he initiated in the House of Lords
on Tuesday, hailed the Queen¹s role in promoting interfaith relations and
making religious communities feel “valued and at home”.

Lord Sacks said: “I know of few places in the world where friendships across
faiths are more vigorously pursued; and for the way she has led and
encouraged this great opening of hearts and minds to one another, as for so
much else, Her Majesty has lifted our spirits and earned our thanks.”

Referring to the prayer of thanksgiving he composed to be read in United
Synagogues during the Jubilee weekend, Lord Sacks added: “Let me say on
behalf of the Jewish communities of Britain and the Commonwealth how much we
have appreciated Her Majesty’s kindness to us and to others. This is
something of a miracle itself since Jews rarely agree on anything; but on
this we are united.”

There was no shortage of Union Jacks or choruses of God Save the Queen
yesterday as more than 250 people celebrated the Jubilee early with a traditional English tea at Jewish Care’s Michael Sobell Community Centre in Golders Green.

And, as members of the community take to the Thames on Sunday as part of the
celebratory flotilla, the Jewish Association of Cultural Societies in Gants
Hill will raise a glass at its own celebrations.

Also this weekend, dressed in red, white and blue, the children of the
Liberal Jewish Synagogue nursery will hold a tea party after their Shabbat
service, a week before older members of that community celebrating their
60th birthday or anniversary join in a special service of music and prayer.

The Movement for Reform Judaism said it was “delighted to wish Her Majesty
mazeltov”. It added: “May the celebrations allow, in the words of the Reform siddur, every community of our nation to meet in understanding and respect, united by love of goodness, and keeping far from violence and strife.”

To mark the royal anniversary, the Jewish Museum is displaying a document
from which the current prayer for the royal family originates. The document
was composed for King George V in 1826 by the small congregation in

In Israel, the British Embassy in Tel Aviv will hold a reception at
Ambassador Matthew Gould¹s residence in Ramat Gan, attended by MKs, mayors
and leaders from the worlds of business, culture and science.

Gould said: “I’m looking forward to sharing some of the excitement of the
Diamond Jubilee celebrations with our friends in Israel. Last year we had a
hugely successful event to mark the Royal Wedding. This year¹s celebration
will be just as impressive.”

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Community split over JNF invite to Avigdor Lieberman

Lieberman, the head of the far right Yisrael Beiteinu Party, is due in the UK next week to give a talk to JNF members and meet Foreign Secretary William Hague.

However, in a petition aimed at JNF chair Samuel Hayek, the signatories, many of them members of Habonim Dror Zionist youth movement and pro-Israel peace group Yachad, said: “We are concerned about the JNF’s involvement in activities which jeopardise the possibility of peace and Israel’s ability to maintain a strong democracy. Evictions of Palestinians from their homes in Silwan, East Jerusalem and the displacement of Bedouins living in the Negev town of al-Araqib to make way for a forestation project, both of which the JNF have been involved in, are harmful to Israel’s future.

“Your announcement that you will be hosting Avigdor Lieberman in London does nothing to allay our concerns. Lieberman is the leader of a far-right party, and alongside instigating anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset, has also advocated for the transfer of many of Israel’s Arab citizens to the West Bank. The JNF claims to be ‘Israel’s leading humanitarian charity’ but we question what you are doing to support peace and equality in Israel, as outlined in the declaration of independence.”

Reform Movement Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner added her organisation’s voice to the protest, saying: “The Movement for Reform Judaism was surprised and dismayed to see that Avigdor Lieberman has been invited to address the Jewish community in London.

“Israel advocacy is most effective when its case is made rationally and compassionately. JNF is right in seeking to create opportunities for people to hear from Israeli advocates. Its decision, however, to invite someone with fundamentalist right-wing views from outside the consensus of mainstream Israeli society, suggests it is concerned with something other than effective advocacy.

“It is often argued that to criticise Israel in any way is to lend succour to Israel’s opponents; equally therefore actively to promote extremist right wing policies in any way is to lend succour to those that advocate them.”

But Hayek dismissed the claims as “libellous” and “without foundation”. He added: “JNF UK is not involved in any of the disputes with sections of Israel’s Bedouin citizens, as claimed by these organisations. I wonder if those who have signed this petition have spoken to the Bedouin farmers whose livelihoods are under threat from the squatters at al-Araqib. Or have they spoken to the Bedouin inhabitants of Arad, who benefit from the JNF UK-funded medical centre?

“Habonim Dror and Yachad seem to be more than happy to side blindly with the squatters and repeat the lies propagated by those who work to delegitimise Israel. It is a pity for these organisations that truth and fashionable causes appear to be mutually exclusive.”
On the issue of Lieberman, Hayek said he was a “democratically-elected politician and the Foreign Minister of Israel. We are proud to have him speak exclusively at a JNF UK event, following his meeting with Foreign Secretary William Hague. Our event offers a fascinating opportunity for people to listen and debate the issues that concern our community”.

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Our Day To Remember

The initiative, headed by the Forum for Yom HaShoah and supported by synagogue movements from across the religious spectrum, urges UK Jews to recognise Yom HaShoah as the principle day for “remembering the past, honouring the memory and shaping the future”.

While Holocaust Memorial Day, launched in 2001, is the international day for honouring Jewish victims of the Nazis and other recent genocides, Yom HaShoah -commemorated every year since 1953 on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising – is an opportunity for purely Jewish reflection as Israel and the Diaspora mourns the six million murdered.

There will be more than 30 Yom HaShoah events taking place across the UK in April, culminating in the Chief Rabbi’s religious commemoration on 18 April at JFS and the National Yom HaShoah ‘K Commemoration on 22 April at the National Holocaust Memorial in Hyde Park, organised by the Forum under auspices of the Board of Deputies.

The Jewish News will be supporting this important campaign with regular news updates and analysis, high-profile opinion pieces, a souvenir pull-out for readers to refer to during Yom HaShoah, and a special prayer card inserted into the newspaper on 12 April.

In a 14-page booklet published to mark the campaign, the Forum for Yom HaShoah said: “Where once we were surrounded by survivors and their stories, there is now a vacuum that must be filled. We must ensure they know their legacy is in safe hands. British Jews can renew their resolve never to forget this recent tragic experience and the need to educate its future generations about the dangers they could face through observing Yom HaShoah.”

Differentiating between Yom HaShoah and Holocaust Memorial Day, Vivian Wineman, President of The Board of Deputies, said: “While on Holocaust Memorial Day the Jewish community participates in efforts to deliver awareness of the Holocaust to the wider community, Yom HaShoah is a day for internal Jewish reflection.

“It is also a vital opportunity to learn from the first-hand experiences of Holocaust survivors and refugees while we still can and to show that as a community, we are ready to carry their legacy forward to future generations. The Board of Deputies is proud to endorse this much needed cross-communal initiative.”

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said: “Since the Shoah, every Jew has known that, in some sense, they are a survivor. We share a collective fate. The Shoah has become a collective memory that places the duty of remembrance on us all. As the number of survivors decline, Yom HaShoah grows in importance, providing the opportunity to ensure that what the victims died for, we commit ourselves to live for.”

Rabbi Abraham Levy, head of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, said: “This day has to be entrenched in the Jewish calendar forever. I encourage all members of the community to participate in events and activities taking place.”

The Reform Movement’s Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner also endorsed the initiative. She said: “Last week, the survivor who was a member of the community whom I knew best, Roman Halter, passed away. He survived four camps but lost every member of his family. Another rare voice is lost and few remain. I encourage all of us to carry out the obligation of remembering by participating in Yom HaShoah.”

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, the senior rabbi of the Assembly of Masorti Synagogues, said: “I wholeheartedly support this campaign. We need to remember, for the sake of our loved ones who perished, to honour the importance of every life, and to help create a worthwhile thoughtful Jewish future.”

Lucian Hudson, chairman of Liberal Judaism, said:: “We must set aside time to remember and learn. This is critical for our community and all of society. Keeping alive the memory honours those who sacrificed their lives and inspires this generation and future generations.”

And Dr Eli Kienwald, chief executive of the Federation of Synagogues, added: “We wholeheartedly endorse the campaign and support the work undertaken by the Forum for Yom Hashoah to honour the memory of our six million brothers and sisters who perished. We encourage our members to take part.”

Israel’s UK ambassador and the British ambassador to Israel also backed to the campaign. UK envoy Matthew Gould said: “We need to make sure the Holocaust is remembered in our families and communities, not just as a chapter of history, but as the memories of those we love. Yom HaShoah gives us a day to recommit to remember the Holocaust. Every other day gives us an opportunity to make that pledge a reality.”

Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, said:: “In Israel, Yom HaShoah is a painful but powerful fixture in our calendar. A siren sounds. A nation stands in silent contemplation. I endorse this campaign and hope it enables Jews everywhere to experience a meaningful Yom HaShoah.”

• This campaign is endorsed and supported by: The Assembly of Masorti Synagogues, Federation of Synagogues, Liberal Judaism, Movement for Reform Judaism, Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, The Chief Rabbinate and the United Synagogue

Yom HaShoah Events Directory –
Follow the campaign on Twitter: use #iremember when tweeting
‘Like’ the Facebook group:
Chief Rabbi’s commemoration service is at JFS on 18 April.
The UK National Yom HaShoah
Commemoration is on 22 April at the National Holocaust Memorial, The Dell, Hyde Park. To reserve a seat, email:
or phone 020 7543 5400

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Currently the minister at Alyth (North Western Reform Synagogue) in Temple Fortune, Rabbi Janner-Klausner is a well-known national broadcaster, featuring regularly on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme’s Thought For The Day and BBC1’s Sunday moring debate show The Big Question.

Janner-Klausner, who is the daughter of Lord Janner, will aim to help the movement increase awareness of Reform Judaism and its values, which are widely shared across much of the Jewish community.

In her new role, which she will officially start at the beginning of next year, Janner-Klausner will be working closely with the Movement’s rabbis, teaching within the 42 Reform communities across the country and ensuring a spiritual and rabbinic outlook within the management team.

Ben Rich, chief executive of the Movement, said: “In Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Reform Judaism has identified a new national voice for mainstream British Jewry. She articulates values, beliefs and practices that resonate with the vast majority of British Jews.”

Rabbi Janner-Klausner (pictured) said: “I am completely thrilled at the prospect of working for the Movement, as we grow intellectually, spiritually and communally. I look forward to strengthening my support to the Reform Movement’s youth organisation, RSY-Netzer. I am also looking forward to mentoring new entrants to the Rabbinate as well as being involved with Jeneration. It is a great privilege to be joining the Movement team and to be taking on this role which I see as a sacred task.”

Jenny Pizer, chair-elect of the Movement, said: “Rabbi Janner-Klausner was the outstanding candidate for the position. She is an influential broadcaster and writer, a great teacher and a popular rabbi of one of our flourishing communities. She will be a huge asset to the movement.”

Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, vice-chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK, said: “Reform rabbis across the UK are looking forward to working in collaboration with Rabbi Janner-Klausner, to raise the profile of Reform Judaism and the work of Reform rabbis.”

Rabbi Janner-Klausner has been part of the rabbinic team at Alyth since 2003, having been ordained at Leo Baeck College in 2004. She has a BA in Divinity from Cambridge, and post-graduate degrees from Brandeis University and Hebrew University. She lives in north London with her husband, David and three children.

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Orthodox smash the glass ceiling

The four member shuls of the London Spanish and Portuguese synagogues have amended their constitution to allow the executive, the six-member Mahamad, to have up to two female members.

One in three members of the Board of Elders, the governing body below the Mahamad, will also be female from June when elections take place.

Member synagogues; Bevis Marks in the City, Lauderdale Road in Maida Vale, Wembley and Borehamwood, amended their constitution at an EGM last week after the Sephardi Beth Din had earlier ruled that one-third of a community executive could be female. Although women will still not be allowed to undertake ritual functions within member shuls, they will be involved in decision-making on governance.

The president of the Board of Elders, Alfred Magnus, said the change was “the result of excellent co-operation between Elders and Mahamad over the last two years, following a number of earlier attempts to modernise our governance”.
Laura Marks, the newly-appointed chair of a committee looking into the lack of women in senior roles within the community, set up by the Jewish Leadership Council, told the Jewish News: “This is a breath of fresh air which is to be welcomed and applauded. It is great to see the Mahamad moving in the right direction. Clearly, we hope that this is a step towards longer term full equality.”

Having females at the highest level of governance is believed to be a first for an Orthodox synagogue body in England, since neither the Federation of Synagogues or United Synagogue allow women to vote at executive level. The Trustees of the United Synagogue are all men. However, there are female observer trustees who do not have voting rights.

A spokesman for the Federation of Synagogues said: “We have women observers at synagogue and executive levels of our governance, but they have no vote at the moment. We are currently undertaking a revision of our constitution which will look at this among a number of issues.”

Ben Rich, chief executive designate of the Movement for Reform Judaism, told the Jewish News: “We are an egalitarian movement in theory and practice. Because we believe in the contribution of women in every part of the community, we welcome even the smallest steps in helping to advance women to join in fully in running the Jewish community.”

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