An Understanding of Judaism

An Understanding of Judaism

An Understanding of Judaism

An Understanding of Judaism


In this first of two volumes of edited sermons, Rayner combines radical thinking with spirituality, love of Jewish tradition and an abundance of carefully documented quotations from classical Jewish sources to offer fresh insight into the Scripture.


In the United Kingdom, Liberal Judaism (close in spirit and ideology to the American Reform movement) is the most radical and innovative expression of modern Jewish belief and practice. the Jewish Religious Union, as it was originally called, was founded in 1902 in order to halt the drift away from organised religion, and to invest Judaism with contemporary relevance. Its early leadership included prominent scholars and lay people like Claude Montefiore, Israel Abrahams and the Hon. Lily Montagu, and their programme, daring for its time, of sexual equality in religious worship with men and women sitting together, prayers in the vernacular, the use of organ accompaniment, and a theology that emphasised universalism, biblical scholarship, the primacy of truth over tradition and ethical conduct above ritual observance -- soon attracted a growing number of followers.

The decision to form a congregation was taken in 1910, and the Liberal Jewish Synagogue was founded a year later. in 1912, Rabbi Israel Mattuck, a graduate of Harvard University and the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, was inducted as the synagogue's first minister. While the ljs, as it is popularly known, has always remained Liberal Judaism 'flagship' synagogue, today it has thirty sister congregations in the United Kingdom and Eire, all of them affiliated to an umbrella organisation that in 1944, to reflect its growth, was re-named the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues.

As Liberal Judaism looks towards its centenary in 2002, the movement's rabbinic and lay leadership decided that it was an opportune time to review and re-formulate Liberal Jewish thought for the new millennium. We recognise that a movement which advocates Enlightenment values, stresses the informed conscience above legalism, and unlike Orthodoxy, will grant Jewish status to the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother who is brought up as a Jew -- that such a movement is unlikely to command majority support in essentially conservative Anglo-Jewry. Nevertheless, our role at the cutting edge of Judaism, and readiness to stand by our convictions, ensures that Liberal Judaism has a voice and importance far beyond its numbers.

A scholarly, intellectually rigorous rather than sentimental approach to the teaching and transmission of Jewish values has always characterised Liberal Jewish thought. For the last forty years its most consistent and respected exponent has been John Rayner, now Rabbi Emeritus of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue . . .

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