Religion news 18 April 2023

Rabbi Charley Baginsky and Rabbi Josh Levy, leading the new Progressive Jewish Movement. Image credit: Liberal Judaism

New movement created for all British Progressive Jews

Liberal Judaism and The Movement for Reform Judaism have announced the creation of a new movement merging with each other to represent all Britain’s Progressive Jews. It says this will bring the UK in line with most other countries, including the United States and Israel, which operate with one united Progressive Jewish movement. There are more than 80 Progressive communities in the UK, representing 30 per cent of all Jews. Rabbis for both movements are trained at the Leo Baeck College. The statement says: “To be very clear, no one will be asked to change their synagogue name, their Reform identity, or change their prayerbook. This is about a greater resourcing of communities. As a unified group, we will be stronger and our voice will be clearer and louder”.  It has also been announced that Rabbi Josh Levy, currently Principal Rabbi of Alyth (North Western Reform Synagogue), has been appointed as the CEO for the Movement for Reform Judaism.

Yom Hashoah ceremony remembering the Holocaust

Yom Hashoah, remembering the 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, was observed last night in Warsaw Ghetto Square at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke and Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan lit the memorial torch. UK Holocaust survivors took part in a ceremony here, led by the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

Complex inter-ethnic conflicts in modern Britain could spark riots again

Almost twenty years after riots on the streets of the Lozells district of Birmingham, reporter Amardeep Bassey returned to the scene to ask whether it could happen again and his conclusion is that the socioeconomic conditions are ripe for a similar riot to erupt. In his report, told in the BBC Radio 4 podcast series The Beauty Queen Riots , he says Britain is a patchwork of ethnically diverse communities, not simply large ethnic or religious blocs. But because this is not recognised by policy makers, fear and resentment builds as the “blocs” become competitors for power and influence. He reports that amid complex inter and intra-ethnic fault lines, many barely tolerate, let alone celebrate, each other. His written report is on our website here.

Reclaiming the role of religion in preparation for death

The think tank Theos is undertaking a research project on public attitudes towards death, dying and the afterlife in the UK and how Covid–19 has shaped the conversation. Its first report, “Ashes to Ashes”, suggests people are talking more about death after the Covid pandemic, but there is no increase in “death preparedness”, where people plan for the end of life, possibly because of fear. The report charts changes with fewer religious funerals and more secular ceremonies, where funeral services are becoming celebrations of life and when pastoral care is given more now through death cafes or soul midwives (death doulas) instead of clergy. The report authors suggest there is scope for churches and other faith communities to reclaim a role, offering space for dealing with emotional complexities of death.

Briefing today on death, dying and the afterlife

The RMC is holding a briefing on this report at 1200 today (Tuesday 18 April) with Marianne Rozario, report co-author; Rev Professor Douglas Davies, University of Durham;  Jennifer Uzzell, Durham University and Pagan Federation; Margaret Doherty, Director of the Centre for The Art of Dying Well.
To get the briefing link, email [email protected]

Bradford Cathedral moving to become a charity

Bradford Cathedral is reviewing its constitution on the pathway to becoming a registered charity. Under the Cathedrals Measure 2021, all English cathedrals are required to become charities, streamlining governance and providing more accountability. The first step is to review the existing constitution and the cathedral has issued a statement saying it will consider how to achieve a fully diverse and inclusive governance structure to reflect the whole community.

Shocked bishop helped to stop relocation of 135 refugees in Kerry

The Bishop of Kerry, Ray Browne, joined a protest which halted the forced re-housing of 135 Ukrainian refugees in Killarney.  Details have come to light in an FOI investigation by Radio Kerry. The Department of Integration announced the refugees would be relocated to Mayo, giving just 48 hours notice, but the bishop wrote to the Integration Minister in a co-ordinated response with senior politicians, who raised the issue in the Dail and the move was then stopped. The bishop said he had been “shocked and saddened” at the proposal.

Priest says mass in Irish pub as church is shut for renovation

English-speaking Catholics in Luxembourg turned out for mass in an Irish pub after their local church was closed for renovations. Fr Michael Cusack told the Irish Mirror that in a last-minute arrangement, he called the pub for  help and 250 people turned up with musicians, he set up an altar and the service was relayed online. It was such a success that they did it all again a week later, followed by an Irish session. Fr Michael explained that archaeologists were digging through the foundations of his church and he expected the work to last six years. He’s found another church building to use now. The owners of The Irish Bar, Vincent and Adrienne, said they were glad to be able to help out and “a unique priest like Fr Michael might at some stage bring us back to church”.

Activist ordered to stop work on sanctuary for antivaxers in the Peak District

The Times reports that Rachel Elnaugh, an antivax conspiracy theorist, has been ordered to stop work on creating a sanctuary for antivaxers in ancient woodland in Cressbrook Dale, Derbyshire. It reports her intention to use the land for shamanic wisdom and as a safe haven away from the threat that humanity is facing. The Peak District National Park authority has issued an enforcement notice to stop work on the development, which it said failed to respect the surroundings and had a significant harmful effect on the character and appearance of the landscape.


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