Kehillah North London
What does being part of Liberal Judaism mean to you?
I love being part of Liberal Judaism. My jewish practice helps me anchor myself in my local community, in the natural world, and at times can be both a retreat and source of comfort from the wider world, and also a source of inspiration with which to take on social action and tackle challenges head-on. For me, it is absolutely vital that we do this with a community that is inclusive, celebratory, but also does not shy away from difficult questions – and Liberal Judaism provides a framework in which to do just that.
What does being part of the LGBTQI+ community/an ally working towards a more inclusive Jewish community mean to you and your congregation/synagogue
I joined our local LJ synagogue when my husband and I decided to get married. From a personal perspective, it was valuable to be in a community that was celebratory of LGBTQI+ couples and we weren’t even the first! It was also wonderful to join the first jewish movement to create a same sex wedding liturgy. From a more communal perspective, I think our synagogue, and Liberal Judaism more generally, models LGBTQI inclusion – LGBTQI members are involved at all levels of leadership in the community. This means that no one feels that they are the ‘token’ queer person and that LGBTQI+ individuals are fully involved in communal life.
Is there anything your congregation/synagogue has recently done for the LGBTQI+ community that you would like to showcase?
In our synagogue we regularly talk about LGBTQI+ issues and how they might relate to the wider jewish community. Last year on Shavuot, we ran a session on what it means to be an ‘outsider’ – we looked at a variety of biblical, liturgical and Talmudic texts to explore whether we, as jews, or as LGBTQI+ people, or any of the other many minority groups that make up our community, have any particular insights and therefore have a role to play in wider society of being able to be aware of the outsider experience.
Who is your LGBTQI+ role model and what have you learnt from them?
I would like to name three LGBTQI+ role models, all from my synagogue – a rabbi, a cantor, and a lay leader
Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu (former rabbi of Kehillah North London) – Rabbi Shulamit was my first congegrational Rabbi in Liberal Judaism, and I learnt from her the power of participating in Jewish practice with one’s whole self, being rooted in our personal and shared histories, whilst approaching conflicting and difficult issues head on.
Cantor Tamara Wolfson (current spiritual leader of Kehillah North London) – I have learnt from Cantor Tamara the emotional power of liturgical music, and how even if you previously told you were not able to do something (an experience that lots of us LGBTQI+ individuals have had!) that this can be overcome with a bit of guidance and inspiration
Robin Samson (chair of Kehillah North London, and lay leader) I have learnt from Robin the value of taking great care to ensure that all different groups of people are listened to and engaged with – it is a wonderful and collaborative style of leadership that brings people together and helps build a community. I hope to use this leadership style in many areas of my life!