Two religious progressive Jewish groups in Britain – Liberal Judaism and The Movement for Reform Judaism, representing more than a quarter of the Jews in the United Kingdom – announced that they will merge as one unified Progressive Jewish movement.
Reform Rabbi Josh Levy is set to become the CEO of The Movement for Reform Judaism and will partner with Liberal Judaism CEO Rabbi Charley Baginsky.
UK progressive Judaism groups
There are two progressive Jewish branches in the UK: Reform and Liberal. Reform Judaism sees itself as traditional but up-to-date, providing equal opportunities for men and women. Liberal Judaism is quite similar to Reform but has become more pointed in its modernity, believing that all Jewish laws and traditions need to be adapted to the current age.
Both movements are affiliated with the Reform movement in the US and in Israel.
According to the Religion Media Center (RMC), the Movement for Reform Judaism has 19% of UK synagogue members in 41 synagogues, while Liberal Judaism has 8% of UK synagogue members in 40 synagogues. The RMC stated that Liberal Judaism “has historically taken a more radical approach to theology, liturgy and observance than the former, although these differences have eroded over time.”
Progressive Jews together make up around 30% of those affiliated to synagogues in the UK, which add up to more than 80 communities across the country. Rabbis for both movements are trained at Leo Baeck College.
Paul Langsford, co-chair of the Movement for Reform Judaism and Ruth Seager, chair of Liberal Judaism, said, “Our lay leadership and clergy are clear that the future for Progressive Judaism is to have one shared movement to represent all of Britain’s Progressive Jews. It will mean that our reach, our voice and ultimately our Judaism will be stronger.”
They added, “Our movements have made a huge impact on the development of the Jewish and wider world, but there is much more to do, and we believe this can be better achieved together.”
Levy, currently principal rabbi of Alyth North Western Reform Synagogue, said, “This is an important moment for Progressive Judaism in Britain and beyond. Reform and Liberal Judaism share the same core values and outlook.”
Liberal and Reform Judaism have been separate movements for more than 120 years. This advance to unite into one Progressive Jewish movement will bring the UK into line with most other countries, including the United States and Israel.