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Progressive Judaism (United Kingdom)

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Progressive Judaism in the United Kingdom consists of two organizationally distinct denominations - Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism[1][2][3]

Reform Judaism

Reform Judaism in the United Kingdom commenced in West London and Manchester in the 1840s and 1850s.

Since 2005 the movement has been organised as the Movement for Reform Judaism, also called British Reform. The first organizational body of Reform Judaism in the United Kingdom was formed in 1942, with membership of six Reform Jewish congregations, as Associated British Synagogues, which in turn evolved into the more nation-focused Associated Synagogues of Great Britain, and in 1958 into Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, a name which would last until 2005.

The movement takes a traditionalist position and greatly resembles the Conservative Judaism of the United States. Its stated aim is to revitalize Jewish community involvement among British Jews, with particular focus on children, teenagers and families where one member of the couple is not halachically Jewish.

Liberal Judaism

Liberal Judaism in the United Kingdom dates from 1902, when the movement was founded as the Jewish Religious Union (JRU). Two of its founders were Claude Montefiore and Lily Montagu, and did not intend itself to be a separate denomination. Rather, synagogues affiliated with the JRU were interested in developing a form of authentic Judaism that was responsive to changes going on in the modern world, without going down the path of classical German Reform. Many of its members were inspired by Claude Montefiore's 1903 book "Liberal Judaism - An Essay". In 1909 the JRU changed its name to the Jewish Religious Union for the Advancement of Liberal Judaism. In 1944 the name changed again to the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues, more commonly known as the ULPS. In 2003 it changed its name to Liberal Judaism, which has always been the main term used for the movement.

Although the Liberal movement does not identify itself as British Reform, its beliefs and practices are sufficiently similar to American Reform that Americans habitually refer to British Liberal Judaism as a Reform movement. British Liberal Judaism is considered to be in practice much closer to American Reform than is British Reform.

Cooperation between Liberal and Reform

Jewish education and professional training

Despite historical and theological differences, both the Liberal and Reform movements of Great Britain have since 1964, together with the charity UJIA, co-sponsored Leo Baeck College in London, "the premier centre for Progressive Jewish learning" according to the college's website.

Most Reform and Liberal rabbis in Britain train and receive their rabbinical ordination from Leo Baeck College.

Ideological rapproachment

In recent years, also similar to North American Reform Judaism, there has also been a move towards more traditional elements in Liberal services than a generation earlier - i.e. more use of Hebrew, more wearing of tallit and kippot, more enjoyment of Purim and other traditional minor festivals. But Liberal Judaism is still distinctly more progressive than Reform. Examples would include more readily recognising as Jewish without conversion the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, [1], or in Liberal Judaism's readiness to celebrate homosexual partnerships in synagogues with more of the traditional symbolism associated with Jewish weddings [2].

See also




  • Raymond Goldman - General Secretary of the Movement (1966-1994)
  • Rabbi Tony Bayfield - Head of The Movement (1994-Present)


  • Rabbi Danny Rich - Chief Executive
  • Rabbi Dr Sidney Brichto - Senior Vice President
  • Rabbi Pete Tobias - Chair of Rabbinic Conference

External links

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