This week, on the closing day of their Chazon training programme, the new UJS team members met with Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism and Rabbi Danny Rich, Senior Rabbi of Liberal Judaism.
Both Rabbis spoke passionately about the need to provide welcoming engagement opportunities for students of all denominations. Their messages follow similar words from Chief Rabbi Mirvis and Rabbi Wittenberg, both of whom the team visited last week.
Rabbi Rich discussed his own student experience in Manchester in the 1980s, where he was not only a Jewish student activist but also a Sabbatical Officer at his Students Union during a time of great social change. He emphasised the importance of being proudly radical, underlining the presence of Liberal Judaism in pushing for progress on key issues such as same-sex marriage and the social responsibility to support refugees in recent years. The connection between the student movement’s voice and the progressive work being done by the Liberal Jewish community was inspiring, reminding us all of the importance of working towards positive change.
Rabbi Rich also discussed various opportunities for students in remote parts of the country, where vibrant Jewish communities are connected to the Liberal movement. These communities are very keen to welcome student involvement, and students are invited to be in touch via UJS or directly if they would like to get involved.
Rabbi Janner-Klausner, meanwhile, focused on the challenges and opportunities of being a progressive voice in the Jewish student community. The importance of engaging and empowering different student voices, with their range of passions and fears, was discussed; this encouraged the team to consider the importance of helping the wider student community to understand the variety of opinions of Jewish students, a nuance that is often all too easily lost. On this topic amongst many others, Rabbi Janner-Klausner’s views were thought-provoking and motivational.
Both Rabbis were also keen to emphasise their commitment to working with UJS in the coming year, offering support to students across the country and providing in the activities that they want to offer. We look forward to further strengthening our relationships with both Rabbi Janner-Klausner and Rabbi Rich during a year that promises to be stimulating, engaging and full of opportunities.