Progressively Speaking: Jewish life in 2020s compared to ‘Roaring Twenties’?  

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Progressively Speaking: Jewish life in 2020s compared to ‘Roaring Twenties’?  

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith takes a topical issue and applies a progressive Jewish response

 We are about to enter the 2020s. A hundred years ago, the 1920s were dubbed as the Roaring Twenties, a reflection of the pace at which society was changing all over the world until halted by the depression of the 1930s.

For Progressive Judaism in the UK this was a major period of development soon after the First World War ended. The Settlement Synagogue was founded in Stepney in 1919.  As Jews left the East End and moved to London’s suburbs, North and South London and West Central Liberal Synagogues were founded.

Though it took until the 1930s for a number of new Reform Synagogues to be established, it was the Jews who moved in the decade previously into London’s rapidly growing suburbs that laid the foundations of these communities.

The 1920s was the time when the north-west London Jewish community began to grow into what it is today.  This was also the time when the Nazis began to grow in Germany, building a murderous ideology that nearly destroyed the European Jewry. During this decade, more than 100,000 Jews made aliyah to what was to become the land of Israel, more than doubling the Jewish population there.

Might the 2020s also bring about such great change? Jews continue to be a shifting population.

South Hertfordshire, Radlett, Borehamwood and Shenley have become centres of Jewish life and Reform and Liberal Judaism has a task to catch up through our synagogues and local groups in these areas. The localised growth of Jewish population, driven by the availability of state-funded Jewish say schools along what was once the Great North Road from Highgate up to Whetstone, continues to concentrate Jewish communities in these areas. Having such a high proportion of our children attending these schools changes the relationship with the synagogue community and the demands placed upon our shuls, which need to find new ways to engage families in multi-generational Jewish life.

In the 1920s, Israel was about to be born. In the 2020s Israel is an advanced and successful country, which we hope to look to as a beacon of pluralistic Jewish values. We know, however, that there is a long way to go. For Progressive Jews, the 2020s will need to be a time of building and hard work as the world changes around us.

  •  Rabbi Mark Goldsmith is senior rabbi of Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue


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