Progressive synagogue offers membership to non-Jews

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Progressive synagogue offers membership to non-Jews

Mixed faith couples welcome historic move by East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue

Rabbi Richard Jacobi
Rabbi Richard Jacobi

The members of East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue (ELELS) have voted overwhelmingly to offer full membership to any non-Jewish person who commits to the principles and values of their communities.

Both ELELS, previously Woodford Liberal Synagogue, and Progressive Judaism as a whole have long welcomed mixed faith couples and families, as well as those considering conversion but not yet ready to commit.

However, in the past non-Jews, including those raising a Jewish family with a Jewish partner, could only join as an ‘associate member’ or ‘friend’.

Now, in what Rabbi Richard Jacobi described as an “historic day for our synagogue and for equality”, ELELS has become the latest Progressive community to equalise its membership.

A passionate EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting) heard from many Jewish members with non-Jewish spouses. They spoke about how, despite being warmly welcomed on a personal level, the old categories and the restrictions they placed on full involvement in communal life had caused pain and hurt.

It was also noted that many people took several years of associating with the community to feel ready to commit to conversion and that the current policy left some of them feeling like outsiders or no longer wishing to be members.

The changes were proposed after a working group reported on its year-long consultation with members, examination of the principles of Liberal/Progressive Judaism, and research into how other Progressive communities operate, both in the UK and around the world.

Rabbi Richard Jacobi said: “From these discussions, it was evident that a clear majority of members considered the ‘Friend’ category problematic.

“As well as being described as ‘taxation without representation’, the membership rules were felt by most to be an obstacle to families or individuals joining our community, and also not in line with our Progressive Jewish values of inclusion and equality.

“This change means our community can now fully include everyone, and they in turn can become fully involved in our community – giving Judaism a key role in their lives and the lives of their families.”

Both Jews and non-Jews wishing to join ELELS can now do so, subject to Council approval, where they subscribe to the principles and objects of the synagogue and the movement.

Full non-Jewish members will be entitled to vote, eligible for election to Council and can hold any office within the synagogue with the exceptions of the posts of Chair, Vice Chair and Chair of the committee responsible for ritual matters.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: