Progressively Speaking: What positive moments can we take from 2020 into 2021?

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Progressively Speaking: What positive moments can we take from 2020 into 2021?

After a year of coronavirus-inflicted pain, Liberal Judaism's Rabbi Charley Baginsky focuses on humanity shown during the pandemic as a positive for next year

2020 has had its challenges, but was also full of acts of kindness
2020 has had its challenges, but was also full of acts of kindness

For many, it’s so hard to find anything positive in 2020 – a year of bereavement, heartache, loss, financial suffering and great change.

At Liberal Judaism, we’ve had the pain of holding funerals and shivas for those who died before their time, as well as members having to miss out on the simchas, festivals and family occasions they had been planning for months, if not years.

On a movement wide level, Rabbi Danny Rich and Simon Benscher stepped down as Liberal Judaism’s chief executive and chair, respectively. And, as the year ended, Rabbi Aaron Goldstein came to the end of his tenure as chair of our Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors (CoLRaC).

Together, they have decades of experience as leaders and pioneers, increasing Liberal Judaism’s membership, reach and public profile. Any organisation would miss one of them, let alone all three.

Luckily, in Ruth Seager, we have a very experienced chair, two innovative new co-chairs of CoLRaC in Rabbis Rebecca Birk and René Pfertzel, and the continuity of a dedicated staff team including our new chief operating officer, Shelley Shocolinsky-Dwyer.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns also accelerated a strategy we had in place – to get our members and communities fully connected, wherever they may be in the country or indeed the world.

Services, cheder classes and seminars moved online, as did our flagship Biennial Weekend, all to record numbers and participation.

For the past few years, our movement’s slogan has been that Liberal Judaism is ‘The Home for Your Jewish Story’. In 2020, we fulfilled that pledge by bringing our Judaism directly to people in their homes.

The most pleasing thing for so many of us is the huge increase we’ve seen, both within the Jewish community and wider society, in volunteering and those everyday acts of kindness – whether shopping for those who are shielding, befriending those who are isolated or helping people get online who otherwise would not be connected.

So what do we take into 2021?

It will be a long time before the return of normality – whatever that means. But, as humans, we have very short memories, our muscle reaction will be to try to return to exactly how things were before.

Our challenge is to hold onto the positives. We must not go back to being parochial and inward-looking – instead we must remember how engaged, connected and value-driven we have been during this pandemic and keep that going once it has ended.

  •  Rabbi Charley Baginsky is the new chief executive officer of Liberal Judaism
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