|Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner|
|Organisation||The Movement for Reform Judaism|
|Birth name||Laura Janner|
|Parents||Lord Janner of Braunstone|
|Children||Three: Tali, Natan and Ella|
|Alma mater||Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge|
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner (Hebrew: לוֹרָה ג׳אָנֶר-קלְוֹזנֶר, born 1963) is a British-Israeli rabbi who serves as Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism. Janner-Klausner grew up in London before studying Christianity at the University of Cambridge and moving to Israel in 1985, living in Jerusalem for 15 years. She returned to Britain in 1999 and was ordained at Leo Baeck College, serving as Rabbi at Alyth Gardens (North Western Reform Synagogue) until 2011, when she became inaugural holder of her current position.
In her position, Janner-Klausner represents a progressive Jewish voice to British Jewry and the general public, speaking on affairs including Israel, social justice, same-sex marriage, which she calls "equal marriage", and interfaith relations. Janner-Klausner is a regular broadcaster on programmes such as BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought and BBC One’s The Big Questions.
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Advocacy and views
- 3 Personal life
- 4 See also
- 5 References
Life and career
Early life and education
Janner-Klausner was raised in North London and attended South Hampstead High School. As a young girl, Janner-Klausner regularly travelled to constituency surgeries on the weekend with her father, Lord Janner of Braunstone QC, who was Labour Member of Parliament for Leicester for 27 years.
Initially a member of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, a congregation affiliated to the United Synagogue of Orthodox British Jews, Janner-Klausner has frequently cited her Bat Mitzvah as a pivotal moment. Aged 12, she read a short excerpt of Hebrew text, A Psalm of David, translated into English on a Sunday, instead of cantillating the portion of Torah required of boys on a Sabbath morning. Janner-Klausner was so disaffected by the experience she left Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue the very next day. Janner-Klausner subsequently became involved in youth activities at Alyth Gardens Reform Synagogue near Golders Green, developing a passion for Reform Judaism’s egalitarian religious values and expressing interest in becoming a Rabbi as young as 13.
Janner-Klausner spent her gap year in Israel and was a representative of British Reform Judaism at the renowned Machon L'Madrichei Chutz La'Aretz (The Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad), an educational institution in Jerusalem that prepares young adults to take leadership roles in Zionist youth movements. She returned to London in 1982 and became a founding member of RSY-Netzer, the youth movement for Reform Judaism in Britain, which was born out of the Youth Association of Synagogues in Great Britain and now attracts hundreds of participants on summer camps and youth events in Britain and Israel each summer.
Janner-Klausner studied Divinity at Cambridge, where she was taught by Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury. She studied with Professor Linda Woodhead, Professor in the sociology of religion at Lancaster University and "one of the world’s leading experts on religion". Janner-Klausner was on the Union of Jewish Students executive and ran the Cambridge Israel Society and Progressive Jewish Society, but described her time there as "pretty horrible" after receiving anti-Semitic comments in the then Protestant-dominated faculty.
Career in Israel
Janner-Klausner specialised in teaching the "positive" aspects of Jewish identity and peoplehood, instead of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. She worked there continuously until 1998 and would later become the Director of its English-speaking department.
In 1992, Janner-Klausner started working at Melitz, an educational centre specialising in Jewish peoplehood based in Jerusalem, and later served as Director of the Centre for Christian Encounters with Israel, where she helped train Palestinian tour guides in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Janner-Klausner also led Israeli-Palestinian dialogue facilitation for the European Union’s "The People's Peace" programme, following the Oslo I Accord of 1993.
Before returning to live in London, Janner-Klausner had studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Jerusalem and acquired postgraduate degrees in Community Centre Management at the Hebrew University and Jewish Communal Service with a focus on Jewish education at Brandeis University, Massachusetts.
Return to London
In 1999, Janner-Klausner returned to London with her husband David and three children, Tali, Natan and Ella, citing the ideological intensity of living in Jerusalem as a primary reason. She soon began training to become a rabbi at Leo Baeck College, serving many congregations as a trainee Rabbi including Alyth Gardens (North Western Reform Synagogue), the synagogue where she had developed a passion for Reform Judaism and its egalitarian values as a teenager. Following her ordination, Janner-Klausner became Rabbi at Alyth Gardens.
In 2008, Janner-Klausner featured in a BBC radio series by Jonathan Freedland entitled British Jews and the Dream of Zion, discussing the United Nations’ 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine. Her abilities as a broadcaster led to many more appearances on programmes including BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day and BBC One’s The Big Questions.
Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism
In July 2011, Janner-Klausner became first Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism, a position initially entitled "Movement Rabbi". Chair-elect of the Movement for Reform Judaism, Jenny Pizer, said Janner-Klausner was "an influential broadcaster and writer, a great teacher and a popular rabbi of one of our flourishing communities".
The Assembly of Rabbis for the Movement for Reform Judaism created the position to increase the voice of Reform Judaism and represent its constituent communities on a national level, both within the British Jewish community and general public.
The Movement Rabbi position was not designed to rival the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, then held by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, but to represent a Reform or progressive Jewish voice alongside his.
Shortly after being appointed, Janner-Klausner set improving periodically fraught relations between the Orthodox and Reform Judaism as part of her agenda. On the selection of Ephraim Mirvis as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations in December 2012, Janner-Klausner said: "I welcome the appointment of Rabbi Mirvis as another powerful voice for British Jewry. I look forward to working closely with him as a partner on areas of common interests to the Jewish and wider community".
Advocacy and views
Feminism and Judaism
Janner-Klausner is a feminist and believes egalitarianism and religion should go hand in hand.
In May 2012, writing for the New Statesman, Janner-Klausner criticised gender segregation and "the silencing of women’s voices among certain fundamentalist circles in Israel and in the Jewish diaspora".
Later that year, two women on the RSY-Netzer gap year programme, Shnat Netzer, were detained and held in a Jerusalem police station for wearing religious garments and participating in a protest at the Western Wall complex organised by Women of the Wall, a group that campaigns for gender equality at the site. Janner-Klausner voiced her support for Women of the Wall and stated she was "proud" of the women who were detained and subsequently released without charge, saying their decision was "a positive outcome of their education".
In September 2013, Janner-Klausner spoke with Julie Siddiqi, executive director of the Islamic Society of Britain, at a Cambridge University event entitled "Feminine frontiers of faith", discussing women of faith in leadership roles.
Janner-Klausner was selected in 2013 for the BBC’s 100 Women Conference, a series of debates and discussions on the role of women across the world, whose guests included faith leaders, social activists and politicians.
Janner-Klausner strongly supports gay marriage, which she calls "equal marriage".
In March 2012, Janner-Klausner appeared on Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, defending marriage equality in response to the question "Should gay people be allowed to marry, or will that irreparably damage society?" Referring to the legalisation of gay marriage, Janner-Klausner said "our starting point, middle point and finishing point is about equality".
In March 2014, gay marriage was legalised in Britain. Janner-Klausner signed an open letter from Christian and Jewish faith leaders including Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, and Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, voicing support for gay marriage. The leaders said they would "rejoice" in the introduction of gay marriage.
Janner-Klausner is a prominent voice on British interfaith relations and regularly meets representatives of Christian and Muslim communities.
In May 2013, following the murder of Lee Rigby, Janner-Klausner joined faith leaders in solidarity with Woolwich residents and its Muslim community at the Greenwich Islamic Centre. With far-right groups including the English Defence League and British National Party organising protests in response to the murder by a Muslim extremist, she stated that "a single extreme act… does not reflect on the wider British Muslim community".
Janner-Klausner is a progressive Zionist and believes Israel should act as the spiritual and intellectual centre of Judaism and the Jewish people. She supports two-states for Israel and Palestine as the sustainable and just solution to the present conflict, having facilitated Israeli-Palestinian dialogue for the European Union whilst living in Jerusalem and led tours to the West Bank with British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights.
In July 2012, Janner-Klausner criticised Israeli policy towards refugees and asylum seekers in Israel from Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan, suggesting these groups were "left in limbo" by Israeli policy. Israel had stopped processing individual applications for refugee status, something Janner-Klausner decried as "unsustainable – materially, morally and politically".
Janner-Klausner is especially interested in the relationship between religion and power.
Janner-Klausner has criticised religious fundamentalists, proposing that literalist interpretations of religious text "worship words instead of God". At the Bath Literature Festival in March 2013, she spoke about the importance of challenging religious belief and suggested "we need to lock faith and doubt together".
At the Limmud Conference in December 2013, Janner-Klausner delivered a JDOV speech about "Power and its Discontents", addressing themes of power and powerlessness in Judaism, Before the speech at JDOV or "Jewish Dreams, Observations and Visions", a British Jewish organisation inspired by TED talks, she wrote: "I strongly believe in inverting the power pyramid so that everyone claims their opportunity to play their part in decisions that affect themselves and their communities".
Janner-Klausner believes enabling colleagues to receive opportunities in the public sphere is as an important responsibility and does not believe the Senior Rabbi role makes her a chief rabbi or holder of special religious authority. In April 2013, Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, Chairman of the Assembly of Rabbis to the Movement for Reform Judaism, remarked that Janner-Klausner was "not our only public face to the world. Part of her role is to enable all of us to be more outward-facing rabbis".
Janner-Klausner is currently writing a book with a former colleague at the Movement for Reform Judaism and future movement worker of RSY-Netzer, Ben Crome, on the relationship between religion and power.
Janner-Klausner represented Progressive Judaism at the World Economic Forum’s 2012 Civil Society Consultation in Geneva. Appearing alongside representatives of civil society, she spoke about how big businesses could better build trust. Discussions contributed to the agenda for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in 2013.
In January 2013, Janner-Klausner help launch Enough Food For Everyone IF, a campaign urging British Prime Minister David Cameron to use his presidency of the G8 to address world hunger. Speaking to 1000 people at Somerset House, Janner-Klausner said: "As Jews, when we say the blessing after meals we thank God for the food we have. If you believe in God, or don’t believe in God, we know we have enough food to give".
Janner-Klausner spoke to an audience of 45,000 people at the Big IF rally at Hyde Park in June 2013 to call on governments to tackle the causes of hunger ahead of the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland. She congratulated the contribution of Jewish and other faith communities in coordinating the campaign and said: "We need to demand from the G8 that food is given to all, wherever we live".
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner gave a speech and concluding prayer representing the Jewish community at the End Hunger Fast vigil in Westminster in April 2014.
In March 2013, Janner-Klausner defended the importance of Jewish religious rituals including Kosher animal slaughter and brit milah or male circumcision. A YouGov study prior to this had indicated that large portions of the British public opposed these rituals. Janner-Klausner suggested the results "indicated a worrying intolerance".
Janner-Klausner was introduced by an aunt to her husband, David, in Jerusalem in 1986.
Dr David Janner-Klausner was Programme and Planning Director at the United Jewish Israel Appeal and currently works as Director of Business Development at Commonplace Digital Ltd. He is the brother of Amos Oz, the Israeli author. David and Rabbi Laura have three children: Tali, Natan and Ella.
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