Progressive Judaism (United Kingdom)

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Progressive Judaism in the United Kingdom consists of two organisationally distinct denominations – Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism.[1][2]

Reform Judaism[edit]

Reform Judaism in the United Kingdom started in West London and Manchester in the 1840s and 1850s.

Since 2005 the movement has been organised as the Movement for Reform Judaism, also called British Reform. The first organisational body of Reform Judaism in the United Kingdom was formed in 1942, with membership of six Reform Jewish congregations, as Associated British Synagogues. This evolved into the more nation-focused Associated Synagogues of Great Britain, and in 1958 into Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, a name which would last until 2005.

The movement has a comparatively traditionalist approach to religious practice and superficially resembles the Conservative Judaism of the United States, though it does not claim to be a halachic movement. Its stated aim is to revitalise Jewish community involvement among British Jews, with particular focus on children, teenagers and families where one member of the couple is not halachically Jewish.

Liberal Judaism[edit]

Liberal Judaism in the United Kingdom dates from 1902, when the movement was founded, by Claude Montefiore, Lily Montagu and others, as the Jewish Religious Union (JRU). It did not see itself as being a separate denomination. Rather, synagogues affiliated with the JRU were interested in developing a form of authentic Judaism that was responsive to changes going on in the modern world, without going down the path of classical German Reform. Many of its members were inspired by Claude Montefiore's 1903 book Liberal Judaism – An Essay. In 1909 the JRU changed its name to the Jewish Religious Union for the Advancement of Liberal Judaism. In 1944 the name changed again to the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues, more commonly known as the ULPS. In 2003 it changed its name to Liberal Judaism, which has always been the main term used for the movement.

Although the Liberal movement does not identify itself as a Reform movement, British Liberal Judaism's beliefs and practices are much closer in practice to American Reform than is British Reform.

Cooperation between Liberal and Reform[edit]

Jewish education and professional training[edit]

Despite historical and theological differences, both the Liberal and Reform movements of Great Britain have, since 1964, together with the charity UJIA, co-sponsored Leo Baeck College in London, "the premier centre for Progressive Jewish learning" according to the college's website.

Most Reform and Liberal rabbis in Britain train and receive their rabbinical ordination from Leo Baeck College, where they are taught the theology and ritual of both movements.

Ideological rapproachment[edit]

In recent years, as with North American Reform Judaism, there has also been a move towards more traditional elements in Liberal services than was the case a generation earlier – such as, more use of Hebrew, more wearing of tallit and kippot, and more enjoyment of Purim and other traditional minor festivals. But Liberal Judaism is still distinctly more progressive than Reform. Examples include more readily recognising as Jewish without conversion the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, [1], and Liberal Judaism's readiness to celebrate homosexual partnerships in synagogues with more of the traditional symbolism associated with Jewish weddings [2].




  • Rabbi Danny Rich – Chief Executive
  • Rabbi Pete Tobias – Chair of Rabbinic Conference


See also[edit]

External links[edit]