Daily Alert

26 June 2008

Liberal Judaism's Convergence of Beliefs

Liberal Judaism backs Christian Aid climate change campaign -Christian Today Posted: Friday, June 20, 2008, 10:48 (BST)

Representatives of the Jewish movement Liberal Judaism this week joined forces with international development agency Christian Aid to press for a Climate Change Bill that will help protect poor and vulnerable communities around the world.

A delegation petitioned MP Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Affairs for the Bill at present going through Parliament to include a commitment to cut 80 per cent of carbon emissions by 2050.

Delegates, including representatives from Liberal Judaism Social Action and the Liberal Jewish youth movement LJY-Netzer, were led by Rabbi Danny Rich, Liberal Judaism’s chief executive.

Liberal Judaism, the third largest strand of Judaism in the UK with more than 30 congregations and 10,000 members across the country, adopted the campaign after talks with Christian Aid, which has accused the Government of ‘eviscerating’ the proposed legislation.

It is the second time Liberal Judaism has supported Christian Aid’s stand on climate change. In 2007 they joined Christian Aid’s cut the carbon march – the longest protest march in British history, which started in Northern Ireland and ended in London.

Dr Nigel Varndell, Christian Aid’s Inter-Community Initiatives Manager, said: "Liberal Judaism came to us to discuss the possibility of aligning themselves with our campaign work over the Bill.

"An 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions is crucial if global warming is to be held below 2oC – the point beyond which it is feared that climate change will become irreversible.

"Poor and vulnerable communities around the world are already bearing the brunt of extreme weather conditions caused by climate change. A commitment in the bill to 80 per cent cuts will send a clear signal to the rest of the international community about what should be done."

Christian Aid is concerned that the Government appears to be losing its nerve over the legislation. Earlier this month Phil Woolas MP, Minister of State for the Environment, announced that an amendment Christian Aid had campaigned for, that would have made it mandatory for publicly listed companies in Britain to declare their annual carbon emissions, was to be dropped.

The Government also removed an undertaking to ensure that UK emissions of greenhouse gases do not exceed the level necessary to limit global temperature rises to not more than 2oC above pre-industrial levels.

Another disappointment is the failure of the Bill to ensure that at least 70 per cent of its targets had to be met through emission cuts within the UK, rather than by purchasing carbon off-sets from poorer countries.

"At present the proposed target in cuts is 60 per cent. With the Bill at present going through the committee stage in the House of Commons, we want that upped to 80 per cent," said Dr Varndell.

Rabbi Rich said: "The Psalmist says, ‘The earth is the Eternal God’s and all that is within it.’ And as such, all faith groups have a duty to act to safeguard the environment, and to bring their collective voices to the powers that be in Westminster to urge them to do the same.

"Liberal Judaism is delighted to be working alongside Christian Aid in this campaign."



In the US the "Liberal Judaism" equivalent is the Reform(ist) movement whose policies on the environment mirrors what is presented above.

But Reform(ism) has more in common with leftism than environmental policies. Peruse the issue data bank at the Religious Action Center (RAC) of Reform Judaism. There, you can find every liberal/leftist cause addressed as a matter of Tikkun Olam and Jewish necessity. Everything which matters with the exception of living a Torah Jewish life can be found there. This is certainly not a chidush. Everyone who observes (so to speak) the American Jewish experience knows that Reform Judaism in the US, (like the Liberal Judaism in the UK) is merely another liberal political action committee wearing a kipah, (without actually wearing the kipah because it is optional depending on if it is a spiritual, meaningful experience). So why bother with all of this again? Ask Eric Yoffie the face of Reform Judaism and their primary advocate.

When it comes to Jews working with conservatives to support Israel, Yoffie is of a different mind. Here he makes it clear that support from John Hagee is certainly not wanted. Now, I do not pretend to know what is going on in Hagee's mind, whether his support for Israel is motivated by a kindness or his theology. What I do know is that he commands lots of attention and Christians who are willing to open their wallets for Israel and visit Israel and vote for Israel listen to him. That Yoffie or "Liberal Judaism" in the UK can team up with the most extreme leftist organizations which advocate extreme leftist positions, is of course free from aveirah while Jews who advocate working with non-Jewish conservative political groups are an anathema. It is clear that in social and economic political discussion, Orthodox Jewry, (ie Torah, halachic Jewry) has more in common with the Christian right than our Reform(ist) brethren (those who are actually Jewish). This has been true for some time now. The appearance that Yoffie and his friends transmit is one of petty politics. It is a shame that the Torah and tradition we hold in common distances us from each other both religiously and politically.

To be an active Reform(ist) today is not dependant on a definition of theology or statement of belief. It is the opposite. The theology is one that does not require belief in anything but one's ability to make decisions. Most often those decisions, should I do this or this, should I support that or that, find their foundations in liberal policy advocacy more so than Jewish tradition. Worse, is the merger of the two. Torah becomes a statement of religion politics, something that liberals usually loathe unless they are the ones doing the merging. Keep the social action aspects of Torah (those laws believed to be for the benefit of mankind) and toss those which are Judeo-centric and considered to be restrictive. Reform(ism)to be relevant to the Jewish future needs new leadership and vision. Jewish leadership and vision cannot be found at the DNC.


Liberal Judaism backgrounder

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