Already in 1946 Rabbi Dr Leo Baeck advocated that alongside the rebuilding of congregations in post-war Europe, what he termed ‘little Judaism’, there was a need for a ‘greater Judaism’ – Jewish engagement with the wider issues of society: ‘We are Jews also for the sake of humanity’. In 1949 he also expressed the need for a dialogue with Islam. A variety of events and activities represent early attempts to meet these dual concerns. In 1997 at the first post-war, full-scale conference of the European Board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Germany, in Munich, Diana Pinto noted that despite long-standing fears that the European diaspora was doomed to disappear, changes in a European self-understanding had helped create an ‘ever more vibrant Jewish space’. Almost twenty years on from then, particularly with the rise of anti-Semitism and terrorist attacks, the mood amongst European Jews has become less optimistic.
Rabbi Professor Jonathan Magonet, formerly Principal of Leo Baeck College and a Vice–President of the WUPJ, is the editor of European Judaism.