Two narratives dominate British Jewry: (1) Do not get too close to wider society or you will assimilate physically and theologically; and (2) The only future for Jews is in Israel. Ned Curthoys in The Legacy of Liberal Judaism identifies the German Liberale tradition as offering a third option – engagement. First, engage both to learn from wider society and contribute distinctively to it. Second, question the justice of society out of the Jewish experience of injustice. Third, include uncomfortable minorities and subversive voices; do not create pariahs. Fourth, maintain a cautious optimism about collaborating beyond narrow nationalisms to create a better society. It is possible this alternative has been proven vain by history but we have no alternative but to try again. It is not a comfortable place but it is a good place to be.
Rabbi Professor Tony Bayfield CBE, DD (Cantuar) is Professor of Jewish Theology and Thought, Leo Baeck College.