The Anglo-Jewish conundrum is that we have never been so secure – despite our protestations of anti-Semitism; never been so creative, though often not within our own community; never been as fashionable, despite our numbers apparently reducing; and never been so charitable, despite claims that we cannot afford to do everything we want. What is actually happening is that we are changing, and, in that change, we should look both to continental Europe and the United States, as much as to Israel. We need to encourage those activities that go across denominational lines, such as Limmud; we need to welcome new initiatives, even if they seem to be 'not invented here', such as the Jewish Community Centre for London; we need to show excitement at the plethora of informal services and Seders that occur around the country, and we need to welcome a definition of identity that allows us to be Jewish, British, Londoners or not, male or female, gay or straight, and so on. And we need to recognize that our relationships with other faiths and communities is of paramount importance if we want the national policy conversation to be one that embraces difference, but regards us all as active and full citizens of the whole.
The Van der Zyl Lecture
My first few visits to the Leo Baeck College from Cambridge in 1972 were amazing to me because of a totally different, far less dry, approach to texts. I was blessed, then and later, with classes taught by Nelly Littman and Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs. After three years at Cambridge (this was my fourth year, and I made weekly visits to the College), I was used to people standing and lecturing me even if I was the only person in the class. I was used to discussions of cognate languages, of a form of historical analysis that has stayed with me for the rest of my life but left little room for an emotional bond with a period or a people, and of a deep and loving understanding of the Hebrew language.