By Rabbi Ariel Abel
SHABBATUK or Shabbat Across the Mersey? When ShabbatUK first hit the headlines, Shabbat Across the Mersey was a confirmed success.
Liverpool buzzed with upwards of 750 participants, from the hundreds on the King David campus to the enthusiastic smaller gatherings on the Wirral.
Everyone wanted to identify with this success. There is something captivating about a local effort that becomes regional, there is enthusiasm which becomes infectious.
Furthermore, what happens “across the Mersey” is likely to attract across-the-board support from all sectors of the community.
By contrast, ShabbatUK seeks the centre ground and financial support is forthcoming for efforts across the country from United Synagogue funds.
I had suggested six months ago to a key person at head office that anything that happens in Liverpool should preserve the Mersey touch, but ShabbatUK is a brand that won’t “HBSC it”, so that aspect has not been implemented.
Let us wait and see how the generic brand will perform. I will certainly put my back into seeing it succeed, while hoping to see the old Mersey spirit prevail.
And the Jewish Liverpudlian battles on. While the Scouse Jew is essentially One Community, the role of the Progressive synagogue has been seen to play the role of taking in those whose status is not accommodated by Orthodox synagogues.
This week in Eilat we met up with friends, one of whom, a Reform rabbi, told me that when she visited Liverpool some years ago, she was asked if she had converted.
She had not because she is already fully Jewish. That did not mean she had to be Orthodox.
Recently, the Progressive community has sought a new area of recruitment in Liverpool — young families.
A play-friendly atmosphere and greater participatory atmosphere in services is said to account for such popularity.
My belief is that we should all seek to emulate the best successes of each other; success shared is success multiplied.
Just in case ShabbatUK did not consult with those who ran Shabbat Across the Mersey, then they should have.
Although local rabbis and lay people have done their best to set up the weekend, nothing comes in place of applying the methodologies of past success.
The same applies to nurturing our communities the rest of the year.
Whether one is Chabad, Central Orthodox or Reform, the humility to sit together to plan a communal success, especially in a place like Liverpool which is so homogenous across the attendances, is especially becoming.
I have just visited Lotan, a kibbutz 40 miles north of Eilat.
Jews who have lived there for several decades have performed a miracle in desert self-sufficiency.
The kibbutz hosts month-long permaculture courses, and lives as it preaches, their buildings made of straw bales and mud, cooking gas produced from recycled peels, solar-powered cooking facilities the centrepiece of an eco-tourism village.
This is but a brief glimpse into a way of living that is true to Torah according to our ancestral traditional lifestyles.
It is there that I saw for the first time in my life two solar ovens, one which could be used to cook on Shabbat through direct sunlight, and another that technically could not.
I am posting this week a photo of each and asking the public to guess which one is Shabbat compliant and why.
I had not yet seen solar ovens, biogas cookers and compost toilets anywhere else Jewish yet, and this project is the apple of the eye of the Reform movement; which demonstrates how much we Jews have to learn from each other.
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