Reflections from Rabbi René – Populism, Moderation and Remembrance

“Populists ride on anger, but don’t provide any answer”

These are the words of Tony Blair who was the guest speaker of the Board of Deputies’ President dinner, which I attended on Monday evening. As with any Prime Minister, some people liked his politics, and some didn’t. I was rather impressed by his moderate and hopeful tone. He mentioned several issues, such as the “plague” that is social media in the political realm, the fact that both main parties are heading towards more extreme views, and the new entry point for antisemitism that is today the far left. However, he said, this is Britain: a country that is fairly moderate, that manages to get back to its senses after a time of crisis, a country that is one of the oldest democracies in the world.

(Photo credit: About Thames Ditton)

As progressive Jews, dialogue is at the heart of our ethos

There is no point in denying that our times are worrisome, but we need to remember in which country we are living, the freedom we enjoy, and to trust in the capacity of our fellow citizens to come back to a more moderate stand. Crises are unavoidable, but they are also a unique opportunity to find new ways. Progressive Judaism is precisely the home for meaningful, yet robust conversations. Dialogue is at the heart of our ethos, and we should always take a moment of crisis such as ours as a chance to make things better.

Where were you on 9th November 1989?

This Shabbat, we will be holding our annual civic service and welcoming representatives from our local councils and the wider Jewish community.  We will remember the Czech communities from which our Torah scrolls originate, the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht, and thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Where were you on the 9th of November 1989? I remember this day very vividly. I was in Strasbourg, studying for an MA in History at the Agrégation d’Histoire, and I had my nose pressed against the TV screen, not believing my eyes. What an exhilarating time! And what did we make of that?