Path to Progressive Judaism Advisory Board

Ed Kessler


Advisory Board Chair

Dr Edward Kessler MBE is Founder President of the Woolf Institute and a leading thinker in interfaith relations, as well as Chair of the Commission on the Integration of Refugees.

He was referred to as “probably the most prolific interfaith figure in British academia” by The Times and awarded an MBE in 2011 for services to interfaith relations.

In 1998 he founded the Woolf Institute, with the goal to foster understanding and positive relations between communities in a world of increasing division and instability. It now has a permanent home in the grounds of Westminster College, Cambridge.

He has written or edited 12 books on faith and regularly appears in the media commenting on religion and belief issues of the day.

Much of his academic work has been examining religious scripture and exploring the significance for Jewish-Christian relations of sharing a sacred text. In recent writings, he has focused on the encounter with Islam and contemporary relations between the three Abrahamic faiths.

Ed Kessler

Rabbi Charley Baginsky

CEO – Liberal Judaism

Rabbi Charley Baginsky is the Chief Executive Officer of Liberal Judaism.

She is responsible for setting the direction and priorities for the movement, fundraising, liaising with all external partners and, most importantly, with the 40+ Liberal Judaism communities. She represents Progressive Judaism at events and regularly appears on radio and television.

Rabbi Charley has been involved with Liberal Judaism since childhood – as both a youth leader with LJY-Netzer and an educator.

After studying theology, first at Cambridge and then King’s College London, she spent several years working in Israel which included a period at Leo Baeck, Haifa, where she also studied at Haifa University.

Rabbi Charley – who was ordained at Leo Baeck College in the UK – was the minister at Kingston Liberal Synagogue for more than 10 years. She then joined the Liberal Judaism staff team – where she held the post of Director of Strategy and Partnerships for four years. During this period, she also served South Bucks Jewish Community.

She has overseen Liberal Judaism’s national conferences for many years and also served as the Chair of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors.

She is the mother to Joshua, Eliana and Cassia.

Ed Kessler


CEO – The Movement for Reform Judaism

Rabbi Josh Levy is the Chief Executive Officer of The Movement for Reform Judaism.

He has been involved with Reform Judaism since childhood, having grown up as a member of Menorah (Cheshire Reform Congregation) and in RSY-Netzer.

After degrees at Oxford University and LSE, Rabbi Josh worked in education at Finchley Reform Synagogue before training for the rabbinate at Leo Baeck College.

His first rabbinic role was at West London Synagogue, before joining Alyth in 2008, serving the community for 15 years. On 1 May 2023 he began working part-time as CEO of MRJ, beginning his role full-time on 1 November 2023.

In addition to his congregational work, Rabbi Josh has held a number of other communal roles over the last 15 years, including as Governor of Akiva School, Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors and Chair of the Standing Committee of the Reform Bet Din.

He also co-led the group that re-examined the approach of the Reform rabbinate to issues of Inherited Jewish Status.

Rabbi Josh is a member of faculty at Leo Baeck College, teaching an MA course on ‘Progressive Rabbinic Decision Making’, which explores the relationship of Progressive Jews with our legal tradition and how we make decisions about practice in our communities and in our Jewish lives.

Ed Kessler

Paul Langsford

Chair – The Movement for Reform Judaism

Paul Langsford has been a member of Alyth for 40 years. He has served on the synagogue Council and Executive, chaired the Premises, PR and Israel committees, and helped with various fundraising, brand and communication projects.

He served on the Reform Judaism Board for six years from 1995 to 2001 and was Vice Chair during this period. He was then a governor of Akiva School for 10 years and Trustee of the Jewish Community Day School Advisory Board for eight years. He returned to The Movement for Reform Judaism Board in 2016, became Vice Chair in 2018, Co-Chair in 2021 and Chair in 2023. He is also a Trustee of the Manor House Trust.

Paul worked in the corporate design and communications industry for 40 years and was managing director of two of the UK’s leading agencies, before running his own business from 1995 to 2017.

He is now a qualified executive and senior level coach, and continues to build his knowledge and experience in coaching and leadership, guided by industry experts Management Futures.

Paul is married to Sarah, who is a member of the professional team at Alyth, and they have three children in their twenties, who were actively involved at Alyth and RSY-Netzer.


Ed Kessler

Karen Newman

Acting Chair – Liberal Judaism

Karen Newman is an international advocacy, policy, gender, evaluation, governance and development professional with more than 30 years’ experience managing health and human rights projects and programmes across the globe.

Since establishing her consultancy in 2003, Karen’s client base includes a range of global and UK-based governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Her programme management expertise spans the project development cycle, from inception through fundraising, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, report-writing and completion, and she is a visiting lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Karen joined the Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) in 2003, and was its Chair of Education from 2006-12. She was an Honorary Officer for the LJS from 2016-22, and currently chairs its Avodah Committee. Since 2012, she has represented the LJS on the Board of Deputies for British Jews, where she currently co-convenes the Progressive Deputies group, and serves on the Defence Division and the Constitution Committee.

Karen joined the Board of National Officers of Liberal Judaism in 2017, and is currently LJ Acting Chair, having served as Deputy Chair since 2019. She has also been on the Board of Governors of Leo Baeck College since the beginning of 2022.

Ed Kessler


Co-Chair of Conference of Liberal Rabbis & Cantors

Rabbi Rebecca Birk is Co-Chair of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors.

She has been Rabbi to Finchley Progressive Synagogue since 2011 and was also visiting Rabbi to Progressive Jews of Stockholm from 2001 to 2019.

Rabbi Rebecca has had particular success driving campaigns for Syrian Refugee resettlement in her local area – leading The Evening Standard to name her as one of London’s most influential people.

Hugely committed to the power of relationships as an engagement tool for community building, Rabbi Rebecca enjoys both movement and congregational work.

Ed Kessler


Co-Chair of Assembly of Reform Rabbis & Cantors

Rabbi Kath Vardi is Co-Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors and Rabbi to North West Surrey Synagogue in Weybridge.

A graduate of Leo Baeck College, Kath is currently completing her dissertation for a Masters in Public Administration (Faith Based Leadership) at the University of Birmingham, exploring the gendered choreography of the Torah service and the role and challenges of female rabbinic leadership.

Before entering the rabbinate, Rabbi Kath was a Senior Nurse Manager working in the area of mental health.

Born in the Midlands, she has spent most of her adult life in the North before moving to Israel with her kibbutznik husband. They moved back to the UK at the beginning of 2001, settling again in the north before moving to Surrey in 2016.

Ed Kessler



Mark Adlestone OBE is Chair of The Beaverbrooks Group, which has 81 stores nationwide.

He joined the Company in 1979, became Joint Managing Director in 1990, sole Managing Director in 2000 and Chair in 2012. Mark is third generation of this family business.

Mark oversaw the merger of The Fed (Jewish Social Care in Greater Manchester) and Heathlands Village (Residential Jewish Care Home in Prestwich, Manchester). He served as Chair of this newly formed entity, THE FED, from November 2009 until November 2018.

In October 2015 Mark was presented with the OBE by The Queen at Buckingham Palace for ‘Services to Business and Charity in the North of England’.

He has been a trustee of the Jewish Leadership Council since 2017.

Married to Gabrielle for 33 years, Mark has three daughters – Tara 30, Chloe 29, and Libby 21. Mark has one grandson Ezra and one granddaughter Taylor.

Ed Kessler



Nick Donaldson spent 14 years working at the Charity Commission, including roles in the Large Charities Division, as an Intelligence Analyst and as Head of Faith Charities Engagement from 2016 – 2021.

Since leaving the Commission, he spent a year working as lead consultant for faith charities engagement at Strengthening Faith Institutions (SFI).

Nick now works as an independent consultant focused on supporting faith-based charities with governance and management. He lives in South Wales with his family.


Ed Kessler


The Movement for Reform Judaism

Keith Price’s parents joined Edgware & District Reform Synagogue in 1959 and he has been actively involved in many aspects of that community since that time. He was Chair from 1991-1994 and is a Past President of the community (now known as Edgware & Hendon Reform Synagogue).

Keith has been active within the Reform Movement since the days of YASGB and, then, RSGB. He was a Board Member for six years following his term as EDRS Chairman, with a specific interest in Synagogue Partnership. He was also Reform representative on the Board of Leo Baeck College during that time.

Keith rejoined the MRJ Board in 2011 for some years. He has been a Governor of Leo Baeck College (twice) and a Trustee of Jewish Joint Burial Society.

Keith was a solicitor in private practice for 27 years. He was appointed a District Judge in 2000 and sat at Central London Civil Justice Centre. He retired in 2017.


Ed Kessler


Liberal Judaism

Karen Maxwell grew up in Manchester, in an Orthodox community. As a “very stroppy and politically-enlightened” 12-year-old, she refused to participate in the batmitzvah service that was on offer – as it was “very much the poor relation of what the boys had”.

Moving to London enabled Karen to find a community that was more attuned to her values, and offered inclusion to both her and her fiancé Martin who wasn’t Jewish. They joined The Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) in 1989, married and have two sons Jacob and Simon – the latter becoming a Movement Worker for LJY-Netzer.

In addition to being a CST trained security officer, Karen has been involved in a number of committees within the LJS and is one of the synagogue’s Deputies. She was a founder member of Jewish-Muslim women’s network Nisa-Nashim and is on the coordinating committee of UK Women of Faith.

Karen’s work as a leadership and organisational professional has enabled her to support both individuals and organisations that are going through change – including merger.


Ed Kessler


Liberal Judaism

Robin Moss is a lifelong member of The Ark Synagogue and grew up in Liberal Judaism’s youth movement LJY-Netzer.

After two years as an LJY Movement Worker, Robin worked for almost a decade at UJIA in Jewish and Israel education. He was the Director of Strategy, responsible amongst other things for UJIA’s relationships with and grants to a wide range of communal organisations.

For the past two years he has been the Chief Executive of Unitas Youth Zone, a state-of-the-art youth centre in Burnt Oak.

Robin is also the Chair of KeshetUK, Trustee of the Jewish Youth Fund and a volunteer for Limmud. He served on the Liberal Judaism Board of National Officers from 2013-2020.

Ed Kessler


The Movement for Reform Judaism

Becky Teiger grew up on the Wirral and barely engaged with her Jewish identity until her early 20s. After studying Modern History at Oxford, she trained as an early years and primary teacher at Brodetsky Primary School rising to the position of Assistant Head, before leaving for a local authority role in school improvement.

Becky has been an active member of Sinai Reform Synagogue and the wider Leeds Jewish Community for the last 20 years, serving as a Trustee for both Leeds Jewish Housing Association and Sinai.

Since 2020, she has worked to sustain and develop Sinai as a thriving Reform community, empowering members to take on voluntary roles and engage in community life. In January 2023, she stepped up to a new role of Community Director and is a current participant on the Dangor Senior Leadership Programme, facilitated by the Jewish Leadership Council.

Becky is married to Simon, a video producer/photographer, and they share their home with a lively six-year-old and a very fluffy cat!

Ed Kessler


Chair of Membership Group

Noeleen Cohen is an experienced Board Chair and charity Trustee.

Following a career in marketing and communications, Noeleen shifted her focus to the voluntary sector, where she has worked for over 20 years. During this time, she has taken on a number of Board and advisory roles, to which she brings a deep understanding of effectiveness, governance and charity finance.

Noeleen combines her professional skills and love of bringing people together, to build strong partnerships and shape organisations that are well run, impact driven and socially conscious.

Noeleen is currently Chair of the New Israel Fund and is Vice Chair of community organising charity, Citizens UK where she chairs the Mission, Membership and Governance Committee.

Noeleen has held a number of roles in the Progressive Jewish community. She chaired Alyth Synagogue and is currently leading on the building development which is due to be completed in the Summer of 2024. Noeleen was the Chair of Leo Baeck College and served on the board of the Movement for Reform Judaism.

Nigel Cole


Chair of Finance Group

Nigel Cole was Treasurer, then Chair of Liberal Judaism from 2004 to 2009, and also served as a trustee for Leo Baeck College and the Jewish Leadership Council on behalf of the movement. He took on the role of Chair of Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue (now The Ark) for three years from 2012.

After completing a business degree, Nigel qualified as a chartered management accountant and spent much of his career in senior finance roles in small and medium-sized enterprises which took him to Europe, the US, and Asia, as well as in and around London.

Once the travelling was over, he supported a variety of owner-managed businesses as a part time freelance finance director, a role that continued even after he thought he had retired!

Nigel was a parish councillor in Hertfordshire for six years until 2023, two as chair. He is also a governor at a local (outstanding) secondary school where he leads the curriculum committee and serves on the finance group.

Nigel and his wife, Andy, are members of South Bucks Jewish Community, and they have three adult children, four grandchildren, and three grand-dogs!

Ed Kessler

Sue Pearlman

Chair of Governance Group

Sue Pearlman is an active member of Finchley Reform Synagogue (FRS) and has served on the FRS Council in various positions for many years.

She was a trustee of the Movement of Reform Judaism for eight years, ending with being Honorary Secretary, responsible for governance.

Professionally she is a charity consultant working with Jewish and secular charities of varying sizes, specialising in governance and senior management.