Frequently Asked Questions

Why this decision at this time?

We believe that Progressive Judaism has a twofold purpose: To be a force for good in the world, playing an active role in shaping a society that reflects our Jewish values; and to transform and strengthen Jewish life in this country so it is rich, inclusive and innovative.

We believe that we can best achieve this purpose as one united movement.

By coming together, we will now represent one third of all Jews who are affiliated to synagogues in the UK and we will be better able to reach out to all those who identify as Jewish but have not yet joined a community.

We want the generations that come after us to enjoy a rich and innovative Progressive Jewish life: one with thriving communities, a strong public voice, excellent leadership pipelines, clear articulation of who we are and what we believe, empowered and supported clergy.

This move, at this time, will help deliver this for generations to come.

Why a coming together, rather than collaboration?

We believe that we can do this work most effectively by doing it together: consolidating our resources, working strategically across the country and amplifying our voice by speaking together rather than talking over each other. We are already seeing the benefits of working in this way. Both organisations can best fulfil their charitable purposes by doing so together.

The bringing together of our movements is also an act of tikkun, of repair, of making good something in the world that needs fixing. The existence of two Progressive movements is rooted in the history of Reform and Liberal Judaism in the UK. We now have the unique opportunity to bring ourselves into the future as one organisation.

We also have an opportunity to promote a vision of how a religious organisation should be: one that is able to change, one that can hold a diversity of views, and one which encourages work with others.

Why the name ‘Progressive Judaism’?

Progressive Judaism (in Hebrew, Yahadut Mitkademet) exists already as the umbrella term in world Jewry that encompasses Reform and Liberal Judaism.

Both MRJ and LJ are members of WUPJ and EUPJ (the World and European Unions of Progressive Judaism). Indeed, the UK is the only country in which there is not one single Progressive movement.

This means that if you are a Liberal or Reform Jew then you are already a Progressive Jew as well. If you are a member of a Liberal or Reform community, then you are a member of a Progressive community, affiliated with the international Progressive Jewish world.

Hasn’t this been tried before?

The last time there was a concerted effort to unite the two movements in this way was 40 years ago.

At that time, there were significant differences in ideology and practice between the two. In the past 40 years, both Reform and Liberal Judaism have been through changes which means that they are closer together now than at any time in the past.

We are committed to honouring the different histories of our two movements, and recognising the reality that the present has brought us closer together.

There are remarkably few areas in which Liberal and Reform practice differ, and where they do, this diversity can be retained within a shared organisation.

How does this build on previous collaborations between Reform and Liberal Judaism?

The vision of closer cooperation has been shared by many generations of Progressive lay leaders.

Around 10 years ago, the Liberal and Reform movements agreed an alliance, pledging greater co-operation in order to strengthen the overall Progressive presence within the community.

It saw an expansion of collaboration in areas such as student chaplaincy, social justice and Israel. It also involved a focus on existing partnered work, including rabbinic training, and having joined-up representation on cross-communal, international and other institutions. This work enjoyed many successes, especially in reaching out to unaffiliated and secular British Jews.

While the alliance was very different to what is being undertaken today, the dialogue between senior members of both movements laid many of the foundations for this historic unification.

What about issues of Jewish status and inclusion?

On issues of conversion, Jewish status, equilineal descent, LGBTQI+ inclusion and the welcome of mixed faith families, Liberal and Reform Judaism already have strongly shared values and very similar procedures and policies.

Our two movements already recognise the status and conversion decisions of the other… and will continue to do so.

There are, of course, some small differences in emphasis and practices – and this diversity will be retained within our shared values.

Progressive Judaism is open and inclusive and seeks to meet people where they are, whatever the community.

Will my community/synagogue need to change?

We cherish the beauty and individuality of each of our congregations as much as you do. This is one of the greatest strengths of Progressive Judaism.

That is why we are so committed to all of our communities retaining their individual identities, services and practices.

As one movement we will promote our shared values and help more people live rich and vibrant Jewish lives today and in the future.

We will also celebrate our diversity, that we can have different practices within our shared values.

We won’t be making changes to prayer books or congregational minhag (customs and practices) – and we certainly won’t be asking any community to remove Liberal or Reform from their name. 

But, really, you’re not going to move to one siddur?

Really, we are not!

We are currently seeing a flourishing of liturgical creativity in Progressive Judaism in the UK and beyond. Some of our communities are already creating their own liturgies, using diverse prayerbooks, or moving away from printed books entirely. We want to encourage communities to find the prayer life that is right for them, using the resources that we can provide to support them, and the creativity and scholarship of our amazing clergy. This will allow communities to expand their choices and widen their bookshelves in ways that will benefit their communities and membership.

This is just one area where we believe this move can spark an intellectual flourishing. We have so much thoughtfulness, wisdom, talent and scholarship in our movements, and are committed to helping people to write and create once again.

How will this impact on the two youth movements?

We have two wonderful youth movements – LJY-Netzer and RSY-Netzer – which have different offerings at different times of the year and cater to different audiences. It would make no sense to disrupt this.

The current task is to ensure that both RSY and LJY benefit from better resources and stronger support; to even further improve and expand the life-changing experiences for our children and young people.

The decision about the future of our youth movements will then belong to their leaders over time.

How is the work happening?

The work of bringing our two movements together is being overseen by an Advisory Board. To find out more about its members, click here.

A number of Working Groups have also been set up looking at key aspects of the new entity including Governance structure, financial modelling and membership rights and responsibilities. These groups all contain members of our communities, clergy and movement staff and Boards.

At the same time as this work is being done, we are holding community forums throughout the country, so that members of our 80+ Liberal and Reform communities can input, share ideas and find out more about what is happening. For more details including upcoming dates, click here.

How will a final decision on unification be made and how can I be part of it?

Over the course of the next year, we will be working to develop a vision of a new movement and to build a proposed infrastructure for the new organisation.

Once this is done, the Boards of Trustees of MRJ and LJ will then decide whether to recommend this co-creation to their communities. If they agree that unification is the best way to fulfil their charitable purpose, they will then bring the final decision to the memberships of the two movements.

The intention is that this final decision will take place at the end of 2024 / beginning of 2025. There is therefore plenty of time for members of Progressive synagogues, and all who are interested, to input: to share hopes for the future and ideas of what might be possible; to ask questions or express concerns; and to volunteer your time and expertise.

How can I find out more about Liberal and Reform Judaism?

While the work of creating a new unified organisation is ongoing, the Movement for Reform Judaism and Liberal Judaism are still thriving.

For news, updates and information from Liberal Judaism, please click here.

For news, updates and information from the Movement for Reform Judaism, please click here.

Got a Question?

If there’s anything you wish to know that we haven’t covered, get in touch.