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Talks and Lectures

In addition to our Learning Circle for members, friends and guests of the LJS, we frequently run regular talks, lectures and short courses. Art, poetry and music feature in our programme, as well as Jewish History, and short courses led by published authors.

Festivals offer opportunities to delve more deeply into their significance and practice, for example, for Purim we have an exciting study and Megillah reading event, and at Shavuot, we have a full programme of Tikkun Leyl Shavuot (all night study).

We offer High Holy Day seminars, looking at the liturgy and traditions, in readiness for this special time of year in the Jewish Calendar. For more details on our programmes, please contact education@ljs.org

Religion recognises the child's right to be heard

This insightful article written by LJS member Geraldine Van Bueren appeared in The Times on 21 November 2020 

Judaism and Christianity are often portrayed as presuming that the child’s relationship with the divine is passive and one of silence. It is for adults to intercede on their behalf. However, there are other possible readings, which may point to a direct relationship between children and God.

As Rabbi Alexandra Wright asks, where is the voice of the child? Separate from Abraham’s intentions, many Genesis interpretations assume that Isaac is not sacrificed because of Abraham’s prayers, faith and trust. However, the Bible is silent as to whether Isaac used his own voice to pray. Such silence opens up the possibility that it was Isaac’s prayers which were met.

The Koran regards the binding of Abraham’s child with a more participatory role for the son. Abraham informs him about his vision, and it is the son who agrees to the sacrifice to fulfil God’s command.

Clearly in neither of the religious accounts would Abraham win the father of the year award. Both approaches to the binding raise troubling issues about children’s best interests. However, the accounts do suggest the possibility that children in the three Abrahamic faiths have a more active role in shaping their own destinies.

The right of children to have their voices heard, and their welfare protected, was celebrated yesterday with World Children’s Day. November 20 is also the date when the general assembly of the United Nations adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The convention has been adopted by the Vatican and by every country in the world that accords religion a special status. Its content reflects the world’s religions as well as secular thought.

Those that have ratified the treaty, which holds that humanity owes to children the best it has to give, include all religious states: those that are predominantly Catholic, including all of Latin America; states that are predominantly Buddhist and Hindu, including all of Asia; the Jewish state of Israel; and all the Islamic states. Clearly it is not only secular states which embrace the principle that children have rights that ought to be respected.

The often-repeated idiom “out of the mouths of babes” is used to denote that children, even when very young, can be a source of wisdom. The phrase, from Psalms 8:2, appears to refer to the knowledge of the divine even from a young age. The Bible recognises that children can grasp complexities and matters of such importance. This accords with the international legal right of the child to be heard.
As vulnerable human beings, children have the right to protection, and adults the duty to protect them, something which is common to all religions; but, from the Bible, children also have the right to be consulted, including in matters of religion, an entitlement that is sometimes overlooked.

In relation to children it is “spare the rod” which focuses much attention. Hinduism values the virtue of ahimsa: to refrain from injuring, physically, mentally or emotionally, any living being. According to the Hindu leader Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, people who “beat or pinch or slap or whip their children are the enemies to religion because they are pushing the next generation into lower consciousness”.
The value of children’s best interests is common to all religions. Two key goals are to nurture and educate children. This includes discipline, but consistent with the child’s dignity.

Dignity and love are tightly entwined. According to Rabbi Akiva, “love your neighbour as yourself” is the Torah’s greatest principle. Children are also our neighbours. A part of loving is listening.

Professor Emerita Geraldine Van Bueren, QC, Queen Mary University of London, and visiting fellow, Kellogg College, Oxford.

RACISM: Identifying It, Learning about it, Combatting it

Our four part series held in November 2020 on RACISM: Identifying It, Learning about it, Combatting it was very well received.

The fascinating programme included:

•    Jewish Teaching on Racism by Rabbi Alexandra Wright
•    Jewish History of Anti-Racism activity with Dr Edie Friedman (JCORE)
•    Facts and Figures of Racism in Britain with Dr Edie Friedman in conversation with Lord Simon Woolley, political and equalities activist
•    Report of the Board of Deputies inquiry into racism in the Jewish community, presented by Stephen Bush, head of the commission

LJS Summer Conversations

In July 2020, we held a series of free online conversations.

Our conversations were 'Identity: Psychological Perspectives' presented by LJS member Dr Stephen Blumenthal which was followed by a discussion led by LJS member Harriett Goldenberg, existential psychologist, teacher and author; 'Music and Survival' presented by musician and activist Simon Wallfisch who talked about music, antisemitism, his family and the Holocaust, as well as the future of the performing arts post-Brexit; and 'Hollywood, the Rolling Stones, Nazi Germany' presented by Sandy Lieberson, producer of 'Performance' and 'The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus'.

You can view the talks by clicking on their titles, above.

Nosh 'n' Drosh

These monthly lunchtime gatherings, after the Shabbat morning service, have proved a popular way for the congregation to come together to listen to first-class speakers on a variety of subjects. Lunch is provided, and the session is free of charge to LJS members and friends. 

Nosh 'n' Drosh is not currently operating during lockdown, but we are looking at ways to introduce an online version soon.

Tuesday Texts

Tuesday Texts is another place for discussion on a range of different topics. The LJS provides one of the best adult education and discussion programmes in a synagogue community, and all are welcome to participate in the classes which are run by our rabbis and senior teachers.

Tuesdays Texts are online at the moment, and you can find out more about the programme from education@ljs.org

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash             

Mon, 25 January 2021 12 Sh'vat 5781