The Changing Face of London Jewry

A little over a month ago, I introduced you to Moishe House London. Now, in his own words, one of the founding members.

by Joel Sameach Stanley

Something is emerging in Jewish London. It’s hard to name as yet but you know it when you meet it. October 2007 was a landmark month. For four weeks running, you could, if you felt so inclined, attend a relatively large-scale alternative Jewish event every Saturday night, from the London JCC’s Balagan Boogaloo to Psychosemitic to the massive opening party at Moishe House London, the new Willesden Green based Jewish community house that happens to be my home.

Besides a genre-fusing openness to try different things and new forms, The House shares with these events and groups a deeply rooted yet non-denominational approach. People vote with their feet and the old models are tired. Our new community is based around our home, and centres on the arts, spirituality and social justice, because these are the most fertile, exciting and important fields of Jewish growth in England today. People ask us why there is a need for this. If you are happy at Aish, Chabad or the Jewish Learning Exchange, perhaps there isn’t. These groups do vibrant Jewish community well, but with a particular religious framework that excludes many people.

We face a challenge, being Jewish outside Israel. How do we live in British culture and live meaningful Jewish lives? We have chosen multiculturalism and the task is to live authentically, from a place of mixedness but Jewishness, proving that our ethnicity, faith, culture – or whatever you want to call it – will not be subsumed into a monoculture. The jury’s still out on where this leads. What I do know is this: if Jewish life in the UK is to mean anything, we want to build one worth living.

This post is part of a series focusing on new Jewish innovation in the U.K.
for a related post on Moishe House London, click here