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February 27: The Baroness Rabbi

February 26, 2015

julia-neubergerJulia Neuberger, the head of Liberal Judaism in Great Britain and the first woman rabbi to head a congregation in that country, was born in London on this date in 1950. A member of the House of Lords, she is senior rabbi at the West London Synagogue, the oldest standing Reform synagogue in the city. As “an avid human rights crusader who is outspoken on the need for equal rights for everyone, including Arabs in Israel and gays who want to marry, Neuberger doesn’t exactly conform to Downton Abbey-esque notions of a British peer,” writes Amanda Borschel-Dan in the Times of Israel. Neuberger describes herself as “a passionate supporter of gay marriage” and declared in 2013 her hope to “have a Moonie-style mass gay wedding” in synagogue. “I have at least 30 couples.” In 2008 she wrote a manifesto about old age, Not Dead Yet, published by HarperCollins, that “pounces on every form of age discrimination,” writes Elizabeth Grice in the Telegraph, “in the jobs market, in the NHS, in broadcasting, in travel insurance, in shops.” Neuberger “tackles the big issues such as care homes and their appallingly low-paid workers, and the mistreatment of people with dementia. But it’s her understanding of the myriad small ways in which daily life is being made more difficult for the elderly that makes her observations so shaming.” To see her speaking about women in politics, look below.

“Judaism tells us in many ways how to listen and say ‘Hineni’, I am here.” —Rabbi Julia Neuberger