Lionel for Chief?


The recent Reform Judaism conference was designed to promote the big names of the movement. New ‘Movement Rabbi’ (Don’t call her the Reform chief rabbi even though she basically is) Laura Janner Klausner spoke of why Reform Judaism shouldn’t be considered ‘excuse Judaism’ and how it was impossible to build strong communities around the concept of personal autonomy alone. New senior (celebrity) rabbi of West London Synagogue Julia Neuberger spoke powerfully of the social radicalism of the early West London synagogue rabbis, and argued that Reform needed to get return to its ‘core’ message of social justice, one that she suggested had been diluted in the rush to gain acceptance from the community ‘mainstream’. The star speaker, though was inevitably the octogenarian Thought For the Day veteran and bon viveur  Rabbi Lionel Blue. Looking a little shaky, and not entirely with it, Blue made no attempt to build an argument, position himself or even share religious ideas. He simply told jokes. Some were new, most were old, and a few even had an anglican focus rather than a Jewish one. None of this mattered: there felt something profound in the sole focus on trying to make people laugh to the exclusion of any pomposity or pretension. – joke telling as a religious act. He described his Though for The Day out as a n attempt to make people’s days, and thus their lives, just a little bit easier by bringing them humour – joke telling as a religious act


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