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Judaism in the 21st century
Douglas Charing
Judaism in the 21st century Rabbi Douglas Charing, the visiting Rabbi of Bradford Synagogue, talks to us about Jewish life in a multicultural city.
BBC Religion

Jews believe that there is a single God who not only created the universe, but with whom every Jew can have an individual and personal relationship.

The Jewish relationship with God is a 'covenant' relationship. In exchange for the many good deeds that God has done and continues to do for the Jewish people, Jews will keep God’s laws and seek to bring holiness into every aspect of their lives.

Jews worship on the Sabbath usually a Saturday this is called
the 'Shabbat'.

The main Jewish festivals include, the Passover, a spring festival marking their escape from captivity in Egypt.

The Shavuot, marking the time that the Jews received God’s laws at Mount Sinai. And, Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.

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I was brought up as an Orthodox Jew and went to one of the most Orthodox Primary Schools in the country called Yesodey-Hatorah.

At thirteen I had my bar mitzvah. This is a Jewish ceremonial occasion that marks the time when a young person is recognised as an adult in the Jewish community.

When I was seventeen, I visited Israel and saw a strict polarisation: orthodox Judaism or secular Judaism, there was nothing in between.

I felt there needed to be an alternative available, and decided to pursue progressive Judaism. I studied to become a Rabbi at Leo Baeck College in London.

Progressive Judaism believes that the Torah was written by humans but inspired by the divine. It has some eternal truths for all time, but also has other parts which are not as relevant for the modern Jew, e.g. food laws.

Orthodox Judaism disagrees with this, believing the Torah was written by God through Moses and is an infallible document which no-one can alter. Therefore it is as relevant today, as when it was first given.

I was ordained in 1970 and in 1974 moved to Leeds and started the Jewish Education Bureau.

I have now left the pulpit and work full-time in education. I visit schools, lecture at colleges and Universities, teach courses for teachers and spend a lot of time in interfaith dialogue.

Although I do not have my own synagogue, I do give input to synagogues across the country and this is my sixth year of leading worship at Bradford Synagogue.

In Bradford, there is quite a small Jewish population, which is ageing and declining as birth rate declines. There are two synagogues. In Shipley, there is an Orthodox synagogue, and in Bradford there is a Progressive synagogue.

It is quite hard to be an Orthodox Jew in a place without a large Jewish population because of the strict dietary laws. In 1973 there were eight Kosher butchers in Leeds, today there aren't any. Jews have to either ignore the dietary laws, be vegetarian, or make long journeys to Manchester or London where they can buy Kosher food.

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