Sunday, 21 November 2010

Speech Given at West Londons Citizens Assembly

Good evening Citizens.


I’m Rabbi Jeremy Gordon,

I represent New London Synagogue, a Synagogue of 700 members in Westminster.


I’m proud to be a member of West London Citizens.

And I’m particularly proud to represent the first Synagogue to officially come into membership of London Citizens, proud that my Synagogue takes its place alongside the Churches and Mosques, schools, trade union branches and other membership organisations.


I want to share with you why I feel it is so important for me, as citizen of a great city, and as a Rabbi and a Jew to be in membership of this great organization.


The Hebrew Bible teaches of the obligation ‘to love our fellow.’ One of the great Rabbis of the time of Jesus, Rabbi Akvia, suggested that this must be the base upon which all of Judaism stands. And I know these sentiments are also at the heart of Christianity, Islam – other religions and other decent ways of life also.

I believe we are all called to feel an obligation to care about our fellow human beings.


Do not oppress the stranger.

Do not insult the deaf or place a stumbling block before the blind.

Do not profit by the blood of your fellow.

If you see your fellow’s ass or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it, you must help him raise it.

Justice, justice you shall pursue


These Biblical verses – and hundreds of others like them - are at the heart of my faith, the heart of what I think it is to be part of a community, part of a city.

These verses are at the heart of what I think it means to be a citizen.


Jews have been speaking of these obligations and standing up to organisations, individuals and governments who have failed to recognise these obligations, since the time of the great prophets.

I have much to do, as a Rabbi and a Jew to tend to my own flock and keep alive the rituals of my own faith, but I have to be reminded of the prophecy of Amos.


‘Though you offer me burnt offerings and meal offerings [prophesised Amos], I will not accept them; nor will I listen to the melody of your lutes.

Until justice shall roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’


This is why I am here.


And why Citizens?

Why do I feel the need to pursue these agendas of justice through this particular organisation?

For me it is all about the broad-based nature of this work.


There is an ancient Rabbinic text that asks why God created every human being from one original human being.

It is, the Rabbis teach, a way of witnessing the glory of God.

When a King of flesh and blood mints a coin, he creates a single mint and every coin comes out looking the same.

But when God creates every a human being, every human being comes out radically different.

We are supposed to be amazed at the sheer breadth of human possibility.

And standing here today, looking out at you, my fellow citizens, I’m feeling particularly amazed.

Look around you and share in what it is to be amazed at the breadth of human possibility.


We are here as men and women, young and old, people of faith – of different faiths – and of no faith at all.

We are rich and we are poor, we are healthy and we are ill. We are diverse in more ways than a person could count.

And that’s why when we stand together we have such power.

Because when we stand together we show there is no limit to our willingness to care for one another; black or white, refugee or long-standing citizen –

We will stand together when to show we care for one another.

We will stand together when we make our demands.

And there is no force strong enough to defeat the willingness of one human being caring for another.


So, citizens, this is why I am here, this is why the Synagogue I represent is in membership.

And this is why I will work alongside you until justice does indeed roll down like water.

And I hope this is why you will want to work alongside me.


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