Speaker of the House of Commons, The Rt Hon John Bercow MP hosted the launch of Tzelem - a unique cross-denominational Jewish clerical campaign group on Wednesday 28th January. Dedicated to speaking out against injustice, Tzelem will reassert Judaism’s rich and vibrant tradition of social justice activism.
With over 60 rabbis and cantors in attendance, as well as cross-party representation from both parliamentary houses. Personal testimonies on pressing issues ranging from mental health to homelessness and child poverty to immigration were given by four rabbis. A unique shofar ritual called attendees to action. It was introduced by Cantor Zoe Jacobs with these words,‘The shofar has become a ritual in Jewish community, encouraging its listeners to stir, to wake up, to pay attention, to change their ways.’
The Speaker, The Rt Hon John Bercow MP said “I welcome the initiative by Tzelem to speak up for the cause of social justice. This is a non-partisan campaign designed to highlight some of the endemic problems that the country faces and to argue for policies which will tackle injustice and promote greater opportunity and social mobility.”
Rabbi Jeff Berger says, ‘We are seeing in our community families who are struggling financially, we are also seeing other forms of social distress that really require a proactive response.’
In response to the shofar call Rabbi Jonathan Romain says, ‘it is not just about helping individuals – it is about changing structure’.
Explaining why being involved in Tzelem matters to him, Rabbi Aaron Goldstein said, ‘In our borrow of Hillingdon, we have a dreadful situation with mental health issues, a number of our congregants have committed suicide in the last couple of years and increasingly our members are facing depression and other mental health issues. It is difficult for me to do it on my own and Tzelem allows us to tackle these issues together.’
Tzelem is founded on the Jewish principle that we are all created b’tzelem elokim - in the image of G-d. Tzelem is inspired by Jewish teaching and a long tradition of fighting social and economic injustice. This tradition dates from the Hebrew prophets to the American civil rights movement and anti-apartheid campaigns in South Africa, both of which included a strong Jewish presence.
Note to editors
· For more information, or for rabbinic comment on this press release, please contact Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild on 07899 811 734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
· For general information, or for a rabbinic comment on any current social issues, please email email@example.com.
· Tzelem was conceived in late 2013 to organise Jewish clerical voices on social and economic justice issues in the UK. It is unique in its conception as a clerical cross-communal campaigning organization. It is founded on the Jewish principle that we are all created b’tzelem Elokim – in the image of G-d. Tzelem seeks to continue the proud Jewish social activist tradition by taking action and providing a critique to the problems at the root of our society, our economy and our treatment of the vulnerable.
· Tzelem is the UK’s first and only organisation for rabbis and cantors from all Jewish denominations (Orthodox, Spanish and Portuguese, Masorti, Reform and Liberal). Through Tzelem rabbis and cantors in the UK will be able to contribute a unique Jewish voice to the public discourse. Tzelem will be working in partnership with other faith groups, charities, partner organisations and key individuals. Tzelem will engage with the decision makers in our country as well as with the press and will provide a central point of contact for them.
· Shofar (pl. shofarot) are trumpets made of ram's horns. They were blown by the ancient Hebrews during religious ceremonies and as a signal in battle. They are now sounded in the synagogue during Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and at the end of Yom Kippur. In the Tanach (Hebrew Bible) the shofar sound is portrayed as powerful enough to even make the walls of Jericho fall.