Exit has Never Been an Option

The end of the ‘civil year’ 2018 gave me the opportunity to take some much needed holiday time and travel with the family – destination Scotland. We headed off on the last days of December, drove to Calais for the tunnel crossing (long delay at UK customs), spent the first night in Oxford (Harry Potter and Narnia connections) and Hogmanay (New Year) in Glasgow at a very grand, old-style hotel in the centre of the city. We were too tired to stay up for ‘the bells’. Fort William (the Scottish Highlands), Edinburgh (more Harry Potter connections) and York were also on the itinerary. We covered just about the entire UK mainland – and everywhere: Brexit!

The newspapers, social media, TV, billboards can’t get enough of Brexit, and it’s the talk of the town, every town in the country. The refugee boats crossing the English Channel aren’t even front page news in the UK these days. People are tense, uncertain, divided, and there’s not much New Year optimism around.  The entire country is fretting about what’s about to happen. Will it be a hard or a soft Brexit?

I don’t pretend to have the answer – if there is one to be had – but I know how much I cherish being part of the European family and how proud I was to see the European Union for Progressive Judaism open its European office in Brussels, at Beth Hillel, at the joint home which Anglophone IJC shares with Francophone Beth Hillel. As the UK exits, progressive Jews reaffirm their unity.

In the course of history, the Christian churches separated from each other in a series of often ugly schisms. But while post-Enlightenment Judaism evolved into a variety of ‘denominational movements’, representing different understandings of the essence of Judaism, we nevertheless remain together, united by our sense of peoplehood as Klal Yisrael.  Exit has never been an option.

As progressive Jews, we celebrate and embrace difference and diversity, rooted deeply in Klal Yisrael and our rich and colourful Jewish tradition. The IJC exemplifies this in a multitude of ways. And if we need a New Year’s resolution, then I suggest we intensify our celebration and open our doors even wider to welcome those who want to be part of our welcoming Jewish family.

Brian Doyle is the IJC Rabbinical Intern