Laura Naomi Janner-Klausner (Hebrew: לוֹרָה ג׳אָנֶר-קלְוֹזנֶר, born 1 August 1963) is a British rabbi and an inclusion and development coach who served as the inaugural Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism from 2011 until 2020.[1][2][3] Janner-Klausner grew up in London before studying theology at the University of Cambridge and moving to Israel in 1985, living in Jerusalem for 15 years.[4] She returned to Britain in 1999 and was ordained at Leo Baeck College, serving as rabbi at Alyth Synagogue (North Western Reform Synagogue) until 2011. She has been serving as Rabbi at Bromley Reform Synagogue in south-east London since April 2022.[5][6]

Laura Janner-Klausner
Laura Janner

1 August 1963
London, United Kingdom
NationalityBritish and Israeli
SpouseDavid Janner-Klausner
ChildrenTal, Natan and Ella
Parent(s)Lord Janner of Braunstone,
Myra Sheink JP
DenominationReform Judaism
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge, Hebrew University, Jewish Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, Leo Baeck College
Jewish leader
PredecessorPosition created
PositionSenior Rabbi[1]
OrganisationMovement for Reform Judaism
BeganJanuary 2011
EndedSeptember 2020

Janner-Klausner represents a progressive Jewish voice to British Jewry and the wider public, speaking on affairs including Israel-Palestine, social justice, same-sex marriage and interfaith relations. Janner-Klausner is a regular broadcaster on programmes such as BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought and BBC One’s The Big Questions and Sunday Morning Live. In November 2014, The Huffington Post reported that Janner-Klausner was "fast becoming the most high-profile Jewish leader in the country" and described her as "wildly likeable, emphatic, intense, and outspoken".[3] In 2018 she featured in The Progress 1000 list of London's most influential people.[7] She has written a book on the theme of resilience, Bitesize Resilience: A Crisis Survival Guide, which was launched on 7 May 2020.[8] She is Co-Chair of the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives[9] and an honorary fellow of The Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion at the University of Birmingham.[10] She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Life and career edit

Early life and education edit

Janner-Klausner was raised in north London and attended South Hampstead High School. As a young girl, Janner-Klausner regularly travelled to constituency surgeries at the weekends with her father, Greville Janner, a QC and then a Labour Member of Parliament. Janner-Klausner's great-uncle, Emeritus Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Sir Israel Brodie, had a profound influence on her growing up.[3][4] Her siblings are Marion Janner OBE, a mental health campaigner, and Daniel Janner KC, a barrister.[11][12][13]

Initially a member of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, a congregation affiliated to the United Synagogue of Orthodox British Jews, Janner-Klausner has frequently cited her bat mitzvah as a pivotal moment. She was so disaffected by the experience[4] that she left Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue the very next day. Janner-Klausner subsequently became involved in youth activities at Alyth Gardens Reform Synagogue near Golders Green, developing a passion for Reform Judaism's values of egalitarianism and social justice and expressing interest in becoming a Rabbi as young as 13.[4]

Janner-Klausner spent her gap year in Israel and was a representative of British Reform Judaism at Machon L'Madrichei Chutz La'Aretz (The Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad).[4][14] She returned to London in 1982 and became a founding member of RSY-Netzer, which is now the largest Jewish youth movement in the United Kingdom.[15][16]

Janner-Klausner studied divinity at Trinity Hall, Cambridge (the alma mater of her father and brother),[17] where she was taught by Rowan Williams, later Archbishop of Canterbury. She studied alongside Linda Woodhead, now Professor in the sociology of religion at Lancaster University.[18] Janner-Klausner was on the Union of Jewish Students executive and ran her university's Israel Society and Progressive Jewish Society.[14] She graduated with a degree in Theological and Religious Studies from the University of Cambridge in 1985.[17]

Career in Israel edit

Following her graduation, aged 22, Janner-Klausner moved to Israel and began teaching Jewish history, Judaism and youth leadership at the Machon L'Madrichei Chutz La'Aretz.[1] She worked there continuously until 1998 and later became the Director of its English-speaking department.[4]

Janner-Klausner began working in 1992 at Melitz, an educational centre specialising in Jewish peoplehood based in Jerusalem, and later served as Director of the Centre for Christian Encounters with Israel, where she helped train Palestinian tour guides in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.[1] She also led Israeli-Palestinian dialogue facilitation for the European Union’s "The People's Peace" programme, following the Oslo I Accord of 1993.[1]

Before returning to live in London, Janner-Klausner had studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Jerusalem and acquired postgraduate degrees in Community Centre Management at the Hebrew University and Jewish Communal Service with a focus on Jewish education at Brandeis University, Massachusetts.[1]

Return to London edit

Janner-Klausner returned to London in 1999 with her husband David and their three children, citing the ideological intensity of living in Jerusalem as a primary reason.[4] She soon began training to become a rabbi at Leo Baeck College, serving many congregations as a trainee rabbi – including Alyth Synagogue (North Western Reform Synagogue), the synagogue where she had developed a passion for Reform Judaism and its egalitarian values as a teenager.[14] Following her ordination, Janner-Klausner became Rabbi at Alyth.

Janner-Klausner featured in a BBC radio series presented by Jonathan Freedland in 2008 entitled British Jews and the Dream of Zion, discussing the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine.[19] She then began to broadcast regularly on programmes such as BBC Radio 4's Today programme (in the Thought for the Day slot) and BBC One's The Big Questions.

Whilst Rabbi at Alyth, Janner-Klausner began chairing British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli human rights organisation. By 2011, she had served for eight years as Rabbi at Alyth, a community with 3000 members.[20]

Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism edit

In July 2011, Janner-Klausner became first Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism, a position initially entitled "Movement Rabbi".[21] Chair-elect of Reform Judaism, Jenny Pizer, said Janner-Klausner was "an influential broadcaster and writer, a great teacher and a popular rabbi of one of our flourishing communities".[21]

The Assembly of Reform Rabbis created the position to increase the voice of Reform Judaism and represent its constituent communities on a national level, both within the British Jewish community and general public.[21]

Shortly after being appointed, Janner-Klausner set improving periodically fraught relations between the Orthodox and Reform Judaism as part of her agenda. On the selection of Ephraim Mirvis as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations in December 2012, Janner-Klausner said: "I welcome the appointment of Rabbi Mirvis as another powerful voice for British Jewry. I look forward to working closely with him as a partner on areas of common interests to the Jewish and wider community".[22] Janner-Klausner has since said of Rabbi Mirvis: "he made some very positive noises about inclusivity and working together and it was really well received. It’s not playing out in reality, unfortunately."[3]

In November 2014, Janner-Klausner featured in "Beyond Belief" by The Huffington Post, a series of interviews with Britons who use faith "to create a force for positive change".[3] The article, entitled "How Britain's Only Female Head Of Faith Took On The Religious Establishment, And Won", explored Janner-Klausner's early life and professional career. It reported that she had dramatically improved the status of Reform Judaism in Britain and was "fast becoming the most high-profile Jewish leader in the country".[3]

On 7 July 2020, Janner-Klausner announced she would be stepping down as Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism. Reform Judaism Chair, Geoffrey Marx, said she had "transformed Reform Judaism" and "that her work has made Britain better".[2]

Bitesize Resilience: A Crisis Survival Guide edit

In May 2020, Janner-Klausner published her book Bitesize Resilience: A Crisis Survival Guide.[23] The book draws upon her pastoral experience as a Rabbi, and her personal experience of dealing with the allegations made against her father, to offer day-by-day guide to building resilience. As the book was completed during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, Janner-Klausner opted to use its release to encourage donations to the Molly Rose Foundation.

On 18 June 2020, Janner-Klausner was announced as the chair of the judging panel for the 2021 Wingate Literary Prize, described as "one of the Jewish world's top literary prizes".[24]

In 2022, it was announced that Janner-Klausner would return to the pulpit as the congregational rabbi at Bromley Reform Synagogue from April.[6]

Advocacy and views edit

Interfaith relations edit

Janner-Klausner is a prominent voice on British interfaith relations and regularly meets representatives of Christian and Muslim communities.[25] She is a President of the Council of Christians and Jews and has worked with organisations including the Three Faiths Forum and the Interfaith Network for the UK.[26] Having studied Christian theology at university, Janner-Klausner has worked with the Methodist Church,[27] the Church of Scotland[28] and the Quakers to deepen interfaith ties.[25]

In May 2013, following the murder of Lee Rigby, Janner-Klausner joined faith leaders in solidarity with Woolwich residents and its Muslim community at the Greenwich Islamic Centre. With far-right groups including the English Defence League and British National Party organising protests in response to the murder by a Muslim extremist, she stated that "a single extreme act... does not reflect on the wider British Muslim community".[29]

LGBT+ edit

Janner-Klausner strongly supports same-sex marriage, which she calls "equal marriage".[30] Referring to the legalisation of gay marriage, Janner-Klausner said "our starting point, middle point and finishing point is about equality".[30] In March 2014, same-sex marriage was legalised in Britain. Janner-Klausner signed an open letter from Christian and Jewish faith leaders including Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, and Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, voicing support for gay marriage. The leaders said they would "rejoice" in the introduction of gay marriage.[31] Janner-Klausner has been recognised as a religious leader in the area of anti-LGBT+ discrimination and has been appointed to the Ozanne Foundation's Inter-Religious Advisory Board.[32]

Refugees edit

Janner-Klausner has emerged as one of the leading British religious voices on the issue of refugee rights. She was involved in bringing the issue to public prominence, writing in August 2015 that "when Jewish people look at Calais migrants, we see ourselves"[33] and being one of the leading voices in a letter signed by over 200 Jewish representatives labelling the government's response "appalling".[34] Janner-Klausner was especially vocal on the topic of the Calais Jungle, visiting on multiple occasions. In September 2015, a short film was made documenting Janner-Klausner visiting the Jungle alongside Imam Qari Muhammad Asim.[35] During debate over the Dubs Amendment to the Immigration Bill to grant 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees entry to the UK, Janner-Klausner spoke extensively in its favour. She was at the forefront of a letter signed by many Rabbinic leaders calling for the Dubs Amendment to be adopted[36] and spoke out alongside Jewish leaders from a range of denominations after the amendment was initially rejected, saying "I believe Britain has the capacity and the will to do more during this crisis".[37] In September 2016, she addressed a crowd of 10,000 people at a Solidarity with Refugees rally in Trafalgar Square.[38]

Internationally, Rabbi Janner-Klausner has spoken out against the treatment of refugees crossing the US-Mexico border by the Trump administration, saying "the numbing of empathy, the dehumanisation of other people through the encouragement of disdain are documented stages in history that have led to atrocities and even genocides".[39]

Israel edit

Janner-Klausner is a progressive Zionist and considers Israel the spiritual and intellectual centre of Judaism and the Jewish people.[40] She supports two states for Israel and Palestine as the sustainable and just solution to the present conflict, having facilitated Israeli-Palestinian dialogue for the European Union whilst living in Jerusalem and led tours to the West Bank with British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights.[40] She is a past chair of British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights.[4]

Religious power edit

Janner-Klausner is especially interested in the relationship between religion and power. She has criticised religious fundamentalists, proposing that literalist interpretations of religious text "worship words instead of God". At the Bath Literature Festival in March 2013, she spoke about the importance of challenging religious belief and suggested "we need to lock faith and doubt together".[41]

At the Limmud Conference in December 2013, Janner-Klausner delivered a JDOV speech about "Power and its Discontents", addressing themes of power and powerlessness in Judaism.[42] Before the speech at JDOV or "Jewish Dreams, Observations and Visions", a British Jewish organisation inspired by TED talks,[43] she wrote: "I strongly believe in inverting the power pyramid so that everyone claims their opportunity to play their part in decisions that affect themselves and their communities".[42]

Personal life edit

Janner-Klausner was introduced by an aunt to her husband, David, in Jerusalem in 1986.[4] They married in 1988 and have three children: Tali, Natan and Ella.[3][44] Dr David Janner-Klausner was Programme and Planning Director at the United Jewish Israel Appeal and currently works as Director of Business Development at Commonplace Digital Ltd.[45] He is the brother of Amos Oz, the Israeli author.[45]

Janner-Klausner speaks fluent Hebrew.[3][45]

Recognition edit

She was recognized as one of the BBC's 100 women of 2013.[46]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f Movement for Reform Judaism. "Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism". Movement for Reform Judaism. Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  2. ^ a b Mendel, Jack (7 July 2020). "Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner to leave role". Jewish News. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Elgot, Jessica (17 November 2014). "How Britain's Only Female Head Of Faith Took On The Religious Establishment, And Won". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rocker, Simon (28 July 2011). "Laura Janner-Klausner: Why I'm not the Reform rival to the Chief Rabbi". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Former senior Reform rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner to take over at Bromley shul". Jewish News. 8 February 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  6. ^ a b Toberman, Barry (8 February 2022). "Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner announces return to the pulpit". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  7. ^ "The Progress 1000: London's most influential people 2018 – Social pillars: Faith". Evening Standard. 10 October 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Leading Reform rabbi: 'How I found meaning in pain". Jewish News. 5 May 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  9. ^ "Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives". Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives.
  10. ^ "The Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion". The Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion.
  11. ^ Rosen, Robyn (12 February 2010). "Marion Janner (and Buddy) collect OBE". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  12. ^ Gibb, Frances "Tax barrister stands for BNP", The Times (Law Central blog), 23 March 2010
  13. ^ "Daniel Janner QC". 23 Essex Street. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  14. ^ a b c Wachmann, Doreen. "Reform greeting for the new chief Rabbi". Jewish Telegraph. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  15. ^ "SDRS and 'The Reform Movement'". Southend and District Reform Synagogue. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  16. ^ RSY-Netzer. "What is RSY-Netzer?". RSY-Netzer. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  17. ^ a b "Cambridge tripos", The Times, 25 June 1985, p. 26.
  18. ^ Taylor, Matthew. "RSA Podcasts". Royal Society of Arts. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  19. ^ "British Jews and the Dream of Zion". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  20. ^ North Western Reform Synagogue. "Past Rabbis". North Western Reform Synagogue. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  21. ^ a b c Movement for Reform Judaism. "New Voice for British Jews" (Press release). Movement for Reform Judaism. Archived from the original on 2 June 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  22. ^ Shaviv, Miriam (17 December 2012). "UK Jewry names its next Chief Rabbi". Times of Israel. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  23. ^ "Leading Reform rabbi: 'How I found meaning in pain'". Jewish News. 7 June 2020. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  24. ^ "Reform leader Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner to chair Wingate Prize judging panel". Jewish News. 18 June 2020. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  25. ^ a b Williams, Andrew (17 June 2013). "Quaker Committee for Christian and Interfaith Relations e-network mailing Summer 2013". Quakers in Britain. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
  26. ^ "Presidents". Council of Christians and Jews. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  27. ^ Gee, Ruth (1 December 2013). "Glimpses in Israel and Palestine". The President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  28. ^ Movement for Reform Judaism. "Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner in dialogue with Church of Scotland". Movement for Reform Judaism. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  29. ^ Movement for Reform Judaism. "Showing solidarity in Woolwich". Movement for Reform Judaism. Archived from the original on 2 June 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  30. ^ a b Janner-Klausner, Laura (17 March 2012). "The Moral Maze: Gay Marriage". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  31. ^ The Huffington Post UK (28 March 2014). "Gay Marriage: Bishops And Rabbis Sign Letter Saying They 'Rejoice' In New Law". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 September 2023.
  32. ^ Wakefield, Lily (30 June 2020). "Leaders from every major religion join forces to fight homophobia, end conversion therapy and protect trans people". PinkNews. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  33. ^ Janner-Klausner, Laura (13 August 2015). "When Jewish people look at Calais migrants, we see ourselves". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  34. ^ Maguire, Liam (12 August 2015). "Response to migrant crisis is appalling, British Jews tell Cameron". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  35. ^ Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and Imam Qari Muhammad Asim MBE in Calais. YouTube. Movement for Reform Judaism. 16 October 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
  36. ^ "Letters: The EU doesn't work as a political union because one size simply cannot fit all". The Daily Telegraph. 23 April 2016. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  37. ^ Docherty, Rosa. "Jewish groups disappointed after Lord Dubs's plan on child refugees is voted down by MPs". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  38. ^ "Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner at Solidarity with Refugees rally". Movement for Reform Judaism. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  39. ^ Helm, Toby; Tapper, James (23 June 2018). "UK rabbi warns of genocide risk in Trump policies". The Guardian.
  40. ^ a b British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights. "Trips". British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  41. ^ Maude, David (7 March 2013). "Bath Literature Festival: Believers lose faith in the role of religion in the classroom". The Independent. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  42. ^ a b JDOV. "Laura Janner-Klausner; Power and its Discontents". JHub. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  43. ^ Shkolnikov, Alina. "Five Inspiring JDOV Talks from Limmud UK". Presentense Group. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  44. ^ Harpin, Emma (26 October 2012). "Working Mothers – in pictures". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  45. ^ a b c Movement for Reform Judaism. "Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner in the Times". Movement for Reform Judaism. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  46. ^ "100 Women: Who took part?". BBC News. 20 October 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2022.

External links edit