I really, really like the Edinburgh Progressive community. They are lovely, lovely people, incredibly friendly and welcoming. And proud of the fact that they have a lot of converts and people from non-traditional backgrounds, which is really heartening. For a long time they were calling themselves the Edinburgh branch of Glasgow Reform, but recently decided they wanted to stand on their own feet. For various reasons mainly to do with interpretations of Jewish status they ended up affiliating Liberal rather than Reform.
The result of this is that they're still getting used to the Liberal 'brand' and identity. Today's service, for example, was their first introduction to the Liberal prayer book. They insist on doing Reform-ish things that horrify dyed in the wool Liberals, like making a fuss of the Torah scroll as a physical object. They gave me the honour of holding up and displaying the scroll in front of the community. This is kind of a ritualized trial of strength thing (as many Torah scrolls are extremely heavy), and it's not usual for women to do it even in an egalitarian context. I was able to manage it because the Edinburgh scroll is unusually small, but I found it nerve-racking and also strange, because it's just not a ritual rôle that is normal for me.
R Aaron Goldstein, the visiting rabbi who led the service, is a Liberal rabbi who is the son of another Liberal rabbi. He's very flexible about including bits from different traditions into the liturgy, but there was a bit of a culture clash between him and the community even so. He's quite into Jewish Renewal and the like, which means bringing meditative practices of various sorts into the service. That's not really my thing but he was very sensitive and not over-the-top about it; I found the guitar playing a bit much but that's just my background and prejudices.
Anyway there was a discussion session afterwards where the differences in approach became very apparent. R Goldstein wanted to discuss the second prayer in the Amidah which is about God "who makes the dead live", literally. And he was surprised when this turned into an argument about resurrection and whether the Liberal translation of that prayer is fair. I mean, I take his point that Judaism has always been ambivalent about resurrection, and there are reasonable readings of that prayer that are not about resurrection, but only someone completely immersed in the Liberal world could forget that resurrection was the first thing that would come to most people's mind on reading that prayer. And then he said, as a throwaway line, "The laws about sacrifices would only become relevant if the Temple were rebuilt – God forbid!" and was surprised when this started a completely off-topic debate about whether we want and pray for the restoration of the Temple. It's really quite sweet that he's so hard-core Liberal he thinks these issues are done and dusted!
Anyway, yay Edinburgh LJC!