Rituals & Worship

Early Liberal Jewish services made significant departures from Orthodox worship. Men and women sat together, the majority of the service was in English and men were not required to cover their heads in synagogue. Liberal Jewish worship has continued to change up until the present day. Differences in ritual and music can be seen over time and across communities. Some Liberal Jews are returning to more traditional forms of worship, increasing prayers recited in Hebrew and re-introducing traditional practices including processing the Torah scrolls and celebrating Bar and Bat Mitzvah.

Some developments are shared across communities, for example, the introduction of new prayer books. The liberal prayer book has been updated a number of times and is currently in the process of a new edition.

In other respects communities differ when deciding upon the balance of Hebrew and English in the service, choice of music and accompaniment and whether to process the Torah scrolls. Changes in the liturgy and ritual aspects of communal worship often elicit emotional responses and reflect the diversity of choice amongst Liberal Jews.


The custom of wearing a hat or not wearing a hat must be left to the choice of the individual. He must be impressed with the belief that the thoughts which prevail under the hat can lead him to God, not the hat itself…. It would seem as if in the minds of the questioners the future of Judaism depended on the wearing of a hat.

Lily Montagu


This episode explores the theme of rituals and worship

In this episode Liberal Jews of all ages recall aspects of the synagogue service and the way it continues to change.

The memories recorded here describe recent innovations such as the new prayer book. Others remember the early years of Liberal Judaism. Recollections include the preferences of individual synagogues, particularly in relation to the style of music at services. In addition to these differences over time and between congregations, individual liberal Jews also express their personal preferences in terms of their faith, belief in God and feelings about inclusivity. Participants also consider how Lily Montagu might regard Liberal Jewish Worship as it is practiced today.

Their voices reflect the diversity and dynamic nature of Liberal Judaism which is often at the forefront of change and refuses to stand still.

You can read a transcript of the podcast HERE

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Rabbi Andrew Goldstein describes the opportunity Liberal Judaism offers for communities to share their diversity of music styles and learn new melodies together as one family.

Carolynne reflects on how her family’s Orthodox roots continue to influence her Jewish practice and the ‘melting pot’ of rituals across Liberal Jewish communities.

David shares how Liberal Jewish services have changed since the early days when the prayer book was primarily in English and accompanied by a hymn book.

David remembers the ways in which his community both struggled with and challenged the professional choir and the move to a congregational choir.


I personally regret the emphasis on Hebrew because most of the congregation do not think in Hebrew and I think you should pray in the language in which you think and, of course, I was brought up by Lily Montagu and Marjorie Moos and we didn’t have to learn Hebrew in those days. So for Lily Montagu, having prayers and conducting services in English was very much about them being accessible and comprehensible to people.

Rita Adler