Foreword to the digital edition from Rabbi Tony Bayfield, Founding Editor
MANNA – TORAH MIN HASHAMAYIM
MANNA first appeared in 1983. As the newly appointed Director of the Manor House (later Sternberg) Centre for Judaism, I was determined to give the progressive Jewish world in Britain a journal which would show what progressive Judaism is all about – not a specialist, academic periodical but one which would make accessible both its breadth and depth.
I was joined in the enterprise by former Fleet Street journalist Rabbi Willy Wolff – who allowed me the illusion of editing MANNA but then sub-ed the copy without deference to the eminence (or sensitivities) of the contributor. We were soon joined by renowned graphic artist Charles Front who designed each issue, supplied many illustrations and even cartoons. Together we ensured MANNA’s quarterly appearance, on time, for nearly 28 years. Funded by its subscribers and advertisers, the latter often with great personal generosity, it grew physically and in vision through the years.
Looking back over 110 issues I’m astonished at those who contributed – unpaid – to MANNA. You’ll find great writers – Arnold Wesker, Lynne Reid Banks – and also Movement members contributing ‘views from the pews’, memoirs, short stories. Irrepressible letter-writer Barry Hyman even interviewed the Duke of Edinburgh.
Masorti, Liberal, Reform and Orthodox rabbis contributed regularly – including Louis Jacobs, John Rayner, Hugo Gryn and Isaac Levy. So did some of the Jewish world’s greatest theologians, amongst them Eugene Borowitz, Emil Fackenheim, David Hartman and Richard Rubenstein. As did Basil Hume, Stuart Blanch and Richard Harries. The Muslim voice was a constant from the late 1980s. Leading journalists – Chaim Bermant, Daniel Finkelstein, Michael Freedland and Melanie Phillips – all grace the pages of MANNA, along with politicians from Abba Eban to Tony Blair and David Miliband.
Our rabbis have always been major contributors – amongst them Lionel Blue, Albert Friedlander, David Goldberg and Dow Marmur; Miriam Berger, Howard Cooper, Jonathan Magonet, Jeffrey Newman, Jonathan Romain, Elli Sarah, Sheila Shulman, Awraham Soetendorp and Alexandra Wright.
MANNA consistently addresses the key religious issues of today – the nature of Torah, our halakhic inheritance and also Judaism’s response to contemporary political issues – Kosovo, 9/11, the unending struggle for Israel’s existence and the plight of the Palestinians. MANNA is a vital vehicle for the development of egalitarianism and feminist theology both internally and in wider society.
Articles trace the challenges of liturgical reform and synagogue design and structure. MANNA also addresses Jewish art, film, literature, music, theatre and even Jewish carpets –art historian Julia Weiner contributing numerous reviews of the contemporary art world and Nicholas Hytner offering a remarkable perspective on theatre today. History is never neglected with contributions from Geoffrey Alderman, Yehuda Bauer, Lawrence Freedman and Martin Gilbert. Ludwik Finkelstein’s pioneering work on the history of Reform in Eastern Europe found an eager outlet in MANNA.
MANNA explores Jewish sociology and demography, communal structure and politics, medical ethics and the social determinants of health, science and religion, educational policy, business ethics, social justice and human rights. Judaism and psychotherapy are constant themes with the pioneering work of Irene Bloomfield and Wendy Greengross central to many issues. Ecology and climate change feature early and ever more insistently.
Sadly, MANNA has ceased publication – a reflection of changing priorities. But the 110 issues are a treasure trove of relevance, far from a historical relic. Words cannot express my gratitude to James Leek and others for rescuing and reviving MANNA digitally from its burial alive. Thankfully, MANNA can continue to sustain Anglo-Jewry with conviction and commitment as it marches onwards through the 21st century.
I’ve drawn heavily from MANNA in Being Jewish Today: Confronting the Real Issues (Bloomsbury, September 2019). Readers will now be able to consult the citations from MANNA!
Rabbi Tony Bayfield CBE, DD (Cantuar)
Professor of Jewish Theology and Thought, Leo Baeck College, May 2019
Foreword to the digital edition from Rabbi William Wolff, Sub-editor
I took over writing Last Word for issue 13 in the Autumn of 1986 in succession to Rabbi David Goldberg, who was the author for the first 12 issues. I mourn his recent passing in April 2019 with a depth of feeling that is mingled with gratitude for a happy personal, and working, relationship. In issue 12 Rabbi Goldberg explained the ethos of his column: ” Humour is a necessary safety valve to pomposity & hypocrisy in communal life” and I decided to follow that general line with the instruction to myself to neither be boring nor take ourselves too seriously – and at the same time to enjoy the best of Anglo-Jewry. I was still under 60, when I took over, and looking back now, at a slightly more mature age of 92, I am amazed at how much I knew in those days! It’s wonderful to think that Manna will now come to life again in its digitalised online form and I hope that a new generation will get as much enjoyment from it, as I did from my writing it.
At best a farewell is bitter sweet -this one is mingled with the joy of a close partnership with Rabbi Tony Bayfield. Thank you Tony, with all my heart.
Rabbi William Wolff, May 2019