Religion 11 December 2006 A Jewish Path How a Midwestern American Christian began her journey towards liberal Judaism Sign UpGet the New Statesman\'s Morning Call email. Sign-up I am a Jew – a Liberal Jew. Why do I immediately qualify my statement of identification with the adjective "liberal"? To acknowledge forthrightly that anyone who discusses religion will have a bias that has been determined by their personal history, education and lived experience. It is precisely through emphasising the existence of this bias that I identify myself with other religious progressives. I cannot purport to speak for Judaism. I am an individual Jew, speaking about my Judaism. Having said that, I am obliged to tell you about myself. I was born and educated in the United States, though I have chosen to make Britain my home. I was not born Jewish, but rather began life as a generic Midwestern American Christian. I grew up affirming the trinity, without really understanding what it meant. It was only when I reached my teenage years that I began to have serious doubts. I kept my scepticism to myself, however, as much of my social life revolved around our church. It was so much more comfortable to fit in. Once I became an independent adult, I turned my back on religion entirely. One reason for this was my perception of the connections between the churches and right-wing politics. I couldn’t make any sense of this, given how I read the core message of the Bible, and particularly the prophetic texts. As my own political consciousness grew, so did my discomfort with the tradition I was raised in. Not being aware of any alternative, and frankly not seeing the necessity for one, I simply withdrew from any connection with religion for more than a decade. In my early 30’s, I decided that I wanted to return to full time education to study for an MA. Despite having a successful career in retailing, I had felt that my life lacked meaning and purpose. Thus, in addition to my studies, I became active in a number of groups that were trying to make the world a better place: environmental groups, human rights watches, anti-poverty campaigns, and so on. Over time I came to realise that there were a disproportionate number of Jews among my activist friends. When I asked one of them why he thought this was, he shrugged and said, "This is just what Jews do." I was intrigued. I bought a few books, visited the local synagogue, and my learning about Jews and Judaism had begun. I didn’t leave my scepticism about religion behind as I began my studies. That was one of the great delights in discovering Judaism. All my questions were allowed! I could argue with the textual tradition, question its provenance, re-interpret it. Best of all, no one started out by telling me what I must believe. Thus I learned that Judaism is not rooted not in dogma, but rather on practice and on community. This fundamental difference made re-engagement with religion possible for me. › A bit of mourning before getting organised Rabbi Janet Burden was ordained in July 2002. Born and educated in the US she now lives in Britain. She previously worked for Oxfam. Subscribe For daily analysis & more political coverage from Westminster and beyond subscribe for just £1 per month!