This time of the year between Purim and Pesach is usually a flurry of activity, spring cleaning our houses, waking up to all those things we have been putting off through the long winter months. In HJC, we have finally started our Hebrew Learning sessions, and some of us also took part in Purim activities in various locations. Following our Pesach Seder, we will be preparing for our AGM in May, which is an opportunity to see what we have achieved in the year. Despite members leaving, we still manage to put on a successful variety of events, and we also have new members joining us for activities, so for now HJC is an active community.
In this edition:
Chair Chat NIF/Yachad Security Conference Purim News
Leo Baeck Youth Orchestra Concert Herefordshire Interfaith Group report
A Worcestershire Jewish Mystery Donation Thank you letters
CHAIR CHAT April 2016
We have been fortunate while Rabbi Anna is on leave to have arranged a number of visiting rabbis to lead services for us. Rabbi Margaret Jacobi came to Colwall on Saturday February 27 and we had an interesting session before the service on the “Aleinu,” discussing why some progressive Jews are uncomfortable with the prayer and looking at a few alternative versions. It is always a pleasure to welcome Margaret on one of her visits from Birmingham as there are many links between our two congregations.
We had hoped to say a fond farewell at this service to Andrea Berry-Ottaway who is moving to Banbury to be closer to her daughter. Unfortunately, Andrea was not well enough to attend but we sent her all our best wishes.
We were very pleased to welcome Rabbi Alexandra Wright, the senior rabbi from the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London, to our Friday night service on March 11. This was the first service we have held in the Burgage Hall in Ledbury which I felt was a very nice venue for us, despite the difficulty in parking. Rabbi Alexandra gave a very interesting talk about changing attitudes to Purim and it was particularly nice for her to welcome back Hanna Wine (who is also a member of LJS) to the community after her spell in hospital in London. Alex also very kindly donated to us a newly published collection of sermons from women rabbis which anyone in the community is welcome to borrow.
We look forward to welcoming you all to our communal Seder at the Saxon Hall in Hereford on Tuesday April 24 (booking forms have already gone out). I feel it is particularly appropriate this year to consider our own exodus when so many migrants are making perilous journeys to escape civil wars and poverty.
Finally, in our line up of visiting rabbis, we are looking forward to the visit of Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, currently President of Liberal Judaism, to Saxon Hall on Saturday June 11 to mark Anne Frank Day and the anniversary of our tree planting ceremony. Please help to make this a very special day for us.
As last year, we are holding this at the Trumpet Inn, Ledbury HR8 2RA on Sunday May 22. This was a very successful venue and meeting last year, so let’s hope we can repeat the performance. This is also a chance to air your views about the events of HJC in the past year, and, of course, elect Council Members for the next year. We have lost some very valued Council members over the last two years and have been running on low numbers for several months, so would welcome new members to Council. HJC can only continue to run well if all of us play a part, however small, in helping organise our activities, so please let us know if you think you can help. You will also be able to enjoy a nice Sunday lunch (pre order forms will be going out shortly).
Many thanks to the “volunteers” who have filled this important role. A service is not the same without a nosh and a nice cup of tea afterwards. As in many areas, we very much miss the organising ability of Andrea and welcome any offers of help.
New Israel Fund and Yachad Security Conference: London, 6th March 2016
Report by Jacquie Hannan
The annual Security Conference was held in the Cavendish Conference Rooms near Regent Street, London, between 09.15 and 16.30. It was good to see the security presence of a police van outside as well.
The NIF’s inception was in 1979 and to paraphrase from their web site, they are a progressive organisation advocating for a tolerant, democratic and inclusive Israel, empowering marginalized Israelis and discourse in the Diaspora. They speak up for civil rights and religious tolerance issues.
There were Open Plenary meetings to begin with through the morning followed by one hour lively sessions with smaller groups, such as focussing on border security, followed by questions and answers. There were many interesting speakers for instance Ami Ayaloon who was a former director of Shin Bet. Apparently all the surviving former heads of Shin Bet favour a two state solution, as well as around half of the population.
The Opening Plenary Part 1.
On that panel were Aziz Abu Sarah, an East Jerusalem resident who attended Israel College of the Bible, who felt the government has failed to make all Israelis feel secure; Eyal Ben-Reuven of the Zionist Union who sees a two state solution as the only feasible solution to end the conflict, while retaining Israel as both a Jewish and Democratic state; Daniel Seideman; Talia Sasoon; and chaired by Jonathan Friedland.
An attempt has been made here to relay an amalgam of some of the themes.
“Core Security Challenges”
No-one knows what will happen, intelligence of the US and other countries can’t see the future, and the borders change every day. Syria is no longer a state. They see Russia attack Syria from the Golan Heights. The situation is very unstable, very dangerous, and they have to be prepared for anything. When they left they had been 51 days under missile and mortar attacks and Iran and Hezbollah are getting more confident. Jordan is struggling under 1 million refugees. Security is better than before 1967 but Hezbollah is dangerous. A new relationship is needed with Saudi and Egypt. The region has changed, Syria will be different, nobody is addressing existential threats, and Israelis need access to the Holy sites. Ceasefires mean 150 are killed a day instead of 250. Jordan must be kept stable and will need Israel to protect them, Lebanon is very stable. Security in the south is better since the disengagement. There are many Eritrean refugees. The people need to be given hope but there is high distrust. EU is an example that free trade can be achieved, however the BDS is unhelpful, Israelis think the world is against them. Israel and Jordan had common operations.
It was an informative conference and well worth attending.
Alison Turner writes:
Marc and I went to see Hen Bradshaw and her husband Gary for Purim. We went to the Nottingham Liberal Synagogue, with Isaac in a bear suit a friend made for him and I wore one of the hats Hen has made. She’ll be selling the hats if anyone would like one. The Nottingham community is very lively and we all had great fun, reading the megillah, playing games and having a splendid kiddush, with whisky and wine as well as soft drinks and many sorts of hamantaschen and other food. Isaac distinguished himself by saying a coherent sentence, he kept dropping his rattle and at one point was most insistent “Hen get it”. She is much more experienced in baby talk than me, and was most impressed that he says “ank oo” for thank you and can use a straw. We were made most welcome by the community.
Hen Bradshaw writes: “Hi, everyone, I am settled well in Chesterfield and thanks to Alison and Marc Turner, I have broken the ice with the Nottingham Liberal Community.
They made me so welcome and I have had volunteers to help me within the Shul, when I attend services. Rabbi Tanya is lovely and very bubbly, much like Rabbi Anna. Alison is posting photographs of Purim, where Alison and I won a prize for our hats.”
Leo Baeck Youth Orchestra Concert BPS
On 22 March, I went with our sometime members, Ralph and Val Eskinasi to the Purim evening concert given by Leo Baeck Youth orchestra at Birmingham Progressive Synagogue. It is always a pleasure to go to an event at BPS, as they have very welcoming premises, and are always happy to have visitors. This was a Big Band orchestra with a wide range of instruments including brass section, saxophone, a number of flutes and the usual classical orchestra instruments.
The orchestra is composed of young people in their final two years of school, all of whom give up much of their spare time to be part of the orchestra. This concert was one of six they are giving in the UK and they have also performed in Ireland and several locations in Germany.
They played a medley of different pieces, all with panache and flair, ranging from contemporary Israeli pop, to old favourites, such as Hallelujah, and Over the Rainbow. Many pieces had been re-arranged for them by their musical conductor, David Sofer, a quietly spoken, but impressive young Israeli. The most powerful items for me were one in which the only male singer in the band sang an oriental style Salaam Shalom melody, and another slower and traditional melody, but the high energy contemporary items were also enjoyable.
The concert was followed by a Q & A session with members of the orchestra and their musical director. One question related to where they perform, which included old people’s homes, school concerts, and to Holocaust survivors. It was also an opportunity to hear directly from the players, which showed their enthusiasm and variety of experience , including one ex-student, who is now an officer in the Israeli Defence Forces.
There are a number of projects in the Haifa area, all interlinked, of which this is one. For more information, see: http://www.npls.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/LBEC-Youth-Big-Band-Orchestra-Resume.pdf
Herefordshire Interfaith Meeting – report by Alison Turner
I went to the Kindle Centre in Hereford for an International Women’s Day event on 5 March, which was run by Ani-La Choesang Venerable Tsuiltrim Tenzin Choesang and attended by about 30 people. Most of them were Christians of various denominations and a few were of no particular spiritual path. In the morning we started with meditation and lighting candles, then split into pairs or threes and made corsages for each other. This was a good way to get to know each other and led on to making cards and artworks. The cards are Artists Friendship Cards, part of a project to connect to women across the world, in an attempt to break down barriers of ignorance and suspicion of those of different cultures. At first we will write as a group to another group, then hope to progress to individual contacts. Anyone who wants to join would be very welcome, please contact email@example.com
We had a vegetarian buffet lunch together, then dancing with live music and sharing our stories of how our faith and spirituality influences and supports us. It was a lively and interesting day, I learnt a lot about Christian Science, Bahai faith and attitudes to women in different faiths. We shared literature from our religions and many people did not know there was a Jewish community here, so it was well worth attending on a community as well as personal level.
We are at last beginning our Hebrew Learning groups with one group meeting in Malvern and one in Monmouth. First meetings are planned f or 5th and 19th April. We have a range of resources and will report back on progress following the initial meetings. The groups are open to anyone wanting to improve their Hebrew at whatever level. If anyone else would like to be part of these groups (or set up another one), let us know, as we did not receive completed Hebrew surveys from all members. If you did not know the Hebrew alphabet includes 5 final letters, three pairs of double letters, two pairs of same sounding letters, and two silent letters, here is your chance to find out more, and if this is really true.
Note , we are still looking for transport for Hereford members to join the Monmouth group. Julian Brown & Cherry Wolfe
High Holyday Appeal Thank you letters
We have received letters from St Michael’s Hospice and from Medecins Sans Frontieres in response to our donations. We have not yet heard back from the Children of Peace charity.
A Fascinating Story – Worcestershire mystery
Recently I was contacted by a man living not far from me, who wanted to make a link with a local Jewish community on account of a Tallith bag, which had a story attached to it. Read on for more information.
‘This story goes back to the Second World War, and who knows, perhaps further than that. Geographically it goes from some unknown country in Central Europe to a Prisoner of War Camp in Kent, and from there to rural Worcestershire.
It begins with a young man, perhaps 16 years old or younger. All we know is that he was clearly well below the age to be enlisted and fight as a solider, and yet, this young man turns up, badly wounded, in a prisoner of War camp in Kent, during the war. We do not know where he came from, but we do know one more unusual fact – that he was Jewish, or at the very least had a close connection with a Jewish family. Why would a young Jewish teenager end up wounded in a British P.O.W. camp? As a Jew it is very unlikely he would have been a German, but equally it is unlikely he would have been Polish, if in a P.O. W. camp. It is more possible he could have been Ukrainian, but all this is pure conjecture.
This is also a story of kindness, and here comes the connection with Worcestershire, where there was a large Ministry of Defence site, called the Air Defence Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE) based at the North edge of Malvern. We don’t know the precise details, as these were highly secret at the time, but we do know that there were frequent deliveries from ADRDE to this P.O.W. camp in Kent, and it wasn’t long before the wounded young lad, came to the attention of the ADRDE drivers, who felt sorry for him, and his plight, as he surely should not have been in such a situation. A lady from Malvern Link close by to the M.O.D. establishment, had a sister who worked in the canteen at ADRDE, and when she got to hear of this young man, she too felt sorry for him, so much so, that she decided to use her sweet ration (quite precious at that time) to buy sweets which she sent with the drivers to be given to this young man. This went on for several visits, and the young man was clearly very grateful for the sweets.
All in all, we know that at some point, this lady decided she wanted to visit the young man. Now visiting P.O.W’s was not a normal procedure in wartime Britain, and permission had to be sought, but it was in fact, granted. Not only that, but details of the train journey and times, and confirmation that she would be collected from the station in Kent by someone from the camp were sent to her for her visit the next month. You can imagine the anticipation on both sides before the meeting, but before this could happen, the young man tragically died from his injuries. This, however is not the end of the story, and this is where the Jewish connection comes in.
The young man had in his possession what he called a prayer mat, which in fact we now know was a Tallith bag, the velvet bag used to keep Tallith or prayer shawl , and which all orthodox Jews would have in their possession. This particular bag was in maroon velvet, with Hebrew Inscription embroidered in gold and initials MS embroidered on the back flap. The lad has asked before his death, that the bag be given to the kind lady from Malvern and sure enough the drivers brought the bag back to her. This whole story is quite amazing, if you consider Britain was at war, and yet all these actions were done on behalf of someone who was, at least, technically, the enemy.
Transcribed by Julian Brown from conversations with Jackie Davies and Paul Amphlett, March 2016
HJC Communal Seder
There’s still time to book for HJC Communal Seder, which will be held at Saxon Hall. We look forward to an enjoyable and stimulating evening.
LJ Biennial – 7 p.m. Friday 1st July – 4 p.m. Sunday 3rd July, St John’s Hotel, Solihull
This is Liberal Judaism’s biggest event and is an opportunity to find out all the latest on LJ thinking, to go to a wide range of Limmud style workshops and discussions, and most of all to meet with a wide range of members of other Liberal Jewish Communities, as well as meet many of the diverse group of Liberal Jewish Rabbis. I promise you, you will not come back from this event disappointed.
For this year’s Biennial, LJ comment:
Liberal Judaism is in the initial stages of developing a new Siddur, this is a chance to be part of thinking what this will look like, but even more so it is an opportunity to think of new ways to use music, literature and arts within our communities. The Conference aims to combine study with practical explorations of what it means to enliven and enrich our congregations and our own personal spiritual, cultural and social Jewish lives. Rabbi Charley Baginsky, chair of the Biennial Weekend organising committee, said:
“Liberal Judaism has always been at the forefront of Progressive Jewish life, pushing us to think about the future in ways that can build on our heritage and our past”
Book now online, in order to secure your place, by following the link http://tinyurl.com/bien2016 or for more information call Aaron at the Montagu Centre on 020 7631 9830
The rate is per person and includes accommodation, all meals and materials. All delegates will receive complimentary access to the hotel’s health club, swimming pool and spa. Day attendance bookings are also available.
Deadline for next newsletter will be 15 May 2016
Please send in contributions in WORD or pdf format if possible, but articles sent in by post are also welcome. In general contributions should be no longer than 500 – 750 wds, but longer contributions may be included if appropriate. Pictures also welcome, but please try to keep image sizes small and below 1 Mb. All contributions are welcome but depending on format, the editor reserves the right to edit or hold over to a future edition if needed.
HJC Diary of Events
Sunday 24 April HJC Communal Seder 6.30 p.m. at Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE
Sunday 22 May AGM at Trumpet Inn, near Ledbury, Herefordshire 11.30 a.m. Trumpet Inn, near Ledbury, Herefordshire. HR8 2RA
Saturday 11 June Anne Frank Day Service led by Rabbi Andrew Goldstein time t.b.c. at Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE
Other Events of Interest
July 1st – 3rd Liberal Judaism Biennial Conference 7 p.m. start St John’s Hotel, Solihull