As I write this we are approaching Pesach, a Festival of Freedom. Our communal Seder is always a time when we remember those in other communities and other times in our history, who are not, or were not, as free as we are in Herefordshire Community. It’s a time both to celebrate our freedom and to do what we can to bring about the freedom of others. It’s also an opportunity for us to develop the freedom from the limitations we impose on ourselves. Taking that first step is sometimes the hardest, as was the case for that first Hebrew to enter the Red Sea when the waters parted in the Pesach story.
There are some important events to look forward to in our calendar, once Pesach has ended. They include a Baby naming ceremony for Alison and Marc Turner’s son, Isaac which will be held on 11 July. For this event we hope Rabbi Danny Rich will be present. However prior to that we have our AGM on Sunday10 May where we hope to have lunch together at a pub, which is a new venture for HJC, and should be an enjoyable event for our community as well as a practical one.
I wish everyone a happy, healthy and enjoyable Pesach, and Chag Sameach,
We had a wonderful Purimspiel using Rabbi Anna’s “Megillah Musical” with tunes from well known shows. Although there was some initial reluctance to take on roles, we eventually had an all star cast with Cherry and Jonathan displaying hidden talents as Vashti and Haman respectively. It was great to see everyone enjoying themselves but Anna also reminded us of the less savoury aspects of the Purim story, which is why for many years it wasn’t celebrated by Liberal Judaism.
Just to whet your appetite. Following our traditional communal Seder on Thursday April 9, we will be holding our AGM on Sunday May 10 at 12 noon at a local hostelry. The idea is that we hold our meeting between 11.30 and 1 p.m., followed by a hearty Sunday lunch. As I mentioned at the Purim service, there are some important proposed changes to our constitution that we would like to discuss with you. Venue to be decided upon but please keep the date free.
We will have another Shabbat morning service at Colwall with Rabbi Anna on Saturday May 16.
Last, but by no means least, there is Isaac Turner’s baby naming ceremony and Shabbat service on Saturday July 11 in Hereford.
Sir Martin Gilbert
I was very sorry to hear of the recent death of this great historian. His output was prodigious, writing an eight volume biography of Churchill and over 80 books on twentieth century history. All his works, including the many on various aspects of Judaism and Israel, are extremely well written, detailed and objective. My favourite volumes are “A Holocaust Journey”, in which he took a group of his postgraduate students around eastern Europe to visit sites connected with the Shoah, and “Letters to Auntie Fori” in which he told the history of Judaism in bite sized letter chunks originally written to an Indian lady he had adopted as an aunt.
Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to Britain, summed up his contribution: “If modern Jewish history has a voice, it is the voice of Sir Martin Gilbert. It is hard to think of anyone who has done as much to document, to educate and to inspire, with passion and authenticity, the history of the Jews in modern times, the tragedy of the Shoah, the struggles of Jews in Arab lands and the Soviet Union, and the inspiring return of the Jewish people to statehood in the land of Israel. These were but a part of his extraordinary corpus of 80 works, which not only brought him recognition as a world class historian in many different fields, but enabled him to see and describe Jewish history against the canvass of world events.”
The old question – do we constitute a “people”, a civilisation/culture or are we “just” a religion? The best attempted answer for me to this came in an article by Brian Klug which Angela kindly sent to me:
“Why is “Jewish” the Houdini among identities: always escaping the boxes in which it is put?
Because the idea of “the people of God” is a conundrum and you cannot confine a conundrum to a box. The people (particular) of God (universal): it is a kind of surd: a quantity that does not add up or make sense, a formula that is always liable to split apart at the seams if Judaism forgets either element. When it forgets that it is a people it becomes a pale imitation of Christianity, turning itself into a kind of church. And when it forgets its
larger, universal aspect, it becomes just another nation or ethnos on the earth. But suppose the idea of “the people of God” remaining in tension with itself, holds: then what we get is a people defined by a surd: an absurd people: a particular people with a universal significance. That’s us, the Jewish people.”
Alison & Marc Turner write:
Invitation to Baby Blessing
Alison and Marc Turner would like to invite everyone to the blessing and welcoming ceremony for their son Isaac George William Edward Turner. This will be on Saturday 11 July 2015 which is Shabbat Pinchas. The service will be at 11am and we are honoured to welcome Rabbi Danny Rich to take the service and baby blessing. Rabbi Danny Rich is the Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism where Alison works as a very part-time Archivist. The service will be in Hereford, contact Mark Walton for details. All are very welcome to meet baby Isaac and hear the story of why we chose the names we did and so many of them. There will be a special Kiddush and we hope to have visiting relatives and friends and good weather.
Hen Bradshaw writes:
It is with great sadness I have to say I am leaving you all and moving to Derbyshire. I have Young Onset Frontal Temporal Dementia, which gives me a life expectancy of approximately 8 years, and because my husband is much younger than me (his 40 to my 60) we thought that him being near his family for help was better than staying here with no-one but my friends. Don’t worry though, Nottingham has a Liberal Community and I aim to continue my studies.
Our new flat is in a lovely little village 4 miles from Chesterfield called Duckmanton. Our new home is warden assisted, 1 Markham Court, Duckmanton, Chesterfield S44 5HH. Please keep in touch, by post or, if you want to visit then email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We wish Hen well in her new home, and would like to thank her and her children for their contributions to Learning Circle meetings, services and community events.
Learning Circle Corner
The Learning Circle group in Monmouth has decided not to continue with the Access to Liberal Judaism adult learning course. They will be meeting in future as a more informal group discussing various films and books of Jewish interest. If you would like to join them, please contact Mark Walton. The Learning Circle in Hereford will be continuing with the adult learning course after Pesach. We will begin with the Jewish Thought module, this comprises Jewish Identity, God, Prayer and Eternal life. Regular readers might note that we did this one last time, but due to illnesses and other factors like midwife and hospital appointments, we missed many of the sessions last year, so have decided to have another go at this module. Anyone who wishes to join is welcome, please contact Alison Turner.
HJC Website The website has been relaunched as a blog, it is still at http://www.herefordshirejc.org/ and now it has capacity for many more blog posts on anything of interest to us as a community. Please take a look at the new site and let me know if you would like to write something. I am still learning my way round it all, so there will be enhancements in due course.
Maya Brown writes:
A new organisation has sprung up, as a result of Jewish young people, interested in and passionate about environmental issues. Oil Vey, a name which was first suggested as a joke, is expanding. It is an organisation which will work on getting movements/organisations (or in this case synagogues) to divest-taking their investments away from and not investing in fossil fuels. This is similar to the student run fossil free campaign (run by People and Planet Groups), in which students campaign for their universities to divest from fossil fuels. This is all part of a larger movement of 350°. Org which started this idea off to get power away from the fossil fuel companies. It was figured out that the environment could not handle fossil fuels going beyond a certain amount, the temperature could not go beyond 2°, as our climate cannot handle the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere going beyond 350 parts per million. It is currently at 400. The fossil fuel companies are the ones that hold the power. If they do not stop hunting for fossil fuels, when the amount they have in their reserves is already too much, then the world we live in will soon become uninhabitable and dangerous, generations of humans will no longer be able to inhabit the earth. It is not the earth we are trying save, but the human race and all other inhabitants of the earth.
So, changing our lifestyles on its own will not achieve this goal and is difficult and blame giving. We must target fossil fuel companies. Oil vey came to Sheffield University J Soc (Jewish Society) and gave a workshop about the environment, and how Jews are meant to look after it, giving some quotes from the bible- the basic message being that we are stewards and are meant to care for the earth and not destroy it. We made a plan of action, as to how we can tackle work with Sheffield’s Jewish communities to divest from fossil fuels (if they in fact do invest) and leading on from that other faith organisations. This idea is not something you can do only through Hereford community (though not sure how this would work in practice) but through any other organisations you are part of. To find out more just got 350.0rg. Oil Vay are on facebook but I think do not have a website yet although they are setting up a blog.
Letter from Mohamed Fahili, and Clare Lassman at Charles Clore Jewish Arab Community Centre, Acco – our Israeli Charity
They say every cloud has a silver lining but for Fahili and me it has been hard to see one in the aftermath of the Israeli election. While we obviously accept the democratic process, it is hard to ignore or accept the racism directed at the more than 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arab. Surely most Israelis want to live in a society where every person is treated equally regardless of religion or background?
Imagine if Marine Le Pen had galvanised the French electorate to vote for her by warning that the Jews were voting in droves. Such language should galvanise people like us – who cherish justice, mutual respect and the dream that all its citizens should live in harmony – to action.
Fahili and I have worked together side by side for more than six years along with Jewish and Arab Israeli youth workers, teachers and trainers to serve the poor of Akko regardless of their faith. We endeavour to leave Politics and Religion at the door, enabling people to get to know one another through common interests and human concerns. We worked through the Akko riots in 2008, through terrorist acts in Israel and wars in Gaza. We have shared hopes for change – no more so than in the last few weeks – and work tirelessly to promote the Centre’s vision of shared living.
Please help us make the Centre a silver lining at this time. Since last week we have had offers of help from Israeli businessmen who want to do something to ensure that Arab youth have the tools to economically play a full part of society. We have had two donations from supporters who are very upset by the divisiveness of the election. Please add your support. We do make a difference and now, more than ever, we need to extend our services and outreach.
We intend to make our Centre a more active grass-roots MEETING PLACE, further reaching out to people from Akko and the Galil, and also welcoming groups from abroad who share our vision of a more just society. In the last week we welcomed 55 Conservative and Reform student rabbis from the US as well as 16 journalists from Germany and Austria. They saw first-hand the value of the work that we do. By bringing people together at a personal, educational and social level we can perhaps create a society that will withstand existential threats from within and beyond our borders. Please take a look at our new English website – ajcenter.org.il, or go straight to our online donation page at http://ajcenter.org.il/donate/
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Mohammad Fahili and Clare Lassman
Foolproof K’neidlach (matzo balls)
Perhaps you have the perfect recipe for k’neidlach, or on the other hand you may have had that experience of making perfectly shaped matzo balls, only for these to change shape or disintegrate completely when put into soup. This recipe comes from chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s book, Jerusalem, but surprisingly the recipe was perfected by his Palestinian partner Sami Tamimi.
K’neidlach Recipe (makes 12 – 15)
2 large eggs
40g margarine or chicken fat, melted and allowed to cool a bit.
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
75g matzo meal
4 tbsp soda water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until frothy. Whisk in the melted margarine, or fat, then ½ teaspoonful of salt, some black pepper and the parsley. Gradually stir in the matzo meal, followed by the soda water, and stir to a uniform paste. Cover the bowl and chill the batter until cold and firm, at least an hour or two and up to a day ahead.
Line a baking sheet with cling film. Using your wet hands and a spoon, shape the batter into balls the size of small walnuts, and place on the baking sheet. Drop the matzo balls into a large pot of gently boiling salted water. Cover partially n with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently until tender, about 30 minutes.
We’ve done this for the last two years with great success, so hope any others who try this enjoy the result.
Julian Brown & Cherry Wolfe
Book Review: My Promised Land by Ari Shavit
This is a deep, honest, and challenging book, but very well worth reading for anyone who wants to understand the psychology of modern Israel and the wider context in which Israel exists. Ari Shavit is a columnist for the newspaper Haaretz – the Israeli equivalent of the Guardian – and has both very personal experiences to relate, as well as having done extensive research, over many years, into different facets of Israel’s existence. The contents of the book ranges from Zionism at the end of the 19th century when Shavit’s great-grandfather, Herbert Bentwich, first visited Israel, through the development of the kibbutz movement and the harshness of life in Palestine in the early 20th century, to the social and economic growth of the newly established state, and modern day issues of settlers, Israeli Arabs, the Ashkenazi – Sephardi divide, and much, much more. There is no aspect of Israeli life, you feel, that he does not address. As a diaspora Jew, who never the less has visited Israel many times, I felt that this is an Israel I had really only skimmed the surface of in my own experience.
Shavit’s writing is fresh and absorbing: through a series of personal stories of those who’ve been at the forefront of each of these different aspects of life in Israel, he takes you to the core issues of what makes Israel tick. Whatever view you have of Israel and the Middle East, this book will surely change your thinking.
Food Bank Contributions
It’s good if we can keep up our contributions to the food bank, especially as homelessness and food poverty continue to be in the news. Remember you can include toiletries and cleaning items, as well as tinned, dried and long life food items. Just add a couple of items when you do your next shop. Please bring to our next Shabbat service on 16th May.
Other Events of interest
Thames Valley Day Limmud to be held Monday May 4 (bank holiday) in Maidenhead.
It looks to be a very interesting programme featuring Clive Lawton, Rabbis Jonathan Romain and Norman Solomon and many others. See: http://limmud.org/day/thames-valley/
Liberal Judaism’s “Day of Celebration” at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London on Sunday June 7 will be on theme of our relationship with Israel. See: www.liberaljudaism.org/events-activities/lj-day-of-celebration.html
HJC Diary of Events
Date Event Time Place
Thursday 9th April Communal Seder 6.30 p.m. Parish Hall, Belmont, Hereford
Monday 4 May Thames Valley Day Limmud 9.30 – 6.15p.m. Maidenhead
Sunday 10th May HJC AGM +Communal Pub lunch 11.30 a.m. Hereford Pub t.b.c.
Saturday 16th May Shabbat Service led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard 11 a.m. Ale House, Colwall
Sunday 7 June Liberal Judaism ‘Day of Celebration’ 9.30 – 5 p.m. Liberal Jewish Synagogue St. John’s Wood Road, London, NW8 7HA,
Saturday 11 July Shabbat Service and Baby Blessing for Isaac Turner led by Rabbi Danny Rich 11 a.m. Hereford.
Deadline for next newsletter will be 15 May
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 down. All contributions are welcome but depending on format, the editor reserves the right to edit or hold over to a future edition if needed.
For further information please contact our Chair:
Mark Walton email@example.com Tel: 01594 530721