The summer is often a quiet time for our community, but certainly not so this year. Several of our members have been attending events both within and outside our local area, within the wider Liberal Jewish community and beyond, and with Interfaith activities.
For this reason, this newsletter is rather longer than usual, as we have had many contributions from members, which is very encouraging. However, readers may find they do not want to read it all in one go, for fear of overload of conference reports! Perhaps we need some alternative entries for next edition – story, article on some other topic, or recipe for example. I have not edited contributions sent in (except in one case), but may need to reconsider this policy in future.
Social Action – refugees. As we are living in a constantly changing political climate both nationally and internationally, we have to do our best to follow our own values and interpret them in the best way we can with regard to social and political action. The Rene Cassin Foundation is the Jewish organisation for Human Rights, and has been doing some very effective work with refugees and also those already in this country but who are detained in detention centres. See article on Limmud day on this topic.
In this edition:
Chair Chat Biennial Reports Birmingham Limmud Reports Ammerdown report Chavurah Supper Interfaith events Charities Hebrew groups Book Review
ANN FRANK SERVICE
Our service on Saturday June 14 at Saxon Hall was a very special occasion led by Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, President of Liberal Judaism. Representatives of Christian and Buddhist faiths also attended. It was a great honour for us to have Rabbi Goldstein leading our service as he has so many links with present day Jewish communities in Europe and he gave an inspiring sermon on the importance of trees as symbols of renewal after destruction. He spoke of the Anne Frank tree that had to be cut down, and its daughters – now growing in many locations….and a tree in Terezin that had the same fate.
Andrew also led an interesting study session for us on the Book of Ruth before the service. As an added bonus his wife, Sharon, enriched our service with her beautiful singing. We would also like to thank Peter Cocks, the Chair of the Saxon Hall Trust, for planting and nurturing the Anne Frank tree for us, and we would certainly like to make this an annual occasion.
We certainly punched above our weight as a small community and it was wonderful to meet up again with Andrea Berry-Ottaway, who is well on her way to recovery. I had never been to a Limmud before and certainly enjoyed the informal but well organised atmosphere. The venue (Queen Elizabeth Hospital) and the food (lots of it) were both excellent. I was a little bit disappointed that there were no text based sessions – the session on the Psalms that I was going to attend was cancelled at the last moment. I particularly enjoyed the virtual tour of Jewish homes and hospitals in London by the excellent Rachel Kolsky and there was a particularly interesting session on end of life decisions led by a surgeon and our friend, Rabbi Margaret Jacobi. I would certainly go again to Limmud and encourage others to do so – a stimulating and enjoyable day.
THE FLYING LOVERS OF VITEBSK
If you love Chagall as I do, you would have loved this show which previewed at Bristol and went on to the Globe in London. Based very closely on Jackie Wullschlanger’s biography (also very well worth reading), it recounted Chagall’s courtship and marriage to Bella through the tempestuous times in which they lived. The story was told with movement and songs, many in Yiddish, and developed a magical atmosphere. The two actors bore an uncanny physical resemblance to Marc and Bella and recreated many of the scenes we are familiar with in Chagall’s paintings. There was humour but also sadness, in the destruction of Jewish culture in Vitebsk, the ravages of war and the early death of Bella. All in all, a great show.
Once again, Rabbi Danny Rich has come to our rescue and will be leading our service at Colwall on Saturday September 10. He has also agreed to lead a study session on a subject of our choice – any requests? We hope to have Rabbi Anna back with us after the High Holydays.
Alison Turner writes:
Liberal Judaism’s Biennial on 1st – 3rd July, was in Solihull this year, a new venue and thankfully much more compact than the previous one. I attended the whole weekend, Jaci Hannan joined me for the Saturday. Our old friend Rabbi Aaron Goldstein opened our Shabbat service with Rabbi Rachel Benjamin and his guitar and we had a choral service. On Saturday morning by contrast, we had Ma Tovu together, then we had an immersive prayer experience in various rooms. Options ranged from Solomon’s Temple with grain sacrifices, The Rabbinic period of freeform prayers around standard opening and closings, The Spanish Inquisition (chorus no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition), The Western Wall of the 2nd Temple, Chasidic dancing, Liberal Judaism around 1995 and the BuJew, influenced bythe teachings and practices of Buddhism. This was very interesting to be part of, though it did not last long. It reminded us that Judaism has always changed and adapted, and led us to our theme Thinking outside the book.
In the afternoon I attended a session on a strategy for music development. The vision is for our engagement with music to be at the forefront of Judaism and spirituality in the UK. Project aims are:
Reinforcing and challenging our community’s musical traditions.
Empowering music leaders and composers to be more successful and influential in musical practice.
Creating closer ties of community access so we all have the same tunes.
Maintaining a very high level of accessibility to new music and methods of delivery, using the internet and smartphones.
Uphold intergenerational ties of music as a powerful means of engaging with youth.
They advise thinking of the atmosphere we wish to create in our service, then pick the music to enhance the text, engage and elevate our prayers. Cantors do this in the USA but it barely exists here in the UK. More music will go into the Resource Bank at ljresourcebank.org as copyright issues are cleared, and a songbook is planned. Funding will be needed for some of this.
I also went to a session on becoming a Baal Tefillah, a prayer leader for our community, which I hope to start in Jan. 2017. The course is personalised for each community so I will try to learn the things we need, for example there are differing levels of Hebrew used.
Jacquie Hannan writes:
LJ Biennial – July 1st – 3rd July 2016 – St John’s Hotel, Solihull, Birmingham.
Rabbi Charley Baginskey who chaired the Biennial committee was quoted as saying “the Biennial’s success is indicative of the passion that Liberal Judaism deserves.” This is a very apt view of the event in its entirety.
As an attendee for one day, my perspective was greatly limited by time. On my arrival, singers with guitars enlivened corridors as people poured into the hall for the Shabbat Shacharit service. Speakers, including Rabbis from Northwood and Elstree, ensured interest, conviviality, and a sincere time of worship. The service was followed by new graduations from the Ba’alei Tefillah Course. I attended two discussion sessions:
“Is God still an Englishman?” – Cole Moreton and Rabbi David Goldberg
The author Cole Moreton is a broadcaster, journalist and feature writer for the Independent and Telegraph newspapers, and a professional speaker with an eclectic understanding of the UK’s contemporary social structures and politics. On receiving his 2016 Press Award, Cole’s reply was “It pays to compliment your audience”. This approach was evidently paying off at the Biennial, as the audience seemed more than duly appreciative, when he conveyed the gist of his book was that more than 75% of English people are developing a new spiritually separate from the mainstream ones to which they no longer feel any affiliation. I question whether true empathy arises without understanding of how a person can hold on to a deep enough faith to be sustainable through trials. Of course Cole is too gracious and socially aware to ever offend, and as in his many faceted book, he stands at edge of a sea of profundities and inference, barely wetting his toe, looking around for people not to offend. However, the issues were too vast to have been explored to any depth in that context.
The wise and erudite Rabbi David Goldberg was paired as his counterpart, perhaps an unenviable position due to their diverse stances.
How do we respond to Brexit and the apparent Division within Society and as a movement?
Ben Rich, Danny Rich, Tanya Sakhnovich, Nottingham Synagogue, and Ilan Baron, Durham University.
I attended this session, eagerly anticipating the imaginative exploration of roads forward following the democratic referendum. Sadly, the time only allowed for airing of frustrations held by most people present, who viewed their opponents who voted for Brexit as being both racists and stupid and uninformed about fiscal matters. Democracy can be surprisingly emotive. I reminded some people that anti-Semitism and related violence has been greatly increasing in Europe in recent years, completely unrelated to Brexit, and has resulted in the increase of numbers fleeing to Israel.
It was an interesting day, with opportunity to socialise with many lovely people from a wide variety of locations. Had I been able to stay longer, I would have chosen to attend many stimulating and very enjoyable sessions from the wide range on offer.
Angela West writes:
Wisdom Literature at the Ammerdown Conference Centre, Somerset, with Rabbi Howard Cooper, July 1st-3rd
The Ammerdown Centre has been the beautiful setting for several interfaith events that I have attended here in the past. The focus this time was on the text of Qohelet/Ecclesiastes, and the Jews in the group tended to be rather thin on the ground. But at least Howard made every one aware that it was a Hebrew text in translation we were considering (which those who think of the Hebrew scriptures as the ‘Old Testament’ occasionally tend to forget). It was good to be reminded that all translations are in fact interpretations.
Actually, in the course of the weekend, we only managed a couple of chapters of the text, as Howard takes an intensive rather extensive approach to bible study. Some would no doubt have preferred to get more of an overview, but I was fortunate in having some sense of the whole text as we had studied it at Bible Week the year before. Qohelet contains some stunningly beautiful poetry (I’m specially haunted by 12:3-8) but it is rather unusual among biblical texts in its uncompromising rejection of meaningfulness in human life: ‘Utter futility – said Qoheleth – all is futile!’ (12:8). Unlike most other texts in the Hebrew Bible, here God does not seem to be in charge of history – not that of Israel or of anyone else’s. Not a very reassuring theme – though some people in the group were clearly determined to derive some moral uplift from the text despite its apparent absence. May be the reasoning was: it’s in the bible so it must be edifying.
A question that often arises for me is: how does the religious/historical context of the reader affect how she reads the text? Just before one of the sessions, a lady sitting next to me remarked during a conversation: “My mother never really forgave Hitler. My father had just invested in a new bowler hat – and it got lost during an air raid!” I’m not sure to what extent she endorsed her mum’s perspective on this matter, as the session started before we had time to continue… But those who, like me, are exercised by this question, might be interested to know of Emil Fackenheim’s response to it in his book: The Jewish Bible After the Holocaust: A Re-reading.
Limmud Day Reports
West Midlands Limmud day, Birmingham, Sunday 10 July 2016
On Sunday 10 July, five members of HJC, Mark, Angela, Shirley, Julian & Cherry attended the first Limmud study day to be held in Birmingham, hosted by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Medical Centre. We had a warm welcome from Richard Wharton, chaplain of QEH, who had been very instrumental in helping set up the Limmud day, and from Rabbi Yossi Jacobs of Singers Hill synagogue, who as always, had a pithy story to tell us. We then went off to a wide range of talks, film, and workshops, and between us covered a wide range of topics which included:
- A holocaust survivor’s journey from Auschwitz to Birmingham
- What are Jewish communities doing to help refugees in Calais and Dunkirk, and how can we improve the rights of those held in detention centres within the UK (where conditions are in some cases worse than prisons, as there is no knowing how long you may, as a refugee, have to remain there)?
- The fascinating history of London’s Jewish homes and hospitals from the 18th century until today.
- Jewish migration – how did we all come to be here, where did we come from, and most importantly why did we come?
- Jewish music, art, and not least spirituality were part of other sessions engaged in.
All who went felt they gained something positive from the day, and all felt it was worth the effort, especially for the Monmouth contingent who had a long journey to get there. Perhaps next time there may be someone in our community who could present a session, as well as simply drinking in the wisdom of others?
Shirley Goldstein writes:
One of my choices was listening to Mindu Hornick – From Auschwitz to Birmingham
An inspirational speaker who spoke straight from the heart, taking us through her life journey – how she survived the horrors of the holocaust as a young girl losing her parents, two brothers and, after the war ended, found herself living in Birmingham and managed to adjust to life living with an Uncle and Aunt. She went on to marry and had two children. For many years she was too traumatised to speak about her earlier life and after around 20 years she started to communicate to her close family in the UK what had happened in the past. She later decided to dedicate herself to sharing her story to schools and adults as an education for future generations. She was moving, humbling and sincere and it was very touching listening to her. She had an elegance, dignity and beauty that just shone through.
Great Jewish Lyricists – Mike Levy
Most interesting workshop exploring words and music and how the two blended together, sharing the genius of the individual Jewish writers and musicians in days gone by. It was very well presented and gave a fascinating insight into the clever use of words, sheer poetry and unbridled creativity. We looked at the work of Ira and George Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein, Sammy Cahn and others – Many of the songs that we grew up with, loved and enjoyed from the great musicals of the past.
Saving Forgotten Jews – Richard Rothschild Pearson
A most fascinating documentary showing how 18,000 Jewish people were rescued from Ethiopia and flown to Israel, after Israel received a request asking for help and to be rescued. These were said to be part of the lost Tribe of 12 Tribes of Israel. Three men, a Manchester Textile Merchant, a Mossad Spy and a seasoned Diplomat were instrumental in aiding this miraculous escape. The film shown was very thought provoking on so many levels, especially when we look at what is going on in the world today with so many people being displaced and fleeing war and persecution. It certainly gave food for thought when we reflect on the huge adjustments ahead once the people had managed to reached safety. It was a fantastic achievement showing such courage and determination by all the people involved in this huge rescue operation. The film was beautifully made – a labour of love.
In terms of the Limmud day in Birmingham, it didn’t disappoint. Each of the workshops I attended was an education, and was extremely well presented and was offered to the participants taking part as a pure gift. Thank you for a wonderful day, I am so glad I came along.
Rene Cassin, Social Action and UK Detention Centres.
What do these three things have in common? A talk given by Sam Grant and Margaret Jacobi, gave us some insight into the current work of the Rene Cassin Foundation which is a Jewish Human Rights organisation. Rene Cassin was a French lawyer who was the driving force for the drawing up of the Universal declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
This organisation has been working in cooperation with many others in order to improve the conditions of asylum seekers kept in detention Centres in the UK. These centres are often far away from population centres, and the detainees are kept without any fixed time limit. Britain is one of only two countries in Europe that do not have a fixed period of detention for asylum seekers. The speakers were able to report some recent changes to the law, as a result of intense lobbying by the coalition of organisations working on this issue. For example, pregnant women and children now have strict limits on how long they can be detained. The situation is still far from ideal, and many people are unaware of what happens to many refugees when they finally reach the UK, thinking that they can now be free, but finding instead that they are kept in prison like conditions for an unknown period of time, which inmates can find very upsetting. That this state of affairs is allowed to continue in a Western democracy is regarded by many as a scandal. We will have to see what the new Home Secretary is prepared to do on this front.
For more information, see: http://www.renecassin.org/
Chavurah – 15 July 2016
What is a Chavurah?
We had cheesecake and desserts, more than we could eat.
We had 2 guitars and beautiful voices for Friday evening songs and participation.
We had company, 17 of us, all somehow fitting into Cherry & Julian’s kitchen.
We had an experience like no other in HJC – a community gathering, yet also a Friday evening/Erev Shabat at home.
We had reflections on prayer, and learning that the world’s problems can be solved by activity, rather than passivity.
We had a wonderful of choice of tasty dishes and salads for our meal.
We had baby Isaac to delight us with smiles and play, and to test us with cries and squeals.
We learned that together we can become a strong community, acknowledging and respecting each other’s differences.
Hebrew groups have been running successfully now in both Monmouth and Malvern, although some learners were not able to attend the last sessions. The July session in Malvern was in part a musical one as we had the benefit of Cherry playing guitar, and we worked together on the Shema – singing, reading, and looking at the meaning. We continue to have interesting discussions and this is one of the highlights of our groups.
Most learners now have their own books, and we even have surplus copies of some books if anyone would like to purchase one. We are finding that the Learn Hebrew Today book (green book) is good for basic reading practice, but looking at meaning and roots of words is also important, and we found the Aleph Isn’t Enough book very informative in the last session. Books can be bought from Janet Elf at the Jewish Book service, or also via the web. If new learners wish to join groups in September, they would be very welcome, but contact Cherry or myself beforehand, so we can assess what level you are at.
Proposed next meeting dates are: Tuesday 20th September, 7.30 p.m. Malvern. Tuesday 27th September 4 p.m. Monmouth.
Hebrew Reading Group
Jaci Hannan, Isaac and I have been privileged to attend a Hebrew Reading Group at the home of Archdeacon Paddy Benson in Hereford. They are working their way through Exodus, we joined them near the end of chapter 12, and worked our way through chapter 13. Each person reads a verse in Hebrew, then translates it into English, either from their own knowledge or from their Bible.
Isaac did not scream once, nor did he take any notice of the offered toys, preferring to run around and poke his nose in wherever he could: his favourite toy was an empty waste paper basket. We were made very welcome, as I’m sure would any other new members.
Book Review: “Some never see a map: a Talmud for creative community leadership“
This is a very interesting piece of Talmud launched at the Biennial. It is “Some never see a map: a Talmud for creative community leadership” by Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu and Claire Helman. This is a new column of Talmud from Kehillah North London, talking about travelling forward, styles of leadership, cycles of the year, values, aloneness, tallit, spiritual space and resolving conflict. It is beautifully illustrated and has diverse voices weaving in and out of each other, our traditions and new ways of looking at things. I would like to recommend everyone to get a copy from email@example.com and hope to lead a study session based on it. It is only 14 pages of A4 size and it gives me the confidence to say this, being aware that people I know can write Talmud and it lifts my spirits to new heights.
Somme Vigil – 1st July 2016
At 7 a.m., on 1st July, as representatives of HJC, Cherry and I attended the Somme Vigil at Malvern’s War Memorial, organised by Malvern Town Council. The event included readings of contemporary letters, news reports and poetry, as well as prayers for the many who had lost their lives. I was unaware that the Somme battle lasted for some 4 months, and that there were such huge losses on the first day 1st July 1916. Some of the individual accounts of local people who had lost their lives in the Somme were very moving, and the address by the Head of Malvern College, from where so many of the officer class came, was fluent and inspiring (as perhaps you might expect). Not how I would usually spend that hour of the day, but worth attending.
Peace Concert and other activities:
Several members have been involved in other interfaith activities or meetings, so we are quite active. HJC are part of the planning for the Peace Day Concert on 25th September, where we are contributing a Hebrew song to the proceedings. Please keep this date clear if you can, as it was a very worthwhile occasion last year.
High Holyday services
In addition to our own Erev Rosh Hashanah evening, we are invited to join in with Rosh Hashanah morning service and Yom Kippur services at Gloucestershire Liberal Jewish Community (GLJC). See details below.
Rosh Hashanah Morning Oct 3rd 11.00 am at Friends Meeting House, Greyfriars, Gloucester, GL1 1TS. We will adjourn to a nearby restaurant for a communal Rosh Hashanah Lunch after the service. Please let Jill Rosenheim know in advance if you would like to join us for lunch so she can give appropriate numbers to the restaurant.
Contact:firstname.lastname@example.org or 07771604735.
Kol Nidre 11th October 7.00pm at Up Hatherley Village Hall (UHVH), Cold Pool Lane, Cheltenham GL51 6JA
Yom Kippur 12th October 11.00am – 7.30pm approx. at Friends Meeting House, Greyfriars, Gloucester, GL1 1TS. with Morning and Additional Service, Study or walk, Afternoon service, Yizkor and Concluding Service then breaking the fast with a communal chavurah meal.
HJC High Holyday Charity Appeal
As a community HJC aims to raise at least £100 for each of our chosen charities, and this year we are hoping to raise even more, as we have an increasingly active community, and we have very worthwhile causes to support. Our chosen charities are the Charles Clore Centre, and Combat Stress.
Donations can be made at our Rosh Hashanah gathering, but you can also send donations to our Treasurer, Alison Turner. Cheques payable to Herefordshire Jewish Community.
Deadline for next newsletter will be 15 September 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 words, 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
|Saturday 10th Sept||Study Session led by Rabbi Danny Rich||10 a.m.||Colwall Ale House|
|Saturday 10th Sept||Shabbat Service led by Rabbi Danny Rich||11 a.m.||Colwall Ale House|
|Sunday 2nd October||Erev Rosh Hashanah Celebration meal and Readings – led by Julian & Cherry||6.30 p.m.||Burgage Hall, Church Lane, Ledbury HR8 1DW|
|Friday Oct 21st/ OR Sat Oct 22nd t.b.c.||Simchat Torah Service – led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard t.b.c.||t.b.c.||Bridges Centre, Drybridge Park, Monmouth, NP25 5AS|
Other Events of Interest
|Sunday 25th September||Hereford Interfaith Group Peace Concert||5.30 p.m.||Hereford Cathedral|
|Monday, Oct 3rd||Rosh Hashanah Service – GLJC||11.00 a.m.||Friends Meeting House, Greyfriars, Gloucester, GL1 1TS|
|Tuesday October 11th||GLJC Kol Nidre Service||7 p.m.||Up Hatherley Village Hall (UHVH), Cold Pool Lane, Cheltenham GL51 6JA|
|Wednesday, October 12th||GLJC Yom Kippur Services, followed by breaking of Fast & meal.||11.00 a.m. (t.b.c.) – 7.30 p.m.||Friends Meeting House, Greyfriars, Gloucester, GL1 1TS|
|Further Services and events|
|Sunday November 20th||Mitzvah Day at Saxon Hall
Working in the garden
|t.b.c.||Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford|