We are at a quieter time in the Jewish calendar, following all the intensity and excitement of the High Holydays, and in the month leading up to Chanukah, which after all is a minor festival in the Jewish calendar, though in practice it may be one of the most widely celebrated, due to possibly to its proximity to Christmas, but also the delight of the Chanukah candles and the enticement of latkes and anything fried and sweet. As we have discussed many times before, the origins of Chanukah, both military and religious may have been distorted over time, but as with so many Jewish Festivals, it is the message that is contained in our practice and tradition, as well as our current interpretation that makes it have meaning for us – the spirit of courage and defiance embodied by the Maccabees, may remind us that, despite the odds, it is always worth fighting for what we believe in, and the traditional story of the Chanukah lights, the Rabbis tell us, reminds us to have faith, and realise that spiritual help can be at hand. We need to remember in our current times, that both these elements may be a necessary part of our lives.
In this edition:
Chair Chat Hebrew Groups Opinion
Visit to Jewish Museum Leo Baeck College 60th anniversary
Book Review Amos Oz – Judas
Simchat Torah at Bridges
It was a particular pleasure to welcome back Rabbi Anna after her adoption leave and it was great that she brought her son, Joshua, to join the service with us. Many thanks to Joe and Mary Walton for the klezmer music which got everyone dancing in traditional fashion.
Lech Lecha at Colwall
This is the Shabbat when Leo Baeck College send their rabbinic students out to far flung congregations. We were delighted that student Rabbi Igor Zinkov was again asked to lead the lead the service for us. His beautiful voice enriched the service and he gave a very thoughtful sermon. It was a particularly cold day and unfortunately not a great turn out but Igor said he would be happy to visit us again.
We are very pleased to welcome Eva as a member of our community. Eva has recently moved from North London to Ross and from one of the biggest Jewish communities in the country (Alyth Gardens Shul with over 3,000 members) to one of the smallest. She has already entered enthusiastically into our activities.
We look forward to welcoming everyone to our Chanukah party on Thursday December 29 at Saxon Hall, Hereford at 4 p.m. I am sure Rabbi Anna will come up with interesting and innovative activities to keep us entertained. Last year it was Chanukiah making, this year ….?
Opinion – Editor
As a council, HJC have worked hard this year to be creative and imaginative with our services and events. We have had a successful Friday evening Chavurah meal, an enjoyable and stimulating Rosh Hashanah gathering, and as always, an interesting and musical Simchat Torah service. We also recently had a Shabbat service, beautifully led by student Rabbi Igor Zinkov, so clearly we are doing something right.
However, I’m also aware that our Shabbat services, perhaps just by chance, are less frequent right now: we had one in September, one in November, and our next one is planned for late January. It may simply be a feeling of tradition, but my sense is that for a small community like ours, Shabbat services need to be held once a month if we are to keep together our continuity as a community and also keep us connected with our Jewish spiritual roots. We recognise that being a far-flung liberal community, not every member is able to, or wants to attend a Shabbat service and we need to be sure we also include Friday evening events in our calendar for those who are committed on Saturday mornings. However, this is something for us to think about, and I would be interested to hear others’ views on this. Perhaps it’s time for us to have a community survey to gather together ideas on what we really do want as a community.
However, we do have our regular Hebrew groups and there are always other activities HJC members are involved in such as educational and interfaith work, as well as attendance at services and meetings other than our own. This can also include in these days, participating by live streaming of Shabbat services on a computer, or of course reading talks and comments by other Rabbis on the web, so we are not as isolated as we may think.
In Britain, it’s easy to take for granted our choice in being part of Liberal Judaism. This is not such an easy choice in Israel, where recently a reform Synagogue was graffiti attacked by right-wing Jewish religious extremists, who resist any moves towards more equal and egalitarian services. Perhaps we at least owe ourselves in our community the chance to celebrate and honour our responsibilities, as far as we are able to.
Report on the Service of Celebration
for the 60th Anniversary of Leo Baeck College
6th November 2016 at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St. John’s Wood.
I received an invitation to this event (probably because I am on their weekly D’var Torah mailing list) and as I happened to be in London that weekend, I decided to attend. LBC was founded by Werner van der Zyl, z”l and named for his distinguished teacher Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck, z”l (who survived internment in Theresienstadt during the Shoah). It played a significant role in the revival of Judaism and Jewish communities in continental Europe after the devastation of the Second World War. In these sixty years, LBC has ordained over 180 rabbis and 90 educators, who have gone on to serve not only in UK but in Progressive communities worldwide, including Europe, the former Soviet Union, the US, Australia, South Africa, Israel and beyond.
The service was conducted by Rabbi Dr. Charles Middleburgh, the address given by the current principal, Rabbi Dr. Deborah Kahn-Harris. I noticed several faces that I knew from Bible Week – and also noted that one of the three people doing the music for the occasion was student rabbi Igor Zinkov who, as I happened to know, had been leading the service for HJC the day before! HJC was also represented by Alison Turner who was there too.
The Closing Blessing was delivered by Rabbi Professor Jonathan Magonet, a former principal of the college, and someone else I know from Bible Week as he is the leading light of that event. He took the opportunity of dedicating the honour of the blessing to Rabbi Lionel Blue, his friend, colleague and collaborator of many years, who had been one of the first two graduates of LBC in 1958. R. Lionel was actually present at the service, in his wheelchair with his carer, but no doubt too frail to speak up on this occasion in his unique and famously witty way.
I was accompanied to the service by my husband Roger, and as the Roll of Honour was being read out (which mentioned all the names of the deceased friends and patrons of the college and its work) we were startled to hear the name of Gordian Marshall included in this list. Fr. Gordian had been a friend and confrere of Roger in the Dominican Order to which both had belonged, and he had contributed on several occasions to the work of the Peace Preaching course which we were running at the time. He was one of only very few Catholics at that time who took seriously the new approach to Jewish Christian relations which the Church had called for in the Vatican document Nostra Aetate issued in 1964. He was deeply committed to interfaith dialogue, and had been a well-respected participant at some of the early sessions of Bible Week at Bendorf. We were very moved to hear him honoured in this way.
Visit to Jewish Museum, Camden Town
Cherry and I decided to visit the Jewish Museum in order to see the photographic exhibition on Scottish Jewry, as Cherry is of Scottish Jewish ancestry. While we did not see any of Cherry’s relatives, we did see some Scottish Jews in unusual settings – working at a whisky distillery, herding sheep in the Highlands, and baking Challah on Yell in Shetland, as well of course, as seeing the inevitable Glasgow delicatessen.
Testing the Whisky
The exhibition was slightly frustrating as the photos were on a time limited electronic display, with no captions, so by the time you’d look up the details of the photo in the Exhibition Guide, the photo had disappeared! Not very well thought through.
Much better though, was the ceramic exhibition which was also much larger, and showing the work of a variety of Jewish potters who had each had interesting journeys, geographical, spiritual and emotional. The most moving and also beautiful piece was a re-casting of a small selection of some of the shoes you may often have seen in Holocaust exhibitions. These had been made with such care and with magical colour glazes, that it brought out the positive, in something which is so often seen as a dark reminder of our past.
Mitzvah Day, North London
Cherry happened to be in Golders Green on Mitzvah day, where it seemed Supermarkets were having a special place for donations of food to Foodbanks for Mitzvah day. A worthwhile action, but as Cherry comments, something they need to do each day or week, and not just once in a while.
Hebrew groups have been meeting monthly in both Malvern and Monmouth. As well as doing some of the basics and encouraging beginning Hebrew readers to build their confidence, we have also been studying Torah text, which has been a cooperative effort between all those involved, both teachers and students. It is exciting to realise that to some degree, we are able to translate and make sense of Torah text and this leads us into some interesting debate. On the last occasion, we studied the story of the tower of Babel, which seems very appropriate for those of us struggling to communicate in an unfamiliar language.
On the downside, we have not always had attendance by all group members, and this leads us to the question of whether Hebrew groups are sustainable if we really want to make progress. Once a month is a minimum for maintaining some progress. Now is also an opportunity for members of the community who would like to join one of these groups to let us know, as we need to make the most of the sessions we do have.
Judith Labelter: Judith is still in hospital in Worcester and we wish her a good recovery. David Labelter has been making daily visits to see her, as well as looking after himself and their dog, so we also wish him support over this time. No visitors, but if anyone would like to send Judith a card, please send to her home address, available from Mark on 01594 530721 after 6pm or by email from email@example.com
Book review – Amos Oz – Judas
I have not yet finished reading this book, but can tell you that it is both absorbing and interesting. Judas has recently been published in the UK, and Amos Oz is a renowned Israeli author who has written an inspiring and perhaps controversial book which explores Judaism’s relationship with Christianity, as well as dipping into many of the themes relating to the founding of the State of Israel. The book is also a novel about a young man called Shmuel Ash, set in Jerusalem in the winter of 1959 to 1960. Ash, a young man unsure of his purpose, finds himself invited to stay in an isolated house on the edge of the city, in order to keep entertained an old man who has much to say on many diverse topics. There is also a mysterious woman in the house, who we learn is the daughter in law of the old man, to add to the mix of unusual characters. However, the most important element of Oz’s writing is the infinite detail in which he describes characters and places which immediately takes you right to the heart of his subject. You cannot but help feeling you are there in the chilly room that Shmuel Ash inhabits, or the wild and wet streets of old Jerusalem. Amos Oz is not always easy reading but there is much in this book both to make you think, and also for pure enjoyment in his writing and storytelling.
Our next service/event will be the Chanukah party on Thursday 29th of December at Saxon Hall which Rabbi Anna Gerrard will be leading. Please bring contributions of food for tea. Anything fried such as Chanukah donuts or latkes especially welcome – and remember to bring your own Chanukias so we can all light candles together.
Monmouth – Tuesday 13th December 4 p.m. Bridges Centre.
Malvern – t.b.c.
Shabbat service Saturday 21st January, Jean Simon Room, Colwall Village Hall, led by Julian & Cherry. Location details in events calendar. Weekly Parasha – Shemot/Exodus – the story of the Jews in Egypt. This will also give us plenty to focus on for our next Hebrew groups.
Deadline for next newsletter will be 15 January 2017
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
|Thursday 29th December||Chanukah Party led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard||4.00 p.m.||Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE|
|Saturday 21st January 2017||Shabbat service led by Julian & Cherry||11.00 a.m.||Meeting Room, Colwall Village Hall, Mill Lane, Colwall, WR13 6EQ (note this is not Colwall Ale House)|
|Saturday 11th February||Tu B’Shvat Seder Tea – led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard||4 p.m.||Burgage Hall, Church Lane, Ledbury HR8 1DW|
|Saturday 11th March||Purim Shabbat service led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard||11.00 a.m.||Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford HR2 6HE|
|Wed 12th April||Passover Seder meal||6.30 p.m.||Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE|
Herefordshire Jewish Community Contacts
To contact us please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Mark Walton on 01594 530721 after 6pm.