HJC Newsletter Pesach Edition – April/May 2017

Editorial

As we move between Purim and Pesach – two Jewish festivals both, in very different ways, telling stories of persecution and hatred of the Jews, it’s a good time to reflect on past and present. Are we living in a different age now, an age of interfaith understanding and cooperation, or are we in an age of “fear” against “the other” as illustrated by so many examples in the media, such as the recent airline travel ban relating to Muslim countries. This edition explores these themes – reflections on the story of Purim, a very brief look at the Pesach story (blink, or you may miss it) and more thorough look at Interfaith, as exemplified by the recent Gloucester Cathedral exhibition.

Two forthcoming events will give us an opportunity to explore these themes further. In June, we have our annual Anne Frank interfaith service, to be held at Saxon Hall Hereford, to which we will invite members of different faiths. In a different way, we also having our first (for a long time) joint service with Gloucestershire Liberal Jewish community, which will be an opportunity to create or renew relationships with members of another community.

The recent controversial discussions arising from the death of Martin McGuinness show us that there is not necessarily an easy distinction between those who are ‘the other’ and those who can help create peace. The Purim story, however fantastic it may be, tells the story of how an interfaith marriage resulted in the saving of the Jews. We need to remember, as highlighted the recent tributes to the Westminster attacks, that communication with other faiths and those of other views is something we must continue to value. JB

In this edition:

Chair Chat: Comment on LJS Hebrew Day Tu B’Shvat Seder Film review – Denial Gloucester Interfaith exhibition Purim Comment Pesach k’neidlach recipe Book Reviews – Christian and Jewish Women in Britain, 1880-1940; East-West street

CHAIR CHAT

1. “KEEP CALM AND LEARN HEBREW” AT THE LIBERAL JEWISH SYNAGOGUE.

This was a great study day, particularly for those interested in the Hebrew language. There were a variety of different learning tracks, ranging from “Hebrew from scratch” to “Speaking Ivrit”. I chose sessions based on textual analysis, which actually encompassed a lot of grammatical points. I particularly enjoyed Rabbi Alexandra Wright’s session on a portion from Jonah in which she introduced us to the concept of the conversive Vav (as opposed to the conjunctive Vav)! I was constantly surprised by the intricacies (and difficulties) of the Hebrew language and was impressed by the knowledge of those in my group (some of whom were recent converts or were in the process of converting) which put my barmitzvah class Hebrew, based on thrice weekly cheder sessions, to shame. I also enjoyed Rabbi Rachel Benjamin’s session on Psalm 23 and found Rabbi Rene Pferzel’s afternoon sessions on the Mishnah particularly fascinating. We ended up with a communal singing session led by Rachel Benjamin. A fantastic day which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who wants to brush up their Hebrew. I was also struck by the vibrancy of the LJS community with their excellent educational and cultural programmes, the work they do to support asylum seekers and their wonderful triumvirate of rabbis.

2. TU B’SHVAT AND PURIM

It was a great pleasure for us to have Rabbi Anna lead these two innovative events. The Tu b’ Shvat Seder is an interesting concept and it was fascinating to hear from Anna how it evolved into the form it is today. Many thanks to Cherry for organising the food to help make the event such a meaningful and sociable evening.

Our Purim service was great fun, with the usual cacophony from assorted “gragers.” Thespian talents were displayed in Anna’s own dramatised version of the Purim story, a veritable “Purim spiel.” The story of Esther, Mordechai and Haman is one of the most enigmatic and puzzling narratives in the Old Testament but it makes for a racy story with a rather unpleasant ending. No wonder it was not celebrated during the early years of Liberal Judaism.

3. DENIAL

This film split the critics between those who felt it lacked drama and catharsis and those who felt it gave a very straightforward and clear account of the complexity of an extremely important court case. I am of the latter view and admired the way it tackled the subject without the need to patronise its viewers. The court victory in 2000 over the arch holocaust denier, David Irving, was not easily won and revealed just how labyrinthine and time-consuming the process of legally unpicking these falsehoods was. Even more worrying, was the fact that Irving’s views were believed by so many people. And, of course, although the court case resulted in a complete refutation of his work, holocaust denial has, if anything, become even stronger in recent years with the growth of radical anti-semitism. Clearly there is a warning from history here. An important film and well worth seeing.

4. JEWS AND CATHOLICS ON SKIING

On a lighter note, I was amused by this extract from an article I read recently. “David Aaronovitch has put the Jewish aversion to winter sports down to the fact that his people ‘are particularly uninterested in endangering ourselves for fun’, that Catholics, in comparison, ‘have a steady belief in their entitlement – given some properly observed formalities – to the afterlife and that they might be said to have few natural predators’.”

Esther’s Mission

As Rabbi Anna reminded us at our Purim service, the Book of Esther has the air of oriental extravagance about it. Everything is just a bit over the top, and like Jewish communities all over we celebrated it – with our own bit of dressing up and a jokey retelling of the tale (à la Anna).

So what exactly are we celebrating? Haman, feeling slighted by the king, intends the genocide of the Jews. But as a result of the intervention by the righteous Mordechai and his beautiful niece Esther – the brave but reluctant heroine – the genocide is averted. And Purim, which is the only Jewish festival not mentioned in the Torah, gets its raison d’etre from this tale.

But when we discussed it in our Hebrew class the week before, we began to realize that Esther is rather a strange text in the Hebrew canon. For there is no mention of God in it, only the enigmatic reference by Mordechai that deliverance will come ‘from another place’ (4.14) if Esther does not agree to play the role he proposes for her. The rabbis had somehow to account for the divine absence here, so they interpreted it as an instance of God being ‘hidden from view’ – but not of course actually absent. They made this point by means of a biblical proof text asking: “Where is Esther indicated in the Torah?” Answer: “In Deut.31:18: ‘I will surely hide (Heb: astir) my face’” (astir being a word play on Esther’s name).

In more recent times, some interpreters have found this ‘hiddenness’ of God less reassuring and more problematic. The Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenhenim in his book The Jewish Bible After the Holocaust claims that for the post-Shoah generation of Jews, the Book of Esther now becomes a central text – but with implications that are rather disturbing. Is the Purim story in fact an instance of where Jews achieved victory over their enemies through their own actions rather than through divine assistance? Was their victory just a series of lucky coincidences? What if the king had not been sleepless that night? Or Vashti hadn’t acted like a proto-feminist? Or Mordechai hadn’t overheard the plotters and reported it? All this becomes more poignantly real in the light of that genocide in which no help (or not enough) came from ‘another place’ and thousands of would-be Mordechais and nameless willing Esther’s never got the chance to save their people from extermination.

Yet perhaps we can rediscover the hiddenness of God in this biblical text for our own age. In his book Modernity and the Holocaust Jewish historian Zygmunt Baumann (who died recently) claimed that among the conditions that made the mass extermination of the Jews possible, the most decisive factor was that of modernity itself. For modern civilization, in its inexorable pursuit of economic progress, sets up an order which privileges only certain sections of the population and treats the rest as expendable. In the C20th Europe, the religiously rooted mythology of anti-semitism meant that the ‘expendable’ population became the Jews. Baumann returns to this theme in another book of his which I’m reading now called Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts. He shows how modernity’s global triumph intensifies the process of creating certain people as superfluous or redundant. Their role then becomes to serve as a focus for new political anxieties and security fears: categories of people, like immigrants, asylum seekers, benefit dependents, or tribal people getting in the way of progress, are treated as a form of human waste.

But this trashing of populations and people which modernity generates can be seen as incompatible the central command of Hebrew scriptures, which enjoins us to treat the life of fellow humans as holy: You shall be holy for I am holy (Lev.11.44). Perhaps Esther’s mission to save a threatened people has in our own time been extended.

Angela West

‘Face to Faith’ Art Exhibition by Russell Haines – Gloucester Cathedral

After seeing a wonderful copy of a painting of Rabbi Anna, in the J.C. announcing an Art Exhibition on Faith by artist Russell Haines, at the Cloisters in Gloucester Cathedral, I went along to view the whole exhibition.

The Cathedral itself is a most beautiful building with a wonderful atmosphere and a lovely service was just finishing as I went through to the Cloisters.  The exhibition consisted of 37 wonderful huge paintings of people who held different beliefs.  Alongside each of the paintings was the text explaining what the person’s faith meant to them. The quality of each painting was exceptional and the artist was truly inspired and gifted, and I found the whole exhibition very moving.

On looking at the background of the artist later, I was amazed that he had only been painting a few years and had taken up art as a therapy to help his recovery after having a severe stroke.  He found he was unable to continue his main work as a builder and electrician and gradually had to start from scratch to rebuild his life and pick up the threads again.

This is an artist to look out for in the future.  I understand that he wishes to take this exhibition around the UK and abroad and hopes to continue the whole project with the theme of ‘Hope’ and then ‘Charity’.

For me it was so uplifting to read of Russell’s own life journey and the courage it must have taken to keep going and face such huge challenges and find what a wonderful creative gift he had to share as he recovered. It is so uplifting that he has found a way to inspire others who are challenged and not give up.

In terms of the exhibition, the message it contains for me is to be respectful of each person’s belief and let’s learn to live in harmony and peace together.  

As for Russell’s work – the perception and heart he put into each painting was truly exceptional and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to view the whole exhibition.  

Shirley G

Face to Faith Exhibition – further comment

gloucesterpic

Cherry and I went to this exhibition on a grey Saturday afternoon, having been told about it by Shirley Goldstein. It was certainly a stunning exhibition, set up along three sides of the cathedral cloisters and consisting of 37 larger-than-life sized portraits of leaders and members of different faiths. These included everything you could imagine from Rasta to Wicca to Runic to atheist, in addition to all the major world religions, with all of the individuals portrayed, living in or near Gloucester. The painting of Rabbi Anna Gerard, near the start of the exhibition, was very impressive and her writing as always, was moving and inspiring.

The paintings, in acrylic/oils are bold, bright, colourful, in your face with lots of primary colours as well as pieces of text woven into the fabric of the painting. It seems like a very bold step for such a wide-ranging exhibition to be mounted in the cathedral and indeed it has not been without local controversy with vandalism and attacks on the cathedral website resulting from the Islamic call to Prayer being recited at the initial exhibition launch. You can see more details of this at:

http://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/organisers-hit-out-at-inappropriate-claims-after-muslim-call-to-prayer-at-gloucester-cathedral/story-30065568-detail/story.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/12/vandals-artworks-gloucester-cathedral-religions-death-threats

I hope, that as Shirley Goldstein points out, this exhibition can have a successful tour in other locations, and we are thankful to Gloucester Cathedral and Rev. Ruth Fitter who helped organise the exhibition.

Julian Brown

Book Review

Author: Dr Anne Summers
Title: Christian and Jewish women in Britain, 1880-1940 : living with difference.
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan, 2017
Cost: hardcover £66.99; ebook £52.99; Chapters available from £23.94

Special offer – 20% discount on printed book or eBook using the token on palgrave.com PM1&TWENTY, valid until 05/06/2017.

HJCSummers

This is a series of vignettes of mainly Christian and Jewish women, their friendships, political campaigning and social works. Lily Montagu and Netta Franklin each have a chapter, so there is much of Liberal Jewish interest. It is very well-researched, each short chapter has pages of references. Miss Lily’s close ties with Margaret McDonald are explored and Netta’ close friendship with Charlotte Mason. Interfaith initiatives in the 1880s and 1890s in Salford and Manchester come from a wish to help poor women in entirely practical ways, such as the provision of soap, nurses and holidays for children. As on the Continent, there was co-operation between Jews and Christians to combat the social evil of prostitution, by appointing a dock agent to meet new arrivals and take them to safe suitable accommodation. Jews were seen as Honorary Protestants in some cases and invited on committees where Catholics were not. Constance Flower was an important bridge between the two groups, as she was born a Rothschild.

Dr Summers reckons it was these good relations that led to so much help from non-Jews for refugees from Nazism, in particular from Quakers, the National Council of Women and Save the Children among many other groups.

This is followed by chapters on Rebecca Sieff on English women and Zionism and finally on the very current topics of refuge and asylum. She concludes that in England there was a culture of decency interwoven with the ambiguities which bedevil all private and public relationships. The culture of wishing for neighbourliness and understanding must be embraced by senior clergy of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, not just a moderate liberal few individuals.
This is a very timely study for today, well written and very widely researched. I recommend this to all synagogue libraries, but the price is unfortunately high for many people. Light is thrown on many small groups, such as the Jewish Peace Society of 1914 and COPEC the Conference on Politics, Economics and Citizenship in 1924. This is an important contribution to our understanding of Britain in the late 19th century and up to the interwar years. Very readable and welcome as a contribution to the history of multiculturalism in Britain.

Alison Turner

Book review – East-West Street

Phillipe Sands, Penguin Random House

HJCeastwest

This is not a book for the faint hearted, dealing as it does with the origins of the crimes of Genocide, and Crimes against Humanity which were first established at the Nuremburg trials in 1945. However, it is also not too difficult a read, as it is also the personal story of the family history of the author, himself an expert in International Law. It traces the personal histories of the two eminent Law experts who first drafted the definition of these crimes, Hersche Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin, and also follows that of Hans Frank, the German Governor of Occupied Poland, and Hitler’s legal expert, who was one of those tried in Nuremburg, and whose son came to be a friend of the author while he was researching this book. This a very well researched account of middle Europe in the years leading up to 1939 and subsequent events during the war and in its immediate aftermath. I found this book fascinating, but at the same time, it is very much a factual narrative, as you may expect from a lawyer, but for me, it was sometimes lacking in emotion.

For more information, See: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/may/22/east-west-street-origin-genocide-crimes-against-humanity-philippe-sands-review

JB

KlezNorth 2017

HJCKleznorth

This is an opportunity to indulge yourself in Klezmer music, dance, and song. Only for Klezmer fanatics but a lot of fun, especially if it coincides with Purim, as this year. The event is held in the attractive village of Youlgrave in Derbyshire, with main activities taking place in the village hall, and workshops held in other locations throughout the village. You don’t have to be an instrumentalist, or even a singer to attend KlezNorth, but you do need to be prepared to participate, including helping with some of the practical/domestic tasks needing to be done over the weekend. Workshops on Yiddish Song, late night klezmer dancing and a wonderful Yiddish workshop/Purimspiel, at which we did yet another ludicrous re- enactment of the Purim story, were some of the highlights of the event. Catering was excellent, and accommodation is in the local Youth Hostel or local B&B’s. Recommended.

Julian & Cherry

Pesach K’neidlach Recipe (matzo balls)

I have tried various kneidle recipes and generally not got the nice fluffy texture that I was aiming for. However, this recipe I have found to be foolproof and comes from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem cookbook.

HJCKneidlach

Perfect Kneidlach (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 until frothy then whisk in the melted fat. Add ½ a teaspoon 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 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 boiling salted water. Cover partially with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently until tender, about 30 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the kneidlach to a clean baking sheet to cool and then be chilled for up to a day, or they can go straight into the soup. Another option is to freeze them.

Cherry Wolfe

Members Welfare

Judith Labelter:

Some of you will have seen Judith Labelter at the last service and know that she is much improved, and now back at home, but still needs to improve further, and build up her strength. We wish her well for the future.

Pre-Pesach Story

Herschele Ostropolye is a Jewish wise guy who lived in the 18th Century near Mezhbizh in Southern Ukraine.

Here is a sample story relating to Pesach.

Herschele had a stall in the market where he was selling bric a brac including one item which was a large blank canvas. A passer-by came up and asked Herschele what sort of a painting it was. Herschele replied ‘If you give me a shekel, I’ll tell you all about it’. The curious punter paid over his shekel, and Herschele told him it was a famous painting of the Jews being chased by the Egyptians across the Red Sea.

So’, says the punter, ‘Where are the Jews?’

Oh, they’ve crossed already’

And where are the Egyptians?’

Oh, they haven’t come yet’.

The punter, now feeling really exasperated continues:

Nu, and where is the Red Sea?’

It’s parted.’

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Forthcoming Events
Our next HJC community meeting will be the Pesach Seder at Saxon Hall, Hereford on 13th April. Bookings are now closed, but contact Cherry Wolfe for any queries about this event.

AGM As last year, this will be a social event where we can relax in more comfortable surroundings and take the opportunity to review the community activities of the past year, and look at where we are going as a community.

AGM Sunday 7th May, Trumpet Inn, Ledbury, 1130 – 1230 followed by Social lunch. Please give in your menu choices on arrival.

Anne Frank Interfaith Service – Saturday 10th June 2017, Saxon Hall Hereford. We are hoping to have representatives of other faiths and local organisations present at this service which will be led this year by Rabbi Anna Gerrard.

Friday 28th April Interfaith Coffee morning, cakes, plant sale, raffle 10 – 12 Forbury Chapel , Leominster HR6 8NH

Herefordshire Interfaith Group

Deadline for next newsletter will be 15 May 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 words, but longer contributions may be included if appropriate. Pictures also welcome, but please try to keep image sizes small and below 500KB for newsletter inclusion. All contributions are welcome but depending on format and content, the editor reserves the right to edit or hold over to a future edition if needed.

HJC Diary of Events

Date

Event

Time

Place

Wed 12th April Passover Seder meal 6.30 p.m. Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE
Sunday 7th May AGM at Trumpet Inn, followed by Social lunch 11.30 a.m. Trumpet Inn, Ledbury, Ledbury Rd, Trumpet HR8 2RA
Saturday 27th May Shavuoth Shared Service with GLJC 11 a.m. Up Hatherley Village Hall Shiloh, Swindon Lane, Cheltenham GL51 9QG
Saturday 10th June Ann Frank service led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard – open to other faiths 11 a.m. Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE
Sunday 18th June Film Session – Ushpezin, and Tea 4 p.m. Belmont Community Centre, Eastholme Avenue, Hereford HR2 7UQ
Friday 28th April HIFG Interfaith Coffee morning, cakes, plant sale, raffle 10 – 12 Forbury Chapel , Leominster HR6 8NH

 

Herefordshire Jewish Community Contacts

Email hjc@liberaljudaism.org Mark Walton

Tel: 01594 530721 (after 6pm or at weekends)

 

   
   
 

Newsletter December 2016/January 2017

Editorial

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

CHAIR CHAT

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.

Eva Mendelsohn

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.

Chanukah Party

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.

JB

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.

Angela West

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

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.

JB

Members Welfare

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 hjc@liberaljudaism.org 

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.

Forthcoming Events

HJC Services

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.

Hebrew groups

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

Date

Event

Time

Place

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 hjc@liberaljudaism.org or phone Mark Walton on 01594 530721 after 6pm. 

 

HJC Newsletter February/March 2016 – Purim Edition

Editorial

Firstly, apologies for the lateness of this newsletter. Cherry and I both returned from a visit to Israel in January with a ‘flu bug which has taken us some time to recover from. The weather in Israel at this time of the year is not altogether Mediterranean! We include some comments on our trip in this newsletter, and it sounds as if we missed an interesting Shabbat service while we were away.

This edition contains a combination of more local news but also some from France and Israel. In Israel, while there are always negative actions by the Government, this past week sees the decision to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, which is a brave move by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and must be applauded. While this may not directly affect many of us here, it is a significant step forward in inclusiveness, which has not been without its strong critics within the Israeli Government. As Liberal Jews we need to support any moves to more openness and acceptance of different perspectives, both religious and cultural, in the Middle East and also here in Herefordshire with our interfaith work – See details of events in calendar.

Julian Brown

In this edition: Chair Chat        Jerusalem Round up          Burns night in Jerusalem

                         Interfaith story          Community Matters                 Hebrew Learning

CHAIR CHAT JANUARY 2016

1. RABBI ANNA

As usual, Anna came up with something different and entertaining for our Chanukah party. This time it was a competition to construct a menorah from the materials provided. Quite a challenge for the butter fingered but great fun. 

Our last service with Anna before she begins her adoption leave was on January 23 at Colwall. We had a good attendance on a cold day and an interesting discussion on the nature of prayer, particularly in the light of the proposed new LJ prayer book. Anna told us that she is shortly to adopt Josh (5 years old) and we look forward to welcoming him to our services in the future. We wish her all the best of luck with this exciting challenge and look forward to welcoming her back in September.

2. FUTURE SERVICES

While Anna is on leave, we have arranged for some visiting Rabbis to take our services. On Saturday February 27, our old friend, Rabbi Margaret Jacobi from Birmingham, will be leading the service at Colwall. On Friday March 11, Rabbi Alexandra Wright, the senior Rabbi at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London, will take our Friday night service at Saxon Hall in Hereford. Many thanks to Gloucestershire Jewish Community and the LJS for facilitating this. Apparently, Alexandra is going to cycle between Hereford and Gloucester to take the Saturday morning service there – we shall see! Finally, we are honoured that the President of Liberal Judaism, Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, will take our service at Saxon Hall on Saturday June 11, to mark Anne Frank Day and a year since we planted the tree in front of the centre. It will also be erev Shavuot and Andrew has offered an additional study session.

3. SHUL CRAWL – YORK

I have a strong affinity with York, having spent over 6 years as a student there where I met Mary and got married, and my mother in law and brother in law have now settled there. I noted the recent growth of a new liberal Jewish group there with interest and on my last visit to the city managed to attend a service. They meet in the Friends Meeting House in the shadow of Cliffords Tower, notorious for the massacre of Jews in 1190. I was immediately struck by the vitality and inclusivity of the community. There were over 30 people at the service but I was told there are normally more than 50. The service was led by a very lively and charismatic student Rabbi, Daniel Lichman, who obviously had a great rapport with the community. With many children in the community, they are able to run a cheder and also have regular Hebrew lessons before the service (a model for us?). It was a great pleasure for me to meet there Josephine Woolfson, one of our founder members, who frequently comes over from Leeds to support her York based daughter. I can’t comment on the quality of the kiddush or the chavurah lunch they were having after the service as I had no time to stay but it looked and smelt good! I will certainly go again next time I am in York.

4. TEA ROTA

As our Council is now severely depleted, offers to make (and wash up) tea and coffee at services would be gratefully received. This would include bringing fresh milk to the service. Please let Julian, Cherry, Alison or myself know if you are willing to help on a rota basis. It will be one less thing we have to worry about!

5. IS SANTA JEWISH?

Totally unseasonal, I know, but glancing through December copies of the JC (courtesy of David L.). I chanced on the following.
Given the JC’s penchant for trying to establish Jewish lineage for celebrities such as Kate Middleton, David Beckham, Ben Cohen (rugby player) or George Cohen (footballer),  a letter offered 10 reasons why Santa is really Jewish.
“He wears a funny beard and hat.  Is always overdressed. Like traditions.  Is the centre of attention.  Loves kids.  Is his own boss – and has a lot of personnel.
Has a great sense of humour.  Is a regular at Brent Cross.  A self made career.  Always prefers reindeers over a car on Shabbat.  Obviously this can only mean one thing …Le’chaim Santa.”

Mark Walton

Jerusalem Round up

Whenever I return from a visit to Jerusalem, I feel that the sheer variety of backgrounds – cultural, architectural, social and religious, is probably unique in such a small city. In how many cities can you go from a narrow streeted world of Charedi Jews living in such a cloistered environment, where even normal Western dress feels very out of place, and then within no more than 10 minutes’ walk in another direction, you find yourself almost in another country, where women are dressed in black from head to toe, yet go about their business perfectly normally, where Palestinian men drink Turkish coffee, and Arabic instead of Yiddish is the norm? Here, over what was once the Green line between East and West Jerusalem, there is an educational bookshop crammed full of scholarly works, all exploring the Israeli-Palestinian situation, from the Palestinian side. Back in the Bokharan quarter (one of many ultra-religious areas of the city) even any references to modern day society or culture feels out of place, as everything turns around religious law, ritual and custom.

On a fairly sunny morning on our first day in Jerusalem, we sat in a café in the main Machaneh Yehudah market (shuk) talking to a young man in his mid thirties. He had grown up in the Charedi community in B’nei Barak, but from his mid-teens somehow felt this was not right for him, and eventually he left the community, which is no small step to take if you are Charedi.. Amazingly, he is still on good terms with his parents, telling us they are more open and tolerant than many Charedi. While he is still religious, his wife, who also grew up Charedi, has given up all her religious beliefs, and is now a campaigning photographer and film maker, and has made a powerful film called the Black Bus about the religious segregation in Jerusalem, for which you can see trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeIcuOuxQoI

Machaneh Yehudah is always an amazingly positive experience, with its myriad smells, colours, and stalls piled high with every fruit and, vegetable, cheeses and olives, fish, meat and breads of every shape and size. Only here can you meet a man who runs a small stall selling Etrog juice which he claims is the health drink par excellence.

A Jerusalem Burns night

Being only Yorkshire born, although having lived two years in Scotland, and been married for twenty-five years to a Glasgow born Scot, I felt privileged to be invited to participate in a Jerusalem Burns night, organised by Cherry’s brother. For anyone who does not know, Burns night is an annual occasion to celebrate the life and poetry of Rabbie Burns who wrote much of his verse in Lallans (lowland Scots). Being in Jerusalem, this Burns night had to cater for a range of ethnic backgrounds (although with a strong Scottish bias), and also included a multitude of languages. Lallans was translated into both Hebrew and Arabic. Auld Lang Syne was translated into Yiddish, and also bagpipes were very professionally played by an Israeli born member of the Embassy staff.

Cherry’s father was a Burns lover and to that end, her brother Lenny began hosting Burns’ nights, which he has now done for about 15 years, continuing the tradition after her father died in 2006. This Burns night was a great opportunity, although also slightly nerve wracking, for both Cherry and I to perform in front of 60 people. Cherry sang ‘Ye Banks and Braes, and I told a traditional Scottish story, with both being very well received. The evening also included Ode to a Haggis (vegetarian, of course), Glasgow street songs, and an address to the Lassies and the Laddies.

Living in Jerusalem, the atmosphere can be quite tough, especially as now, when there is an intifada in place, so a Burns night is an opportunity to drink deeply of the spirit of Rabbie Burns and also of the liquid spirits which hail from the peaty Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

Hebrew Survey

We have had a fair amount of interest in learning Hebrew within the community (though we would be grateful if any more members wish to return their surveys). It looks as if we may need to set up small groups in both Monmouth and Malvern areas, but as always it is the geographical logistics which is going to be the determining factor to making this all happen. We have a range of possible resources, and the next step is to set up initial meetings, where we can gauge more accurately the level of Hebrew knowledge of those members interested, and explore next steps for learning.

Community Matters – Farewell to Andrea

Andrea Berry-Ottaway, who has been such a constant member, and for many years the mainstay of our community, is finally leaving Herefordshire for Banbury on 7 March to be closer to her family. So our last chance to see her before her move will be at our next service on 27 February. I am sure we all wish her the best of health and many happy years to come in her new home.

 

Interfaith News – Rabbi meets Rapper

A story in the I newspaper on Saturday reported on the unusual pairing of a Rabbi and a black Muslim rapper teaming up to create a youTube music video against anti-semitism. Rabbi Michel Serfaty, from the southern suburbs of Paris, a founder of the Muslim –Jewish friendship association, visited the rapper, Coco Tkt, (pronounced t’inquiete) in prison, where he was serving a sentence for armed robbery. Whilst in prison, Coco Tkt had had a change of heart from his previous links with the anti-Semitic comedian, Dieudonne, and decided he wished to do something to try to combat anti semitic sentiment in Paris.

 

Book Review – Hebrew Talk

Whilst at the South West Regional Shabbaton in November, we bought a book on behalf of HJC, which hopefully can be loaned out to those members most interested.

This is a very accessible, fascinating and readable book, subtitled 101 Hebrew Roots and the Stories they tell, written by Joseph Lowin. Each short chapter gives a lightning tour of words and meanings, associated with the simple three letter root, not only in Hebrew, but with occasional shifts into other cultures and languages. The root (gimmel, daled, lamed) for example (Gadol) has a whole range of meanings associated with being big, great, strong and the stories told link with Biblical sources, Jewish history and modern Israeli society. Reading this book is a relatively painless way of absorbing the finer detail of Hebrew etymology, and gaining a basic knowledge of many of the key roots and words in the Hebrew language.

 

Hereford & Malvern Foodbanks

Please bring your donations to the next HJC Service. For details see below.

Malvern Foodbank provide emergency food for local people in crisis.

They are collecting donations of the following to help local people in crisis. If you can help, one or more items from the list will make a real difference.

They particularly need:

Coffee, tinned fish, tinned fruit, instant mash potato, jam, marmalade, tinned meat, UHT milk, pasta sauces, tinned sponge puddings, 500g bags of sugar, tinned tomatoes, treats, tinned vegetables.

Please note they cannot accept frozen, chilled or perishable items.

They also need the following non-food items:

Bleach, cleaning cloths, deodorant, shower gel, toilet rolls, washing powder.

Thank you for any help you can give the foodbank.

Deadline for next newsletter will be 15 March 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

Date

Event

Time

Place

Saturday 27th February

Shabbat service led by Rabbi Margaret Jacobi

11.a.m.

Ale House Colwall

Friday 11th March

Friday Evening Service led by Rabbi Alexandra Wright

7 p.m. 

Burgage Hall, Ledbury

Sunday 24 April

HJC Communal Seder

6.30 p.m.

Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE

Saturday 11th June

Anne Frank Day Service led by Rabbi Andrew Goldstein

t.b.c.

Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE

Other Events of Interest

Saturday 5th March

Herefordshire Interfaith Women’s Day

9.30 – 4.00

Kindle Centre Belmont Road, Hereford HR2 7JE

Thursday 10th March

Herefordshire Interfaith Group AGM

7p.m. –

9 p.m.

Kindle Centre Belmont Road, Hereford HR2 7JE

 

Other Events of Interest
Yachad and New Israel Fund UK are hosting a
Security Conference next month to look at the current position n Israel..
Security might be the most used term in Israeli political life – and in our conversations about Israel in the community. As two organisations committed to building a safe and secure Israel, we have invited an outstanding team of experts to help us unpack what security really means today.
We will be tackling the burning questions of how to approach Israel’s security in 2016, including: What are the greatest strategic threats currently facing the State of Israel? Is there a dichotomy between peace and security? Who are the potential Palestinian partners for peace?
When: Sunday 6th March, 09:15-16:45
Where: Cavendish Conference Rooms, 22 Duchess Mews, London W1G 9DT
Tickets: £20 adults/£10 students

Herefordshire Interfaith Group

are launching a Faith to Faith Women to Women’s project.

To be held on March 5th, celebrating International Women’s Day.

You are invited to an informal relaxed day, sharing food and interests, through the medium of Art, Craft, Music and Dance. Individual cards and gifts will be made to send to ‘friends and loved ones’ to maintain and create bonds among women of Faith including those who live their lives in friendship and openness. (Crafting packets provided)

The Group wish to reach out to women of Faith and Spirituality from around the World who have made their homes in Herefordshire and surrounding Borders. The intention is to provide a platform for a better understanding of different cultures in order to enable women of diverse Faiths to help, support, guide and encourage other women, leading to friendships and minimising the feelings of isolation that may be felt when settling into a New Country.

Through these links we plan to make contact with their relatives and friends left behind in their home countries, in order that we may start to understand their cultures and what forms the basis of their understanding of faith, spirituality and friendships.

It is envisaged that in this way a web will spread out to many cultures throughout the world where we, in the main have little understanding, such as Afghanistan and Syria regarding Islam and Baha’i faiths, across Eastern Europe and into Bulgaria, regarding forms of Islam and Catholicism and pockets across the Himalayas and into Myanmar regarding different forms of Buddhism.

The Idea was born from the passion of the Chairman, The Venerable Tenzin Choesang a Buddhist Nun. Venerable’s vast experience of travel, as a Business Woman and Nun have taken her to many places. She believes that friendships and understanding can be created using the Universal language of Art, Craft, Dance and Music thus crossing all barriers. Along her journey, she has made many friends and treasures gifts given to her that now adorn her Meditation Room.

Smiles, actions, kind words and good deeds

STRANGERS ARE FRIENDS THAT WE HAVE YET TO MEET

Come and MAKE IT HAPPEN