Despite our small numbers, HJC continues to be a very strong and active and local community, and we have managed to continue with a number of events, even through these dark winter months. We have also a number of members with ill health over this time, which has reduced attendances, and we wish everyone in our community good health as we move forward in 2017. Our next event will be a Tu b’Shvat Seder – a celebration of the Jewish New Year for trees, and this will also mark the beginning of spring in the Jewish calendar. This will be an afternoon Seder and tea, so we hope many of you will be able to come along.
Julian Brown, Editor
In this edition:
Chair Chat Hebrew Groups
Holocaust Memorial Day – Poems
Encounters with Shoah – Angela West
Chanukah song – Background to Ladino
Remembering Rabbi Lionel Blue
Book Review Terror, Trauma & Tragedy
Film Review – Through the Wall
Forthcoming events: Jewish Book Week, Klez North, Interfaith Women’s Day, Crash Hebrew course – Northwood and Pinner.
As usual, a very pleasant evening with the customary doughnuts and latkes. Julian and daughter Maya entertained us with songs and stories while Rabbi Anna led a very interesting discussion on the “Book of the Maccabees.”
January service at Colwall
Many thanks again to Julian and Cherry for leading this. Unfortunately, the weather was poor which meant that attendance was lower than usual. However, we had an interesting discussion about the role of the Egyptian midwives in the Torah portion, “Shemot.” It was also an opportunity to reflect on “Holocaust Memorial Day,” with some very moving contemporary poems which are reprinted in this newsletter.
Rabbi Lionel Blue
We also took time to discuss our memories of the late lamented Rabbi Blue, one of the most popular and listened to religious figures of our time. But also a very brave and tormented individual, summed up for me by the following quotation:
“I went along with religion for many years not believing it, because after all a lot of it is not believable, but as I went on in life I began to trust it more and more and it reshaped me, made me a much nicer person … the religion thing worked.” He claimed to be guided by a guardian angel whom he called Fred: “I hold his hand and we sit next to each other and we cuddle.”
Most people will remember him for the jokes with which he used to end his homilies on the Today programme and, in his honour and memory, here is my contribution to the Jewish humour archive – best spoken with the appropriate accents,
An Imam, a priest, and a rabbi, in their efforts to further the cause of interfaith relations, gather for their weekly spot of golf, but find they are waiting a very long time for a group ahead of them to move on. The caddy returns when he discovers the reason for the delay is that the group ahead are ‘blind golfers’ – they can’t see a thing.
The Imam responds by saying, “Aahh, Allah, praise Allah, that there are such wonders in the world. “
The priest responds by saying,” Praise be to Jesus, such miracles can happen, that their souls be touched.”
The Rabbi responds by saying,” so, they couldn’t choose to play at night time?”
Ochos Kandelikos and Ladino
At HJC Chanukah party we were introduced to a Chanukah song in Ladino, the language of the Sephardi Jews, equivalent to the Yiddish of Ashkenazi Jews. Here is more background on Ladino for those interested, with occasional pictures from our party, including the six dreidl challenge!
Ladino, otherwise known as Judeo-Spanish, is the spoken and written Hispanic language of Jews of Spanish origin. Ladino did not become a specifically Jewish language until after the expulsion from Spain in 1492 – it was merely the language of their province. It is also known as Judezmo, Dzhudezmo, or Spaniolit.
When the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal they were cut off from the further development of the language, but they continued to speak it in the communities and countries to which they emigrated. Ladino therefore reflects the grammar and vocabulary of 14th and 15th century Spanish. The further away from Spain the emigrants went, the more cut off they were from developments in the language, and the more Ladino began to diverge from mainstream Castilian Spanish.
In Amsterdam, England and Italy, those Jews who continued to speak ‘Ladino’ were in constant contact with Spain and therefore they basically continued to speak the Castilian Spanish of the time.
2concentration on dreidl spinning
However, in the Sephardi communities of the Ottoman Empire, the language not only retained the older forms of Spanish, but borrowed so many words from Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Turkish, and even French, that it became more and more distorted. Ladino was nowhere near as diverse as the various forms of Yiddish, but there were still two different dialects, which corresponded to the different origins of the speakers.
‘Oriental’ Ladino was spoken in Turkey and Rhodes and reflected Castilian Spanish, whereas ‘Western’ Ladino was spoken in Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia and Romania, and preserved the characteristics of northern Spanish and Portuguese. The vocabulary of Ladino includes hundreds of archaic Spanish words which have disappeared from modern day Spanish, and also includes many words from different languages that have been substituted for the original Spanish word, from the various places Ladino speaking Jews settled. Some terms were actually transferred from one community to another through commercial or cultural relations, whereas others remained peculiar to particular communities. These foreign words derive mainly from Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, Greek, French, and to a lesser extent from Portuguese and Italian. In the Ladino spoken in Israel, several words have been borrowed from Yiddish. For most of its lifetime, Ladino was written in the Hebrew alphabet, in Rashi script, or in Solitro, a cursive method of writing letters. It was only in the 20th century that Ladino was ever written using the Latin alphabet. In fact, what is known as ‘rashi script’ was originally a Ladino script which became used centuries after Rashi’s death in printed books to differentiate Rashi’s commentary from the text of the Torah.
3candle lighting HJC 2016
At various times Ladino has been spoken in North Africa, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, France, Israel, and, to a lesser extent, in the United States (the highest populations being in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and south Florida) and Latin America. By the beginning of this century, with the spread of compulsory education in the language of the land, Ladino began to disintegrate. Emigration to Israel from the Balkans hastened the decline of Ladino in Eastern Europe and Turkey.
The Nazis destroyed most of the communities in Europe where Ladino had been the first language among Jews. Ladino speakers who survived the Holocaust and emigrated to Latin America tended to pick up regular Spanish very quickly, whilst others adopted the language of whichever country they ended up in. Israel is now the country with the greatest number of Ladino speakers, with about 200,000 people who still speak or understand the language, but even they only know a very limited and basic Ladino.
It is important to note that Ladino is not modern Spanish, and also to note that just because someone speaks modern Spanish, this fact alone does not make them Sephardic.
Shemot – Shifrah and Puah
Read at Shabbat Service 21 January
The story of Shifrah and Puah, the Hebrew Midwives, is an important one, particularly as there are few stories in the Torah in which women are at the centre. We are told of the moral courage of Shifrah and Puah in dealing with Pharaoh who orders them to slay all male babies. They are able to talk their way round Pharaoh by telling him that the Hebrew women give birth more quickly than the Egyptian women and the babies have arrived by the time they get there. Shifrah and Puah quietly practice passive resistance in how they disobey Pharaoh, yet making him think they are still to be trusted.
Shifrah and Puah are known as God-fearing which appears to describe their moral and ethical position, which transcends religion and culture.
Book review – Terror, Trauma and Tragedy: rabbinic responses.
Edited by Jonathan Romain and David Mitchell
This book has just been published by the Sternberg Centre for reform Judaism and contains short essays by 24 Reform and Liberal rabbis. The book tries to investigate responses that we may have to tragic events that happen in our lives, in the lives of those we know, or in the lives of the wider community. Some of the essays are very personal, for example what happened after the sudden death of a family member, and some relate to world events such as 9/11 and other terror attacks. I found the essay(s) by Sandra Kviat and Rebecca Lillian especially illuminating, written in response to terror attacks in Copenhagen in February 2015. Rebecca Lillian writes of the amazing support given to the Jewish community by members of other faiths: Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and by people of no particular faith. Muslims in particular promised to surround the local synagogue with a ring of peace for Shabbat service stating, ‘If anyone wants to commit violence in the name of Islam [they will] have to go through us Muslims first.’ Perhaps an extreme example but perhaps also very relevant to the times we are living in. Rebecca goes on to say that she was inspired to make a similar promise to their Muslim neighbours. Her final comment was a response to a statement written on a heart pinned up outside the synagogue after the tragedy which read, ’I believe in love without borders.’ Rebecca Lillian respectfully disagreed saying that she believes in love despite borders, as borders do exist but can be crossed, with respect friendship and mutual understanding. This is harder to achieve but creates a much stronger foundation.
Two Encounters with the Shoah – Angela West
1. In 2008, Roger and I made some travels in Eastern Poland, where we visited a Polish friend in Bialystok. Here I happened to come across a small book by Tomasz Wiznievski, Jewish Bialystok and Surroundings in East Poland. The author was a journalist who had been arrested under the Communists for his dissident activities, and while in prison had discovered quite by chance that before the war the population of his city had been 60% Jewish. He set out to research its Jewish past, and thanks to his text, we were able to explore something of the Jewish heritage of the city – which, as we soon discovered, locals were not particularly keen to show off to tourists.
4 cemetery i Bialystok
Among other sites, we visited the main Jewish Cemetery in Wschodnia St, originally one of four, said to have 7000 mazevas within a 30 acre boundary. This was the only one to have survived the Nazis, who used many of the 35-40,000 gravestones for road building and paving stones. The cemetery now showed signs of sad neglect and local hostility, and presented a sharp contrast with the nearby Catholic cemetery which was lovingly tended by a constant stream of visitors. But in Bialystok after the Shoah, there is no Jewish community left to care for the graves of the ancestors.
Even more poignant was what we found when attempting to visit some of the graveyards of the smaller Jewish communities in the surrounding areas. These were completely unsignposted and not marked on local maps, often with no discernible pathway or evidence of their existence. Without Wiznievski’s account, we would never have found them. On more than one occasion as we approached the site, there seemed to be nothing there except boulders among the trees. Only on closer inspection did we notice some barely visible Hebrew letters on the ‘boulder’ – a sort of dying testimony to the destruction of a whole community.
2. Two books I read recently throw light on the factors which help to explain how the Shoah was possible. These are:
Amos Elon, The Pity of it All: A Portrait of the German Jewish Epoch 1743-1933, and secondly, Michael Mack, German Idealism and the Jew: the Inner Anti-Semitism of Philosophy and German Jewish Responses.
The first describes the attempts of German Jewry in the post-Enlightenment period to gain civic equality in the country of their birth. Despite the fact that they produced a stunningly successful community of writers, philosophers, scientists, tycoons and activists, non-Jewish German society
as a whole stubbornly resisted their advancement, choosing instead to regard this small minority as a deadly threat to German national integrity. The book’s title aptly indicates the feeling one is left with after reading about this tragic struggle.
The second book (which I am now re-reading) demonstrates how, in an age when German philosophers were promoting the Enlightenment vision of an age of universal reason, the idealist tradition of Kant, Hegel, Feuerbach (and others) remained deeply rooted in prejudicial narrative of Christian anti-semitism. These philosophers managed to transform it into a modern myth in which Jews were seen as enslaved to their irrational god, a race of materialist aliens who could not be assimilated into the polity of a nation founded on transcendent reason and the principle of autonomy.
The author also examines a number of Jewish writers from the Enlightenment period, from Moses Mendelssohn, to Rosenzweig, Benjamin and Freud. Fortunately, these give a less prejudicial account of enlightened reason, which in a post-Shoah age, is urgently needed for a more complete and humane model of rationality.
Holocaust Memorial Day 27 January 2017
Two poems read at the Shabbat Service on 21 January in recognition of Holocaust Memorial Day
September silence. The blackbird’s on the lawn
who sang all summer from the summit of the ash,
knew only a few acres of belonging
but held his ground, possessed it with a psalm,
the lovely Latin of a blackbird’s song.
He sang in Auschwitz, though he knew nothing
of the mother whose sheared hair he stole
to bind his nest of moss, and mud, and grasses,
or her starved child watching behind the wire
the murderous purpose of the trucks.
Innocent, he sang in Srebrenica
from the spires of cypress, cedar, palm,
above the grave of slaughtered boys and men,
beloved bodies cast in despair’s deep pit
and buried, nameless, without hymn or balm.
A bird’s pure voice heard in the killing fields
while Cambodia’s millions died, bodies thrown
like detritus into the wounded earth.
Now swallows in the evening air rehearse
their journey south over Rwanda and Darfur,
their flight and song remembering the dead,
telling their story. Sing their names like prayer.
Human, they loved once and were beloved,
heard birdsong, and words, our human song,
our shared claim to the earth, and to belong.
Gillian Clarke, National Poet for Wales 2008 – 2016
What is worse?
You would think that nothing could be worse than being
Discriminated against, having rights stripped away and being mocked
By the Nazis using my own passport, using my own religious star. I
Was poor and hurt. But actually I was wrong, the Ghetto was worse.
You would think that nothing could be worse than being moved to an
Isolated Ghetto, shut away from the outside world. There were
Guards at the exits to this place. I was hungry, thirsty and exhausted.
But actually I was wrong, the Concentration Camps were far worse.
You would think that nothing could be worse than being forced to
Work, hardly getting any sleep at night because of lying awake,
Worrying and asking a question over and over; do us Jews really
Deserve this? I was weak, in pain and had no sense of hope left. But
Actually I was wrong, the gas chambers were worse.
You would think that nothing could be worse than travelling on a
train to a gas chamber, knowing you would be dead soon. Well,
you could be right. But actually, we are both wrong, being a survivor is the worst.
There is nothing worse than knowing that 11 million other people
died and you didn’t. The Holocaust stopped, I was rescued, and,
somehow, I managed to survive. All the guilt, all the sorrow and
sadness. It’s so overwhelming. I could never forgive the Nazis, but I
could never forgive myself for what I did in order to survive…
written by Joseph Krakowski, Year 9, Bangor Grammar School, and submitted by Amanda Crossthwaite, Year 9 English teacher.
We’re hoping that Judith will soon be home from hospital where she has been for a few weeks. She is gradually improving and she has had a short visit home to assess her progress. David has been doing more than a sterling job in visiting Judith each day, which involves braving the hazards of the notorious Worcester Link road works. Not only that, he has also to look after the dog as well as making meals for himself, so quite a challenge for him to take on.
Through The Wall a film by Rama Burshtein – available at Curzonhomecinema.com
f you want an alternative take on the Orthodox Jewish community (and maybe brush up your Hebrew at the same time), this film made by an ultra orthodox woman film maker in Jerusalem is a breath of fresh air. However, it is somewhat slow, and not like the fast action films we are used to seeing coming out of Hollywood, but it is well filmed, and tells the story of a mid-thirties single woman still looking for a husband. The opening scene with a Shadchan, a marriage maker, is a brilliant beginning, illustrating the blend of humour with searching questions which weave together in this film. You could call this film an orthodox Jewish mixture of Bridget Jones Diary with Eat, Pray, Love – but don’t take those associations too closely as this is set mainly in a Jerusalem Orthodox world. There are limitations to the film, and according to the Guardian review, it is not at all as good as Burstein’s first film, Fill the Void, so perhaps that may be one to go for in the future. Through the Wall may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s not altogether an easy film to watch, but Cherry and I found it worth watching, despite perhaps an unsatisfactory ending. You can watch this yourself at Curzonhomecinema.com for £8 for 48 hours rental, or less if you are a member.
Deadline for next newsletter will be 15 March 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.
Our next service/event will be the Tu B’Shevat Seder, Saturday 11th February 2017. Note that this will be at 4 p.m. in Burgage Hall Ledbury, and will be led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard. Please bring contributions to tea, especially including anything that comes from trees, such as fruits and nuts. More details to follow.
Learn to Read or Improve your Hebrew in a Weekend
Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue
Introducing our 11th Hebrew Crash Course: come and learn to read or improve your fluency and understanding of Hebrew in a weekend in a stimulating community atmosphere.
Dates: Friday 3 March – Sunday 5 March 2017
Times: Friday 6pm – 10pm including a 8:30pm Shabbat Service
Saturday 9:30am – 5pm ending with Havdalah
Sunday 10am – 4pm
Cost: £75 for members of a synagogue, £125 for non-members. The price includes all sessions, study materials and meals.
Led by Rabbi Aaron Goldstein & Rabbi Lea Mühlstein
For more information or to book your place, please contact Sukhi Latter on email@example.com or 01923 822 592
Jewish Book Week
25 February – 5 March, Kings Place, London
A feast of talks with authors and a fascinating collection of new writing.
Musical klezmer weekend in Derbyshire Peak district. Come if you play an instrument or even if you don’t. 17th – 19th March 2017 See https://kleznorth.org.uk/ for details.
Women 2 Women Faith 2 Faith
celebrating international women’s day
Sat March 4th, 9.30am – 4.30 pm
at the Kindle Centre, Belmont Road, Hereford HR2 7JE
An exciting day of opportunities to get to together with other local women from all backgrounds.
Come at 9.30 for a drink and a chance to get to know one another – the morning will then start formally at 10.00 with a meditation to quieten the soul, followed by a variety of craft workshops.
We’ll have a shared lunch – please bring vegetarian food that is easy to share. Refreshments will be provided.
In the afternoon we will again start with a meditation, followed by some singing and an opportunity to share on the theme of The Many Ways That Women Love.
You are invited to prepare something to say on this subject: it can be something from your personal experience, something that you know 3rd hand, or something about a special woman in history that has shown love and wisdom and made a difference within her sphere of influence or beyond.
The event is free to all but donations to support such events will be welcome.
There will be an opportunity to sit on cushions on the floor – chairs will be available as well.
Please book in advance if at all possible as, although no one will be turned away, it will help us to plan for numbers.
STRANGERS ARE FRIENDS THAT WE HAVE YET TO MEET
Bookings/Enquiries: Venerable Tenzin Choesang (Ani – la Choesang)
Tel: 01568 750082 email:Jackymwarren@sky.com
HJC Diary of Events
Saturday 11th February
Tu B’Shvat Seder Tea – led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard
Burgage Hall, Church Lane, Ledbury HR8 1DW
Saturday 11th March
Purim Shabbat service led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard
Colwall Ale House, Mill Lane, Colwall, WR13 6HJ
Wed 12th April
Passover Seder meal
Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE
Sunday May 7th
AGM at Trumpet Inn, followed by Social lunch
Trumpet Inn, Ledbury
Friday 19th May
Hereford, Monmouth & Malvern
Saturday 10th June
Ann Frank service led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard
Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE
Herefordshire Jewish Community Contacts
Telephone Mark Walton 01594 530721 after 6pm