Herefordshire Jewish Community Newsletter August/September 2016

Editorial

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.

ED

In this edition:

Chair Chat Biennial Reports Birmingham Limmud Reports Ammerdown report Chavurah Supper Interfaith events Charities Hebrew groups Book Review

CHAIR CHAT

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.

LIMMUDNIKS

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.

NEXT SERVICE

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.

Biennial Reports

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:

  1. Reinforcing and challenging our community’s musical traditions.

  2. Empowering music leaders and composers to be more successful and influential in musical practice.

  3. Creating closer ties of community access so we all have the same tunes.

  4. Maintaining a very high level of accessibility to new music and methods of delivery, using the internet and smartphones.

  5. 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.

Angela West

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?

Julian Brown

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.  

Shirley Goldstein

 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/

Julian Brown

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.

JB

 

Hebrew Groups

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.

Julian Brown

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.

Alison Turner

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 rabbi@kehillah.org.uk 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.

Alison Turner

Interfaith Activities

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.

 

Forthcoming Events

 

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:jillrosenheim@btinternet.com 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

Date

Event

Time

Place

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

 

 

HJC Newsletter December 2015/January 2016 – Chanukah Edition

Editorial

We are in the middle of an exciting period for HJC with 4 different events taking place over 4 weeks that members of HJC are involved in, so we are definitely alive, well, and kicking. We began with the ‘educational’ service on 21st November led by Cherry and myself, which was followed by the South West Regional Shabbaton for small communities on 28th November and on 5th December, HJC had a good sized table at the LKQ concert in Monmouth. Finally we are looking forward to seeing members, both old and new at our Chanukah service and party on 12 December in Hereford, to be led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard. Hence this newsletter is slightly later than usual, as so much has been going on. We hope we can plan further events cultural, educational and social as well as services, and also show we are a community that cares about others around us through social action in whatever way we can.

This issue has a variety of reports from the recent South West Communities Shabbaton which was help in Swindon on 28th November. We are also looking forward to running some Hebrew learning sessions in the new year, and there is also information on how we might help refugees.

Julian Brown

In this edition: Chair Chat Shabbaton Report London Klezmer Quartet Concert Community Matters Refugee Matters Hebrew Learning

CHAIR CHAT

Shabbat Services

We were delighted to welcome student Rabbi Igor Zinkov to lead our service on Shabbat Lech Lecha on Saturday October 24.   Igor had obviously put a lot of thought into the service and gave us a lot to think about as well.   It was also good to learn some new tunes, including a lively Yiddish version of “Adon Alom”.   We were all fascinated  to hear Igor talk about Jewish life in Russia during our communal lunch.    It’s always a pleasure to meet new student Rabbis and a great opportunity for us to have someone new to lead our service.   Many thanks to Igor for making the effort to come up from London and to Liberal Judaism for its support.

Many thanks, too, to Julian and Cherry for leading our service on Saturday November 21. This was designed to be a learning service and, as such, Julian explained the different aspects of the service. We also took time to exploring the Torah portion in more detail than usual, giving us chance to look at the Hebrew and intricacies of sentences. We were also introduced to some new melodies by Cherry, and the service included additional prayers for International Understanding.

Jewish Chronicle

I always enjoy reading the past copies of the JC that Judith and David kindly bring to the services. There were a couple of items in the copy of November 6 that caught my attention. On the front page was a story about a daring rescue mission to save the last Jewish family in war torn Aleppo who were smuggled out of their home earlier this year. After a 36 hour terrifying journey, during which they had to negotiate many armed checkpoints, they managed to reach the relatively safe haven of Turkey. The Jewish Agency then took responsibility for the family. The 88 year old mother, Mariam, and her daughter, Sara, were given safe haven in Israel. However, the Agency officials decided that another daughter, Gilda, her Muslim husband, Khaled, and their three children could not make Aliyah under the law of return and had no alternative but to go back to Syria where they remain. Apparently this is not an uncommon situation. A Syrian Jewish community leader living in America commented, that “Daesh would kill women if they found out they were born Jewish – regardless of whether they converted to marry Muslims.” Surely the Jewish Agency should reconsider and offer sanctuary to these unfortunate refugees?

On a more positive note, I was very impressed by the sterling work that Israeli aid agencies are doing in the Greek islands, helping to rescue refugees who have made the dangerous crossing by sea. They are very much in the front line there, taking part in regular patrols along the beaches and often plucking desperate men, women and children from the water.

I was also interested in a letter written by Rabbi Jonathan Romain (who always is worth reading) who stresses the importance of mixed faith schools, in particular the “only Jew in a non Jewish school” syndrome.

We have found there that there are four benefits:

  • first, to have a real live Jew in the class who looks and acts ordinary is the best way of preventing or countering any anti-Jewish stereotypes amongst their peers.

  • Second, each Jewish child automatically becomes an ambassador for Judaism, has to answer questions about Jewish life and is impelled to find answers.

  • Third, it reinforces their identity as Jews, they learn to live in two worlds and effortlessly move between them on a daily basis.

  • Fourth, it prepares them well for when they go off to university and find the ‘outside world’ easy to navigate rather than challenging or overwhelming.

A model both for a society at ease with minorities and for being a Jew within it.”

A powerful counterblast to the growing movement for faith schools which I feel is a very dangerous and regressive step for those of all religions and civil society.

Mark Walton

Update on Peace Day Service Sunday 20th September 2015, Hereford Cathedral

A full account of this service (which was reported in the last HJC newsletter) can be found at : https://phulme.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/peace-day-service-in-hereford-cathedral/

This has been written by Peter Hulme, the Baha’i representative.

An extract is given here:

Yesterday Hereford Cathedral hosted its first Peace Day Service to observe today’s International Day of Peace. The service was organised by the newly formed Herefordshire Interfaith Group.

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Peace is celebrated on September 21 each year to recognize the efforts of those who have worked hard to end conflict and promote peace. The International Day of Peace is also a day of ceasefire – personal or political. On this day, also known as Peace Day, people around the world take part in various activities and organize events centred on the theme “peace.” This was Hereford’s offering.

The Canon Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral & Venerable Tenzin Choesang welcomed everyone to the peace day service.

Peter Hulme

South West Shabbaton on November 28th 2015

at Jurys Inn, Swindon

Several HJC members went to this event, and some of their reports are included here. Feel free to read as much or as little as you wish.

It was the first time I’d been to a meeting like this – and I certainly found it most rewarding.

Amazing to see so many different groups represented – Gloucester, Swindon, Oxford, Wessex, Reading, Kent, Hereford , Bristol & West, Kingston, Crouch End – oh, and the six of us from Hereford ( plus Rabbi Anna who I suppose is partly ours!)

The first session I attended – guided chevrutah text study was somewhat different from my expectations – but nicely so! The focus was on Jewish identity – a theme reflected in a selection of texts, which we discussed with a partner. It was led by Rabbi Sandra Kviat and she took the opportunity to tell us how her own Danish Liberal-Jewish identity and rabbinic calling had come about – rather interesting to me, as I’ve lived in Denmark and am particularly aware of the unique role Denmark played in relation to its Jewish population during the Shoah.

After lunch, I was in Julian’s story-telling group, ‘From Chelm to Chasid’. I hadn’t realised till then that he has a whole alternative career as a story-teller! I have always deeply appreciated the Jewish midrash tradition of biblical interpretation, and no doubt the richness of Jewish story telling grows out of this – or perhaps it’s the other way round! When I got back, I shared the ‘Prophetic Squire’ Chasidic story with Roger – and he was very tickled by it.

The last session, where Rita Adler, R.Lea Muehlstein, Tony Samuel & Danny Rich spoke movingly of their experiences of working with refugee communities, impressed me very much. Danny referred more than once to what a small group of committed people can achieve and the testimony of this team certainly bore that out. Having worked with a colleague for many years with refugee and migrant women in Newport, I am also keenly aware of the obstacles and possibilities for discouragement, so I felt their achievement was all the more remarkable. It helps, I think, to be part of a religious tradition which bids its adherents: ‘Remember that you were strangers in Egypt..’ as Rita reminded us.

Several of us from HJC were at various times clustered round the book table, inspecting the literary wares that were temptingly displayed. And out of conversations arising in this context, Julian has agreed (I think!) to lay on some Hebrew study days for those of us who are interested – for which b’racha to come, I give thanks!

Angela West

Alison Turner writes:

It was amazing to be part of the South West Regional Shabbaton in Swindon and find that we had people from 9 different Liberal communities as part of our Shabbat service. I was honoured to be called up on behalf of Herefordshire Jewish Community, for the reading from our very own Torah scroll by Rabbi Danny Rich. He pointed out that the name of Esau in our portion Vayishlach was written with dots around it, not as a pronunciation guide but as a warning that here was a man who was not good. He told us that Esau had been seen to have many negative traits by commentators, though Jacob had reason to be worried meeting him for the first time in 34 years, after stealing his blessing.   The exchange between them in Hebrew carries connotations that a simple translation would miss, so it is important to look at the original. It was very special to be part of a large congregation of Liberal Jews, praying together, and the earlier session I went to prepared me for it well.

This was taken by Alexander Massey and it was a meditation on Elohai N’shamah for which he has written music and devised physical movements. We discussed the nature of the soul, where and what it is, now and after the death of the body, which was a very deep way to start the day. I found it allowed me to move from worrying about the mechanics of my travel to Swindon and properly get into a Shabbat state of mind, literally take a breath and stop mundane worries and enter into the day of rest, ready for the prayer service. His work is available on www.alexandermassey.com which has the music as well as the words in Hebrew and English and transliteration, source readings and reflections. 

In the afternoon I went to an interesting conversation between Rabbi Danny Rich and Gary Webber on different Jewish denominations. Their experiences were mirror images of each other, Rabbi Danny did not discover Jewish Orthodoxy until he went to University, he had a traditional Liberal upbringing in South London, going to Friday evening and Saturday morning services every week, so to him normative Judaism is Liberal and he rejects any notion that it is less worthy than Orthodoxy. He sees Liberal Judaism as a prophetic form of Judaism, founded by ideologues, in contrast to Reform Judaism which he sees as similar in theology but different in history and culture. On the other hand, Gary grew up with Orthodoxy and knew little about Progressive Judaism until he was an adult. Now he goes to Liberal, Reform and Masorti congregations and Limmud twice a year with his family. They agreed that all the Rabbis are trained at the same college for all these movements, and we discussed some of the reasons for the failure of previous attempts to create one Progressive movement and the situation across Europe.

I finished the day making dreidl decorations for Chanukah under the expert guidance of Sue Naydorf, and came away with many ideas for future craft sessions. I explained that at 10 months my son was about to have his first Chanukah, so the time has not yet come when he can light his own candles, even cardboard ones.  In all, it was a most interesting chance to meet, pray, have lunch, make and discuss with other Liberal Jews in our part of the world, and it was good to have a whole day to do it.  

Alison Turner

Jacqui Hannan writes:

Coming into Liberal Judaism comparatively recently, there may be a simplistic element from my point of view of the SW Shabbaton, as I still tend to regard myself as a”freshman” and everything is seen for the first time. This is by no means a reflection on LJ hospitality that has always been superlatively warm with the Shabbaton being no exception. After a straightforward journey via Gloucester from Hereford, we were immersed into the friendly relaxed atmosphere at the ideal hotel venue. From the good selection of sessions the first was appropriate for my learning situation and interests “Beit Midrash: Identity” which was led by Rabbi Sandra Kviat, in a lively manner. We looked at different aspects of Jewish identity, Biblical quotes and profound statements. Particularly notable is the paragraph by Lev Chadash that begins “Who is a Jew?” followed by (paraphrasing) Jews feel conscious of a connection as though they have met before…”..It may have been at Sinai, where according to tradition, all the unborn souls of the Children of Israel were assembled.” Rabbi Sandra spoke about Jacob’s struggle (Gen. 32.39), which was part of this week’s Torah study. It was interesting to have the opportunity to split into couples and groups to explore our personal perspectives, history and experiences in our walks, and in the case of conversion participants like myself, review our expectations. I had the opportunity to talk with a man who completed his conversion course this summer, who like me, had not come into Judaism from an uninformed platform, but rather as a chosen pathway as the result of wider experience and study as a mature person. I realise I am not alone in being “led by my heart” and “seeking truth” in this direction, in respect for our Creator. It was a reassuring and prophylactic experience to meet some of the wide range of other SW Liberal Jewish members.

After this we participated in the Shabbat Service and beautiful singing.

Following Kiddush and a light lunch the two sessions I attended were “In conversation: Why do we need denominations”, led by Danny Rich and a “Panel discussion: Experiences of working with refugee communities”, which revealed a glimpse of some of the large number of LJ initiatives in this area. There is not space here to expand and to do the day and sessions true justice.

It was on the whole an interesting, enjoyable and useful day. Everybody I spoke had something positive to say, and I felt privileged to be there. It was good to have had the opportunity to spend more time with other HLJ members, especially Alison Turner and Angela West with whom I shared some travelling time.

However, apologies for a more negative note there was one down side – we stepped out into heavy rain! I hope the organizers can improve on that aspect next year.

Jacqui Hannan

John Davies, for whom this was the first such cross communal event he had attended says he would give it 11/10.

He says he feels there is hope for the future, but that there are lots of truths that need to be addressed by both by Judaism and other religions, and we will need both spiritual and physical courage to address these. He attended the session with Danny Rich and Gary Webber and felt that Liberal Judaism has a particular role to play.

Refugees

Following on from the Refugee workshop at the Shabbaton day, we need to ask the question ‘What can HJC do directly to help refugees? We have already made a specific donation re our High Holiday appeal and no doubt some individual members have made donations in kind to local refugee collection points. We know HJC cannot do anything on the scale of LJS or Northwood and Pinner, but perhaps we can have a collective focus – for example, on the financial front, individuals could make a regular donation to a specific charity. One of the points raised in the Shabbaton refugee session was that we must be conscious of the needs of refugees who do arrive in Britain (it was also pointed out that only a minority of these are Syrian). The process of seeking asylum is fraught with issues – social, educational, legal, health which refugees are often unsure how to deal with. Perhaps we could pool ideas on this at the next opportunity – as this an issue which is not going to go away. JB

Hebrew

At our ‘teaching’ service on 21st November, we gave out copies of the Hebrew alphabet and spent more than the usual time on looking at some of the Hebrew words in the Torah verses for the week. The Hebrew alphabet seems to feature strongly in Jewish tradition, having more character to it than the more prosaic English alphabet. In addition, Hebrew letters are also used as numbers in Israel. Following on from the service, some of us at the Shabbaton looked at books available to help those who want to participate more fully in services, and learn some simple Hebrew for familiar prayers.

This felt like a starting point which a number of members of our community have expressed an interest in. ‘If only I could just read the blessing for the reading from the Torah’ for example. There seems to be current interest in having a Hebrew learning day, or perhaps evening, when we could look at resources available (including some in the Liberal Judaism Resource Bank) which could then be used for further individual study at home. As always, time and venue will need to be decided, but anyone interested in this please contact myself or Cherry, as we will be leading the sessions.

Short article on the alphabet to follow for anyone interested.

JB

Hebrew Alphabet

Early Hebrew alphabet was used by the Jews in the period before the Babylonian Exile–i.e., prior to the 6th century BC. As is usual in early alphabets, it has many local variants and also shows development over time. The Early Hebrew alphabet, like the modern Hebrew variety, had 22 letters, with only consonants represented, and was written from right to left; but the early alphabet is more closely related in letter form to the Phoenician than to the modern Hebrew.

Between the 6th and 2nd century BC, Classical, or Square, Hebrew gradually displaced the Aramaic alphabet, which had replaced Early Hebrew in Palestine. Square Hebrew became established in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC and developed into the modern Hebrew alphabet over the next 1,500 years. Though obviously derived from the Aramaic alphabet rather than from Early Hebrew it was nonetheless strongly influenced by the Early Hebrew script. Classical Hebrew showed three distinct forms by the 10th century AD: Square Hebrew, a formal or book hand; rabbinical or “Rashi-writing,” employed by medieval Jewish scholars; and various local cursive scripts, of which the Polish-German type became the modern cursive form.

The Square Hebrew Alphabet 

From: http://www.orbilat.com/General_References/Alphabets/The_Hebrew_Alphabet.html

Hereford & Malvern Foodbanks

We are still collecting for Hereford and Malvern Food Banks at all services.

Please buy just one extra item from this list and leave it at our collection point.

Items requested by Hereford Food Bank are:

  • Tins: Meat – hot or cold; vegetables; fruit; rice pudding.
  • Dry goods: Smash potato; rice; powdered custard; dried milk; instant coffee; sugar

  • General: UHT milk; pasta sauce; jam; marmalade; instant/microwave meals.
  • Hygiene: Shampoo; toothpaste; soap; household cleaners e.g. washing up liquid, detergent.

Thank you. Any queries please contact them on 01432 353347

Malvern Food Bank has sent a letter of thanks or our recent donations.

 

London Klezmer Quartet – Bridges Centre, Monmouth 5 December

This was a sell out success and a wonderful evening, so a big thank you to Mark for setting this up with Wye Valley Music Society.

London Klezmer Quartet are not only the leading Klezmer music group in the UK, running workshops and playing at events, they are also delightful to watch and listen to, with their effortless, but endlessly creative variations on both traditional and contemporary melodies. They also have a great deal of humour, for example, their story of how when travelling in Australia, they found themselves short of a (double) bass player, so looked up ‘Lonely Australian klezmer bass players.com’ and found one brilliant bass player (only one of course, as she was lonely), who had Latvian heritage and is now playing with them in the UK. This bass player also sings in Yiddish so we had three or four vocal numbers, varying in theme from potatoes (bulbas) to borscht to lost love and the Czar’s army.

All the players were very talented and each with their particular strengths, from the astonishing clarinet playing to the sensitive and emotional accordion playing to the dancing violin sounds of their leader Ilana Kravitz. Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening immensely and it is such a thrill to have real live Klezmer music in Monmouth, giving an opportunity for HJC member as well as local residents to experience some Jewish culture.

Forthcoming Events

Limmud Conference – Birmingham, 27 – 31 December 2015

When? Limmud Conference will be taking place from Sunday 27 to Thursday 31 December 2015. It will be preceded by Limmud Shabbat from Friday 25 to Saturday 26 December. We look forward to you joining us there!

Where? The hotels surrounding Pendigo Lake, just outside Birmingham, UK. More detailed information on our exciting new site can be found by visiting the frequently asked questions page. See: http://limmud.org/conference/

Deadline for next newsletter will be 15 January 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 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

Saturday 12th December

Chanukah service and party, led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard

3 p.m.

Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE

Saturday 23rd January

Shabbat Service led by Rabbi Anna Gerrard

11 a.m.

Ale House Colwall

Saturday 27th February

Shabbat service led by Rabbi Margaret Jacobi

11.a.m.

Ale House Colwall 

Other Events of Interest

27th Dec – 31st Dec 2015

Limmud Winter Conference – residential or day places available.

Birmingham