Thursday, 19 January 2017

Come to your senses quiz

After months of planning, the SPS Fundraising Group took it upon themselves to hold a quiz with a difference, which involved using all of our five senses. We held five rounds plus an ongoing Marathon Round. 

We worked as a team to put together an evening of activities together with lots of laughter! The Schindler Hall was quickly buzzing with around 60 people, who started the evening with a Marathon round whilst indulging in a fish and chip supper, desserts, drinks and nibbles. 

Halfway through the evening, we held a raffle where many prizes were won. 

It gave us, as a group, much pleasure in seeing just how much everybody enjoyed themselves, after which we had a lot of positive feedback. 

In total, a figure of £660 was raised. It has been decided that £300 will be donated to Leo Baeck Education Centre to support 60 families who have lost all their personal belongings in the recent Haifa fires. 

The remaining £360 will be used by SPS. 



Amanda Lesley

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Faith's Got Talent

Over fifty representatives of diverse faith groups from around Enfield met in the Schindler Hall on Saturday 26 November for “Faith’s Got Talent”, a celebration of the rich and varied skills present in those communities.

SPS members mixed with members of local mosques, Hindu temples and Christian churches, amongst others. The talent on display included Christian rappers, Bahai singers and Hindu dancers. SPS’s talent was well represented both by Daniel Keren, who played not just the traditional shofar calls, but a selection of TV and movies themes on a variety of shofarot, and by our Singing Group, who entertained those present with spirited renditions of Shalom Alechem and Adon Olam.

After the evening Rabbi Yuval said “Interfaith work is an essenal part of our role as a liberal community. I was delighted that we were able to welcome our neighbours in faith to SPS.” Bob Dulin echoed Yuval’s remarks, saying “I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. From now until then, Freda and I will be practising our rumba." 


Thursday, 5 January 2017

Isreal Group

Members of the Israel Group attended the UK International Jewish Film Festival to see the film 'The Settlers' followed by a panel discussion. The director, Shimon Dotan, managed to interweave fascinating archival footage with contemporary interviews with settlers and academics. 

It was a historical overview, geopolitical study and intimate look at the people, which gave us a deeper understanding of one of the most difficult challenges facing Israel and the international community today. The film was followed by a lively discussion chaired by Keren Misgav Ristvedt with panellists Professors Colin Shindler and Yossi Mekelberg during which some of the audience protested that there should have been a panellist who represented the settlers’ viewpoint. It was certainly worth us attending the event. 

Peter Leslie (Chair of the Israel Group) 

We always welcome new members:

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Events at Southgate Progressive Synagogue

Every now and then we have events at SPS that have the wow factor; the “Come to your Senses” quiz in November definitely fell into that category. There was an air of mystery as to what the quiz was going to be all about, but when it started we soon found out, and enjoyed an evening of good food, and great company, that was by common consent one of best quiz evenings in the history of SPS. 

Whilst being a man of humble disposition, I was proud to be the dynamic leader of a magnificent all round highly intelligent team, who ended the evening victorious. Thanks to everyone who made the quiz such fun: girls and boys, you did a great job, and well done to everyone who came and helped swell the Synagogue’s coffers. There will be a more traditional style quiz in February, so come along one and all and try and dislodge the supreme reigning champions. 

Two other successful events took place on Saturday 26th November, after the morning service - a Lunch and Chavruta study session on “Responsibility”. The positive feedback from those who attended was that it was a very stimulating and meaningful afternoon. Many thanks to Phyllis Freedman and Joy Cox for organising the event; hopefully there will be more in the future. 

In the evening, sponsored by the Borough of Enfield as part of Inter Faith week, we hosted “Faiths got Talent". Over fifty affable people enjoyed a wonderful, warm-hearted, inspiring event. The evening included a friendly competition of music, readings, rap, poetry, and dance between Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and members of the Bahia community, who were the eventual winners. It showed that by putting politics and divergent ways of life aside for at least one evening, a number of varied faiths can sit down together and enjoy each other’s company in harmony and mutual respect. 

Hopefully the Synagogue will be involved in many more worthwhile occasions like this. 

Robert Dulin

So, having been ‘invited’ (arm behind the back job) to coordinate Mitzvah Day, and given all of 5 minutes to make up my mind, I thought I would give it a go. 

Having got over the hurdle of having to stand outside Asda (I mistakenly assumed that we would at least be in the lobby and perhaps should have donned more layers) the trusted team got to work. I took lessons from Michelle Golding in how to project one’s voice to request items and with the help of Gerry Ostermeyer and Jacqui Kane we collected a huge array of non-perishable items. Asda’s customers were incredibly generous and completely supportive of our collection for the Enfield Food Bank. 

It is always very grafying to feel that you are helping the less fortunate and the comments we received absolutely endorsed this. 

Would I do it again? I am hoping that they move Mitzvah Day to a scorching hot summer’s day which I guess is not an option. Can someone therefore direct me to the nearest shop that sells Arctic clothing! 

Jill Newton

Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Jews of Palermo

During a recent visit to Palermo in Sicily, I was intrigued to find evidence of Jewish prisoners in the cells of the Carceri dell’Inquizione. The first Jews to arrive in Sicily probably settled as traders in Syracuse during the final centuries of the Greek era. The Romans brought some Jews to Sicily as slaves or poorly-paid servants. By the time the Arabs arrived there were flourishing communies in a number of towns including Panormas (Palermo). The Normans were tolerant and even protective of the Jewish Population and the Jews of Sicily experienced relavely little overt antagonism from fellow islanders unl the fourteenth century.

Things changed in 1492 when an edict was issued in an atmosphere of zeal at a time when Catholicism’s influence, including the Inquision, had replaced those of the tolerant twelfth century. At that time there were about 20,000 Jews in Sicily of which 5000 lived in Palermo. The Jews of Sicily were told that they were no longer welcome and had to leave or convert to Christianity. In Palermo their synagogue was demolished without trace and a new road was built, cutting right through the Jewish quarter, so that it is hard to determine where it once stood.

When the Inquision arrived on the Island to hunt down heresy, the first wave of oppression was against the Jews (Crypto-Judaism) and there were 30 burnings at the stake by 1513. Of the Jews who had converted to Catholicism, many had only pretended to do so and then continued to secretly practise their religious customs. The Inquisition was particularly suspicious of these newcomers and willingly accepted the corroboration of neighbours who reported not having seen smoke during the Sabbath or on the converts eating habits.

The Inquision connued for hundreds of years and the Holy Office was only closed in 1782. The Carceri dell’Inquizione was built 1603-1605 because the ‘Philippine Prisons’ inside the Chiaramonte Palace weren’t big enough to hold the growing number of prisoners. There were 8 cells on the ground floor and 6 on the first floor and they contained drawings on the cell walls, which were covered with plaster in the 19th century when the building became a Criminal Court. In 1906 Giuseppe Pitre discovered these drawings made by Jews, herecs, monks, nuns or inconvenient intellectuals.
I was parcularly interested in the drawings made by the Jews. One consisted of a group of kneeling Jews with their names such as Simon, Jacob, and Abraam (sic) printed above them.

It’s well worth vising this Museum of the Inquision and to be aware of the suffering of so many people during this period.

We always welcome new members.

Peter Leslie (Chair of the Israel Group)

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Religion School News

During November, Ruach invited adult members of the congregation to come into class and share their memories with the students, as part of a History Project. 

We had a fantastic morning with our guests, and the session turned out to be both informative and fun for the students and for staff members, as well as an opportunity for Ruach and the regular congregants to get to know each other. Many thanks to Pearl, Jane, Jonathan and Bob for spending the morning with us. We hope that this will become a regular feature of the Ruach curriculum. 

Many thanks also to Jill Newton, who organised the SPS Book Sale, to coincide with Mitzvah Day. The Book Sale was for the benefit of Magen David Adom, the charity chosen by Ruach students as this term's tzedakah project. 

In December, we will be raising money again for Magen David Adom, and for Mini-Ruach, our parent and toddler group, during our Chanukah celebrations, with a cake sale and a toy sale on December 17th. We would like to welcome all children in the community to these Chanukah celebrations, so please do let Shelley know if you want to bring your child along: 

Meanwhile, our parent and toddler group, Mini-Ruach, has started up again, with regular weekly sessions, after a break during the High Holy Days, when the Hall was unavailable. Mini-Ruach is for babies and children under 5, accompanied by an adult, and is open to both members and to non-members.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Moses in Calabria: A story of Sukkot

Calabria is the southernmost region of mainland Italy and the toe of Italy’s boot-like shape. Here it is on a map.
Within North West Calabria, by the shores of the Tyrrhenian secon of the Mediterranean Sea, there is a small area famous for one thing: Etrogs.
They call it the “Riviera dei Cedri”. That means “The Etrog Riviera” in English. The nearest big town is called Diamante, which means Diamond on English.
Etrogs (aka Citrons) are extremely difficult fruits to grow. Their trees are fragile and need a special soil and micro-climate of extreme heat and sea breezes, which is only found in a few areas of the world. They are strange trees for a number of reasons including that the Etrogs fruit at various different mes of the year and do not mature nor fall off the tree at the same me. Thus the same tree will have year-old mature Etrogs and baby Etrogs hanging on it at the same me.
My wife Corinna’s family comes from this Diamante/Riviera dei Cedri area of Calabria and we visited it this summer with our children Moses, Grace and Hector.
While we were in Calabria we came across some Hasidic Jews wandering around. Most of them had black hats, pesot, beards, glasses and black coats
and looked just like the “frummers” one sees in Stamford Hill.
They invited me to a shul they had made in the garage of the apartment block where they were staying. I went there, did my incompetent best to follow their Shacharit service as the sun came up and heard them leyn the Torah with strange pronunciation. They wore a special tallit that had sparkling solid silver atarah sewn into it.

It was a weird, exotic, powerful experience.

I got to know one of the Lubavitch rabbis, Yossi from Canada. Here he is picking the Etrogs. He told me that Jews have been coming to Calabria for hundreds of years to pick the Etrogs, which are thought to be the best quality, and the most beauful in the world. Although Etrogs grow in other places, mainly Israel and Morocco, the variees there are different there, and considered far less precious.

There is a legendary reason for that. The Chasidim believe that Moses, or angels sent on his behalf, came to Calabria to pick the Etrogs during Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert. Moses needed an Etrog to celebrate Sukkot. However, Etrogs cannot grow in the desert. They grow in Eretz Yisrael, but Moses was forbidden by God from entering Eretz Yisrael for his sin at Meriva, when he forgot to give God’s message to Israel before producing water from a rock. God therefore allowed Moses to obtain an Etrog from Calabria. Since then, according to the Hasidim, it has been a great mitzvah to celebrate Sukkot with a Calabrian Etrog. Indeed, it seems Hasidim will use nothing else. The rabbis apparently know each tree intimately. They look for Etrogs of a particular shape. Each Hasidic group has a particular preference for a certain rare shape and colour of Etrog, which increases the beauty and power of the mitzvah of shaking the lulav.

The lulav is made of four species each of which symbolises a different part of the body.
Here they are:
The four species also symbolise four different types of Jews. The Etrog, because it looks, smells and tastes good, is also the symbol of the best type of Jew- one whose life is full of Torah and good deeds. The palm produces dates but has no scent and represents Jews who study Torah but do not do good deeds. The myrtle has a strong scent but no taste. It is the symbol of Jews who perform good deeds but have little knowledge of Torah. The willow, which has neither taste nor scent, represents Jews who have little knowledge of Judaism and also do not perform good deeds. The lulav cannot work without all four species. Just as, in some mystical way, the Jewish people cannot continue without all four types of Jews.
At the end of our surprisingly Etroggy holiday, we got married, in a lovely garden overlooking the sea: The local mayor, seen in the photo, gave a little speech in which he said that this area of Calabria was, for hundreds of years, hundreds of years ago, the home of several substantial Jewish communities.