Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Religion School News

In December, Ruach took part in a fantastic Family Service, which included a prayer that the primary school age students had written in class. Graham Carpenter led the music during the service, and beforehand he ran a fun teaching session, when everyone was invited to come along and learn new tunes, ready for the service itself. 

December also saw the Bat Mitzvah of Ella Green. Congratulations to Ella and to all her family! 

At the beginning of January, all teaching staff will be attending the annual training session organised jointly by Liberal Judaism and the Reform Movement. We look forward to returning for the new term re-invigorated by training and exchanging ideas with colleagues from other communities. 

Meanwhile, we are still looking for volunteers to get involved with our programme of activities for our youngest members and their friends. Even if you cannot make a regular commitment, please let me know if you might be available occasionally to fill in, for example, when one of the regular volunteers is ill. 

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Book Club

Our Book Club this year has been very successful and we have read a number of different books all suggested by the Group. This encourages us to read different authors that we have not read before and discuss them at our friendly meetings. So if you have read a good book recently and would like to share it please come along and let us know.

Our first meetings for 2018 will be on:

Monday 8th January at 11 a.m. off site and at our new agreed .me for the winter months. Refreshments. Cost £1. (See details below)

Monday 5th February at 11 a.m. off site Please contact me for more details and the venue

 Our choices for January are:

January 2018 - Book Club choices
We will be reading:

The Nutshell by Ian McEwan the critically acclaimed writer of 17 books including Saturday and On Chesil Beach and Atonement.
Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home – a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse – but not with John. Instead, she's with his brother, Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy's womb.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls 

The true memoir of the journey she took from the dusty mining towns of the American Southwest, to an antique filled apartment on Park Avenue. The book tells how she escaped to New York with her older sister at just seventeen. Her younger siblings followed later. After pursuing the education and civilisation her parents sought to escape, she eventually succeeds in her quest for the 'mundane, middle class existence' she had always craved. In her apartment, overlooked by 'a portrait of someone
else's ancestor' she recounts poignant remembered images of star watching with her father, with recollections of a chaotic, disturbing life with her parents.

FEBRUARY Choice 2018 

The Throwaway Children by Diney Costeloe 

Rita and Rosie Stevens are only nine and five years old when their widowed mother marries a violent bully called Jimmy Randall and has a baby boy by him. Under pressure from her new husband, she is persuaded to send the girls to an orphanage – not knowing that the papers she has signed will entitle them to do what they like with the children. And it is not long before the powers that be decide to send a consignment of orphans to their sister institution in Australia. Among them – without their family's consent or knowledge – are Rita and Rosie, the throwaway children. 

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Words From The Chair

Even though we are in January, I would like to begin my report with an event that took place at the end of November. Hilda Schindler’s Memorial service not only felt like the end of an era, but was also a bitter sweet occasion. Bitter because she is no longer with us, and sweet as a large congregation celebrated her life. She achieved so much, not only for SPS, but also for Liberal Judaism, and the Leo Baeck Education Centre in Haifa. Hilda touched so many people’s lives, especially young children. The five guest speakers were Phyllis Freedman, Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, Vivienne Jackson, Rabbi Ofek Meir, and the one and only Rabbi Harry Jacobi. All spoke from different perspectives, and eloquently summed up the extraordinary person she was. Some people are replaceable, others are irreplaceable, and undoubtedly she was in the latter category. Long may her memory be for a blessing.

As I write this report, I have just returned from Israel after visiting my daughter Natalie. Every time I go I always make my annual pilgrimage to visit the much loved and sorely missed ex SPS members Shirley and David Bild. David has fully recovered from last year’s serious operation, he is as sprightly as ever, and Shirley is still the same caring, warm-hearted lady she was at SPS. Surprise, surprise, both are involved in the day to day social life of the home. A lovely touch is that the walls of the complex where they live are adorned with David’s numerous paintings. Even though they love their sunny life in Herzliya, they also greatly miss SPS and the many friends they made whilst being members. They send their best wishes for the future prosperity of the Synagogue, and if anyone is going to Israel and knows them, they would be delighted to see you.

I love going to Israel, the people are so vibrant and expressive; the downside is that it has become very expensive, and politically it is a mess. The short holiday raised my spirits and, despite being delayed for over an hour on my journey home at Ben Gurion airport, I am looking forward to my next visit to the holy land. Famous last words, but even though the Chanukah Chavurah/Karaoke service took place after the Gate deadline, I am quietly confident that it was its usual thoroughly enjoyable experience. And that the Karaoke and sumptuous food overseen by the lovely ladies of the House Committee greatly contributed to the success of the evening. In last month’s Gate I asked if anyone would be interested in joining a Sunday afternoon singing group - only one person responded.
Therefore it will not be resumed.

We have now entered into our 75th anniversary year; two events are already in place, a quiz on 28th April and on Saturday 3rd November our celebration will conclude with a civic service. Hopefully In between there will be other events, including involvement from Ruach. When the time comes, please support the community, and celebrate a historic achievement for SPS. 

Thursday, 28 December 2017

FLORENCE by Marilyn Rowland

On a recent visit to Florence, Jethro and I spent a glorious afternoon visiting the famous synagogue in what still appears to be a small but thriving Jewish quarter.

In 1868 David Levi, President of the Hebrew University, bequeathed his possessions for the building of this new synagogue. On first approaching it you are struck by the sight of the huge oxidised dome and you can’t help noticing the similarity to a mosque.

This is because the Sephardis who built it based it on the Moorish style, with a dome flanked by towers. The interior of the synagogue is stunning and walking around is awe-inspiring. The ladies’ galleries are picked out by sun streaming through the beautiful stained glass windows. 

From September 1943, entire Jewish families were deported from Florence, including children and residents of the Jewish Home for the Aged. Almost all of them - over four hundred in number -perished in Auschwitz. The doors of the holy Ark still bear marks inflicted by Fascist bayonets. During the Nazi occupation the synagogue was used as a garage, and it was also mined by the retreating Germans. Outside there is a garden filled with exotic plants and a Sukkah was there too - a very peaceful and moving place. The names of the 248 Jews of Florence who were murdered by the Nazis are memorialised in the garden, where a smaller plaque lists Jews who died fighting for Italy during the First World War. 

The first floor museum is fascinating, with some sections illustrating the history of the Florentine Jews, including during World War Two, and also displaying some very impressive – and very old - religious and ceremonial objects from brit gowns to yads. Next door to the synagogue is a lively Kosher restaurant – we tried to eat there but it was bursting at the seams!

By Marilyn Rowland

Thursday, 21 December 2017

LJ Quiz

Just to say thank you so much for a superbly organised quiz yesterday. Southgate was so welcoming, the food was delicious, the hall so well laid out and of course the quiz itself was brilliant! There was such a good atmosphere and it was obvious that it was a great success. Please thank the whole team for me and indeed on behalf of LJ. I did go into the kitchen to say ‘thank you’ personally to all the catering volunteers but there was no one there. It’s been a real pleasure working with you and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. 

Warmest regards, Monique 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Barn Dance - 4th November

I am writing this report following the above event, which I am pleased to say was a great success! We had just under 50 people come along for an evening of fun, food and of course lots of dancing. Our caller was very enthusiastic and had a great sense of humour! We learnt various dance sequences and it was great fun trying to get all the sequences right and our caller kept this going throughout the evening. Halfway through the evening, we held a raffle with many prizes won. The net amount raised was £328.00, which will be going into the Synagogue Roof Fund. I would like to thank everybody who came along to support the event and also to those who gave up their time to come and help set up on the day. I have already been asked when we will hold another Barn Dance, so watch this space! 


Amanda Lesley – Fundraising Group

Over 50 people enjoyed a barn dance held in the Schindler Hall. We swung our partners and “dozy do’ed” the evening away, and as many of us are of a certain age we were very glad to have the many two-minute breaks in between the dances. Actually, I don’t think my knees will recover till next year! We enjoyed plenty to eat and drink and a great raffle with many items donated by local shops all collected by Amanda and her team. Thank you ladies of the fundraising commitiee, a great time was had by one and all. Here’s to the next one and SPS members make sure you are there.

Jane Greenfield 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Emeritus Rabbi Harry Jacobi's 92nd Birthday

92 years young! I felt very privileged to be invited to celebrate Rabbi Harry’s birthday with him together with some close friends at Finchley Progressive Synagogue. We were treated to a wonderful study session given by both rabbis Harry and Margaret about Berashit followed by a sumptuous lunch and birthday cake. May you remain in good health and celebrate many more Harry. 

Jane Greenfield 

In the year 2007 the Synagogue’s competent administrator Jeannine Cohen leB us and the feeling was she would be very hard to replace. After interviewing a number of candidates, Lynda Cowper as she was called in those days was far and away the best, and was given the job. In November this year Lynda Cannon, as she is now called, will have served the community for ten years. In that time she has proved to be every bit as good as Jeanine. Lynda is the friendly, capable, first port of call for members/people who contact the office. Over the years she has integrated well with the community and has served on the Fundraising committee, as well as being on the Kiddush rota. She also has the knack of being a whiz at finding cheaper deals from utility companies, and negotiating insurance policy renewals, saving the synagogue a considerable amount of money. Her only flaw is that she still supports the North London red football team; however we forgive her for that idiosyncrasy. On behalf of the community, I would like to thank Lynda for her hard work and commitment to SPS. Long may that association continue. 

Robert Dulin 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Words From The Chair

The HHD have come and gone for another year, and as some of the services were on normal working days, the attendances fluctuated. For the first time I had the pleasure of leading the Rosh Hashanah Family Service, the reason being that the much loved Gerry Ostermeyer decided to have a rest. Nevertheless his involvement was invaluable. Many years ago when our Rabbi was suddenly taken ill, I had to take over at the last minute. It was quite a daunting experience, but with help from Phyllis Freedman and David Bickler, we managed to get through without too many hiccups. Thankfully the congregation were very supportive. The famous Hollywood actor comedian W C Fields once famously said, “Never work with animals or children”; with that thought in mind I approached my task with a sense of trepidation. “Oh ye man of little faith”, after an initial period of getting used to the noise of the children, I enjoyed every moment. It was such a warmhearted occasion, with parents and grandparents taking part in the service. When the children came up on to the bimah for the scroll procession they were all given small scrolls to carry around. James Mathiason, who was the main scroll holder, led the way; he was akin to the Pied Piper of Hamelin - the smiles and laughter on the children’s faces said it all.

At end of the service the children paraded into the Schindler Hall, and were blessed under a large tallit by Rabbi Yuval - a lovely moment. My thanks to everyone who took part, especially Natasha KaHa who not only led the singing, but also played the guitar beautifully. Well done Ilana Keren who sounded the shofar, and in doing so managed to silence the children. Would I do it again next year, Gerry permitting - you bet I would. On Yom Kippur I helped out in the Family Service, which was very well led by Carol Standfield, and once again Gerry and Natasha played leading roles. My attendance in the main services was obviously curtailed, but thanks to everyone involved in making them successful.

There are some high profile people in the community who work hard, and are praised for their efforts. There are others who never seek the limelight but their contribution to Synagogue life is equally relevant. Ex Synagogue Chair Michelle Golding is not only the editor of the Gate, but once a month she organises a Shabbat service for Jewish residents at Springview Care Home in Enfield. Yearly there are also services on second day Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah. This year in attendance was Rabbi Yuval, shofar blower extraordinaire Michael Henriques, Rabbi Michael, and Carol Standfield. It was very moving to see the reactions of the residents and their families. Kol Hacavod to Michelle for being such a mensch, and bringing a spark of Judaism into the lives of elderly and infirm Jewish people, long may she continue to do so. By common consent in beautiful autumn sunshine our coach trip to Waddesdon Manor was very successful, as thirty three people enjoyed going around the magnificent house and beautiful gardens. Unfortunately Freda and I were unable to go due to a 7am phone call from an ailing daughter, which subsequently led to grandchildren duties, such is life. Next year on Sunday 13 May I have provisionally booked Beth Shalom Holocaust Education Centre in Nottinghamshire. It is a fairly long journey, but well worth the effort. If that does not go according to plan, Disraeli’s Hughendon could be back on the agenda.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Tale of Three Apples

I am sure you have all discovered by now that I have been on a health and fitness drive in the past year or so. It had been an incredible journey and along the way I discovered many things about myself and broke many self-myths about my age and abilities. One major element of my health drive is food. This is how I rediscovered the Heavenly taste of apples. The history of our relationship with apples goes all the way back to the creation of the world. When Adam and Eve were created 5778 years ago (If you discount evolution and follow the traditional Jewish counting), they were placed in the Garden of Eden. This was a magnificent place, and according to one Midrash, there were a scent of apple trees in the Garden. What follows is a story that almost every child is familiar with. 

God tells them not to touch the ‘apple’ tree. The serpent tempts Eve to eat from the fruit, and Eve tempts Adam. They realise that they are naked, and it ends with their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The apple tree in this story serves as the tree of knowledge. By eating from the forbidden apple humans became wise and had an understanding of the world that no one else in the animal kingdom had before. We learned to grow crops, domesticate animals, harness fire, and more.

However, was the fruit of knowledge really an apple? The Torah gives us no clue as to the nature of the fruit. Jewish tradition does not associate this fruit with an apple. One rabbinic opinion is that it was a fig tree. Indeed, when they realise that they are naked, they grab the first thing next to them, fig leaves. Other views are that it might have been wheat or an Etrog, and more modern interpretations claim for the fruit to be a banana or a prickly pear. The apple is a Christian idea. There is a sexual connotation to the story of Adam and Eve and the temptation of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Red is the colour of temptation, and what is better for temptation than a juicy red apple. Paintings of Christian artists, such as the German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach and the Flemish artist Rubens, feature red apples. Our first apple therefore represents the creation of the world, the formation of human society, and the agricultural revolution.

Our second famous apple belongs to Sir Isaac Newton. Young Isaac was sitting in his garden when suddenly an apple falls from the tree and hits him on the head. This apple and other falling apples around him triggered a brilliant insight in Newton, and he discovered the law of gravity. Newton’s apple, whether it did fall on his head or not, marks a milestone in the scientific revolution that changed the world. It marks the beginning of observation of our world in terms of scientific research and the formulation of theories rather than the reliance on religious and cultural myths. Newton’s apple, and the scientific discoveries that followed, helped us to build instruments that enabled a better observation of our world. It enabled us to harness the forces of nature to our needs, and the construction of mighty machines on land, sea and air. Newton’s observation of the falling apple poses a serious challenge to Biblical stories such as Adam and Eve and their passion for apples in the Garden of Eden. What could not be proven scientifically through empirical research is to be classified as no more than a myth or an allegorical anecdote. The scientific revolution was and still is the most significant challenge to religion.

Our third apple belongs to the realm of modern technology. Ten years ago the CEO of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs, waved a small device that could play music, make and answer calls, and surf the Internet. This was the prototype of all smartphones to come. Although there are so many other candidates before and after it, that particular apple device, the iPhone, represents more than any other device the information revolution. If Adam and Eve’s revolution gave us food, and Newton’s revolution gave us energy, the iPhone revolution placed in our pockets a vast and almost endless sea of knowledge. Yet, it is not only knowledge that it gave us. You can talk to it, and ask it questions, and it will give you good answers. You can ask it (nicely) to take you home, and it will. You can tell it about your aches and pains and it will find a remedy. More than that, these systems are so intelligent that they can even know about you more than you know about yourself and tell you what you want and need even before you even thought about it.

These devices gradually know more and more about your body and your mind. They can take your pulse, check your temperature, and record what you had for breakfast. We live in a world where intelligent phones run our daily lives, intelligent homes set up the heating for us and keep an eye on the neighbourhood while we are out, intelligent robots that clean for us, intelligent fridges that can ensure we are never out you do so there will be nobody to fix it after you.” With the apple from the Garden of Eden we started taking over the habitat of other animals, and clearing forests. We pushed wildlife away in order to clear way for our apple orchards, wheat fields and our domestic animals. With Newton’s apple we caused an incredible amount of pollution on land, at sea and in the air. Our world is increasingly becoming overpopulated.

We are yet to witness the full effects of the third apple. We might gain even more control of the world around us but we might not fully understand that control. We are in danger of losing our occupation and livelihood to machines. There is an increasing worry that technology will end in the wrong hands and the smart home that we installed in order to protect us will be used to attack us. Another worry is that of passive entertainment. We seem to be spending an increasing amount of time in front of screens rather than going out there and being active. Some people find it difficult to engage in conversation with one another, and many of us stopped reading books. As we benefit from all three ancient and contemporary apples that shaped the world, let us recall the blessing and the curse of these apples.  

Let us enjoy the blessing of agriculture and food, but let us avoid clearing more forests and destroying more natural habitats. Perhaps we can even create more natural beauty spots. Let us enjoy the blessing that science gave us, but also the extensive damage we cause to our world, and make an attempt to clean it up. Perhaps it is time to give up these plastic water bottles and supermarket carrier bags. Let us enjoy the blessing of information technology and the wealth of knowledge it brings to us wherever we go. Yet let us not forget to keep our minds sharp, our bodies healthy and our souls pure. And let us continue to enjoy the blessing of apples, not biblical. historical or technological apples, but real apples, that you can make a perfect strudel out of. 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

What's The Biggest Synagogue In The World?

Wikipedia would have it as the Belz Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, but for a short time on the Erev Shabbat of 18 August just passed, that certainly wasn’t the case. I know – I was there. 

And where was that? Ruth and I were on board the Royal Caribbean liner “Serenade of the Seas”, celebrating our silver wedding. These days, the Serenade ranks as a relatively modest vessel. Its 90,000 tonnes, twelve decks and space for 2,500 passengers comes well down the list of largest cruise vessels afloat. But for that Shabbat, it (or at least, as small part of it), did become the biggest shul in the world. 

We’d cruised before, and I remember the last time we were aboard I’d seen a line in the day’s cruise calendar saying that there would that evening be a self-led Erev Shabbat service. Wherever it was, I never found it. Perhaps it was in too remote a part of the boat, or there weren’t enough Jews on board to make a minyan. 

But I thought I’d try again this year when I saw the same line in this year’s cruise calendar. And after all, the entertainments team had been boasting of how many different nationalities they had on board. “And 63 Israelis…”, they had said, after going through the list of Yanks, Brits and other assorted Euros afloat. So it had to be worth a try. “I’ll see you in ten minutes” Ruth, ever sceptical, said to me as I set off. 

I found the venue easily enough, a separate area just off from one of the main dining rooms. And there were other people – about twenty. The ship had provided all of the necessaries. Two electric candles (definitely no naked flames at sea), some siddurs (definitely not ULPS), a cholla (definitely large enough to feed the whole ship) and two bottles of kosher wine (definitely not on their regular wine list). 

I thought, “well, we’ll do a few hamotzis and that will be it” – but no, we more or less did the whole service, supplemented at each break by our going around the room, saying who we were and where we were from. And as it happened, almost all of us were either from the States - or Southgate! Yes, there were indeed three families who had never met before, who lived within a 15-30 minute drive of each other and who had other mutual acquaintances. We all spent time comparing notes on schools, shuls and Rabbis. And two of the 63 Israelis - a couple from a kibbutz up near Kinneret - added to our diversity. 

And the funny thing was, I’d never seen any of the people anywhere on the ship before that moment. Perhaps that’s not surprising when there are 2,500 of you. But on the Saturday following, we kept on bumping in to each other at every turn! 

And the other funny thing is that amidst all of those nationalities (and presumably faiths) on board, I never saw publicity for any other similar gathering. No Jumu’ah, no Vedas, no Communion. Why was that? Is it just the Jews who choose to cruise? Or are we more keen than others to connect with fellow believers from around the world? Perhaps that’s something to do with there being fewer of us – we’re that much more keen to make those links. 

And so for that Erev Shabbat, the Serenade certainly was the biggest shul in the world – for me at least. It certainly made for a different and fun Shabbat and if we’re ever afloat again, I’ll look out for a repeat event. 

Julian Sampson