Thursday, 12 October 2017

Words From The Chair

On Tuesday 29th August the Synagogue’s revered Hon Life President Hilda Schindler passed away. 
In 1946, three years after it was founded, Hilda joined Southgate & District Liberal Synagogue as it was known in those days, and in a short space of time became Head Teacher. Apart from a period at the old NLPS cheder, she taught at SPS for fifty two years. In 1983 she was made Hon Life President, and in 1986 was presented with a certificate for forty years of service. Hilda also served as Hon Secretary for seventeen years, and was on just about every committee, as well as attending Council meetings, where she did not suffer fools gladly. She was a stickler for protocol as was her dear friend Doris Reese. In 2010 I nominated her for the LJ Chairman’s Special Award; she won hands down, as her CV was far more impressive than any other nominee. Apart from her beloved Religion 
School, the other great loves of her life were The Friends of Progressive Judaism, and the Leo Baeck Education Centre in Haifa, where she was held in the highest esteem. Many years ago I told Hilda I was going to Israel, and she said you must visit Leo Baeck, which I duly did. There was security outside the office and when I asked if I could come in and look around the answer was an emphatic no. When I said Hilda Schindler told me it was ok for me to visit, it was like a magic wand had been waved, and I was treated like royalty. Subsequently I visited Leo Baeck on a number of occasions and was always very well received. 

Hilda retired from Religion School in 1998; throughout the many years of her dedicated teaching career she touched the lives of countless young people, including my two daughters. Even when they reached adulthood they still referred to her as Miss Schindler and always treated her with the greatest respect. Sadly the last few years of her life were in care homes, and at times in and out of hospital, but she battled on because, even though the body “In 1983 she was made Hon Life President” was weak, she had the heart of a lion. As the quality of her life deteriorated and she finally passed, it could be deemed to be a blessed release for someone who once had such vitality and fervour. Inexplicably it took nine days before she was laid to rest. Unfortunately, as the Synagogue had no input with the arrangements of the cremation, it was beyond our control to rectify that sorry state of affairs. Hilda did not have any immediate family, but SPS was undoubtedly her surrogate family and she loved and served the community with unceasing commitment and passion. 

In the evening of her cremation a service was held in the Synagogue in front of nearly one hundred people. Rabbi Yuval set the tone for the evening with his moving recollections of the short span of time he knew Hilda. There were also reminiscences from Pearl Phillips, Jane Greenfield, myself and especially her friend from Germany, Rabbi Harry Jacobi, who brought tears to people’s eyes when he referred to how they were like brother and sister. Hilda Schindler will be fondly remembered by all who knew and worked with her. She was an iconic figure in the history of SPS, and her like will never be seen again, may her memory always be for a blessing. There will be a service to celebrate Hilda’s life on Sunday 26th November; details will be in the next issue of the Gate. Despite our mourning, life must go on, and another towering figure of the Synagogue, the Hon Life Vice President Pearl Phillips was nominated at the September Council meeting to take Hilda’s 
place. Also unanimously nominated to take over from Pearl is another Synagogue stalwart, the indomitable Phyllis Freedman. Both will be put forward for ratification at next June’s AGM. 

Bob Dulin

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Words From The Rabbi

In Parashat Vayelech, Moses delivers his final address to the nation he shepherded through the desert for the last forty years. At the beginning of that journey, events unfolded at a very rapid pace. The Ten Plagues were inflicted on the Egyptians for no more than several weeks. It took them three from the time they left the land of Goshen until they crossed the Red Sea. A year later, they stood at Sinai to receive the Torah (and worship the golden Calf); two months later, they sent the spies to tour the Promised Land. It was the report of the spies and the response of the People that convinced God that, although it took only a few to get the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, it would take a lot longer to get the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, and turn them into a nation. Some processes need to take time, experience and maturity. Some mind-sets can only be shifted over the course of generations.

Moses, who gave up on herding sheep at the age of 80, was bidding farewell to the nation he helped form for the past forty years. His last piece of advice to the Nation was: “Be strong and resolute, do not fear or dread the others; for the Eternal your God marches with you. God will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

When Moses delivered this message, he knew that his work was done. During the forty years of the journey through the desert, the People of Israel managed to shed their slave mind-set, the dependency they had on their Egyptian masters, and the fear they had about controlling their destiny. Yet, Moses also realised that what took forty years of hard work to build could take very little time and effort to destroy. This destruction could come from a ‘mighty’ external enemy, and it could come from their fears and weaknesses. Although Moses explicitly talked about an external enemy, he actually aimed at the enemy from within, the self-enemy that doubts our strength and capabilities. It is the enemy of the slogan “Yes we can” that we know from the children’s TV series Bob the Builder, and from Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign. Seventy two years have passed since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. During that time we were busy learning the lessons from the Shoah (the Holocaust) and ensuring that the generations ahead do not repeat the same mistake.
Nearly a hundred years ago women were allowed to vote in the US for the first time, Britain followed ten years after. Since then our society removed many barriers and indeed benefitted from empowering women in many aspects of life: in the workplace; at home; in politics; in business; in the military; and more.

It has been a hundred and fifty years since the 16th US president, Abraham Lincoln, paved the way for the abolition of slavery, and nearly 75 years since Rosa Parks refused to abide by laws of segregation between whites and blacks in Montgomery, US. Both events marked the beginning of the end of racism and exploitation. Recent events in our world mark for me a setback on some of these trends. Antisemitism is gradually raising its ugly head again, even among circles considered to be enlightened and free from prejudice. The barriers to historical revisionism (a.k.a. Holocaust denial) are gradually removed, and the language associated with anti-Semitism is replaced with a ‘cleaner’ anti-Zionism, anti-Communism or anti-liberalism. The march of the Alt-right last month in Charlottesville, US brought to the fore all sorts of old ‘demons’ of white supremacy, segregation and antisemitism.

The declaration, which announced support for the establishment of a "national home" for the Jewish people in Palestine. All this might leave us in a state of despair and a great sense of setback. This is where the words of Moses must echo in our hearts and minds. We must be strong and resolute in our struggle against racism and prejudice. We must have no fear or dread of those who march with torches and Nazi flags, and who wish to march us back to the times of segregation, slavery and genocide.

So long as we believe in our path of freedom, equality and liberation, and so long as we believe in ourselves, God is going to be on the side of the alt-righteous, and not on the side of the alt-right.

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Yuval Keren.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Religion School News

 In July, Ruach celebrated the end of term with an excellent interactive storytelling workshop, run by Amie Taylor, who came highly recommended by the book charity, PJ Library. 

Congratulations also to our prize winners: Oliver, Andrew, Arthur, Ella, Max and Ilana, and many thanks to the SPS Chairman, Bob Dulin, who presented the prizes. 

The new term starts on 9th September, when we will be welcoming three new teachers. Charlotte Golding and Ben Pick who grew up in our community, and have worked in Ruach as teaching assistants for the last two years. I am delighted to announce that they will be starting their new role as teachers from September, working with the younger students. 

Meanwhile, Peter Luijendijk will be joining us from Leo Baeck College, where he is a second year rabbinic student. Peter will be teaching the older students in the run up to their Bnei Mitzvah. 

For our very youngest members and their friends, our parent and toddler group, Mini-Ruach, connues to grow, with 24 children coming along on the last Friday session before the summer holidays. The next session of Mini-Ruach will be on Friday 8th September at 10am. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Israel Group

Members of the Israel Group attended the East Barnet Festival to help at the Friends of Israel stall. The event was a great success. More than twenty people signed the contacts sheet on the day and now receive emails. Nearly eight hundred leaflets promoting Israel were given out.

 During the day we had visits from the local MP Theresa Villiers and Deputy Mayor of Barnet Val Duchinsky who showed great interest in our work. It is very important that we put Israel's case to the public so as to counteract some of the misleading propaganda that they receive. 

We always welcome new members.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Barn Dance at SPS!

Come and join the fun! 

Saturday 4th November 2017

7.30pm 
£12.50 per person to include deli-style food and drinks. 

Please contact: 
fundraising@sps.uk.com or office@sps.uk.com 

Please pay in advance by no later than Friday 20th October

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Words From Our Rabbi

It is that time of the year. The air is becoming cooler, and daylight is fading away as the days of the week are getting shorter. Autumn is knocking on our doors, and it carries on its wings a spiritually significant time for us: the month of Ellul and the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is time to celebrate the Jewish New Year, enjoy honey cakes and look forward to the powerful sound of the shofar. It is also time to think and plan how we are going to overcome the twenty five-hour fast on Yom Kippur. This is the peak season in the Jewish calendar and for many of us it is also a time to reconnect to our Yiddishkeit, Jewish traditions, customs, practices and ideas, and the Jewish way of life.

In Biblical times the main concern of Jews who lived in agricultural societies in Eretz Israel (the land of Israel) was the end of summer and the beginning of the rainy season. The Middle East is known for its fluctuations in the amount of rain, and no rain will have meant no crops, resulting in famine and death. The High Holydays therefore signify at that time a time of pleading to God for a new year of rain, food and fortune. Communication with God was conducted in the Jerusalem Temple through animal sacrifice by the Temple priests.

Over the years the core idea behind the High Holydays was preserved yet it lost its sole focus on agriculture, and it gained a new focus on personal and communal. The substitutes to sacrifice that we offer are: teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah – repentance, prayer and acts of charity.
The High Holydays are a high spiritual time where we, as individuals and as a community, must engage in ‘cheshbon nefesh’. Cheshbon nefesh literally means spiritual accounting and stock taking.

Once a year every business needs to produce a set of financial accounts. It helps the business to take stock of assets and liabilities, to know whether it is making a profit or a loss and to determine how much tax it should pay.

The 18th Century Italian Rabbi Luzato gives us good cheshbon nefesh advice. “You should always check your deeds and inspect your ways in order to not let bad habits settle. You should be vigilant with your spiritual paths just as a merchant should always be vigilant with his business paths in order that business remains viable.”
Every day of the year we live our lives; we attempt to make a difference in the world. We have our successes and failures, yet we do not pause to ‘take stock’. Cheshbon nefesh before and during the time of the High Holydays gives us the opportunity to assess our distance from God and God’s commandments, examine our spiritual state and plan for the future. Unlike corporate Balance Sheets and Profit and Loss accounts I cannot offer you any cheshbon nefesh templates. Each individual will have to create his or her own template. Yet I can perhaps provide some guidelines. In Judaism we tend to divide the mitzvot into two sub-categories: Between us and God (ritual) and between us and others (ethical).

On the ritual side we need to think about our connection with God, with spirituality and with Judaism. Did we attend synagogue, light Shabbat candles, engage in study, prayer and other forms of spirituality? Did we encourage others to do so? We need to determine what stops us from reaching our maximum spiritual profit and what steps we need to take to overcome them. A good outcome could be: remember to light Shabbat candles once a week, record my favourite TV programme so I can attend Friday Night service, try to attend the monthly Shabbat morning study session.
The ethical side could be broken down to sub-categories: family, friends, colleagues, my community and even society as a whole. Here we need to determine whether we became closer or got further away from people, whether we conducted ourselves properly or we did anything we now regret. Honesty is essential in this process as human tendency is to shift the blame of our ethical failures onto all but ourselves.

One rule of thumb that I have in conducting cheshbon nefesh is to avoid asking the question: ‘whose fault was it?’ and ask the question ‘what can I do to fix it?’

There are two guiding questions that can help us with our annual cheshbon nefesh. The first: What is my primary aim in life? And the second: If I only have a year to live, what would I want to achieve within that year?
The end result of cheshbon nefesh should be a meaningful action list for the days, weeks and months ahead. It could be asking for forgiveness from someone we wronged, attending synagogue once a week, or reducing pollution by recycling and conserving energy.
Annual stock-taking is so important that some businesses even take me out one day in the year day while they take stock. So it is with our spiritual stock-taking of cheshbon nefesh. The High Holydays offer us a good opportunity to pause, reflect and take ritual and ethical stock in order to realign our spiritual life for the year ahead.


Wishing you Shanah Tovah and a successful cheshbon nefesh.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The SPS Book Club

The next meeting of the BOOK CLUB will take place on MONDAY 17TH JULY at 8 P.M. (THIS IS HELD OFF SITE SO PLEASE CONTACT ME FOR DETAILS -see below)

We will be discussing our next book which is Songs of Love and War by Santa Montefiore

"Welcome to Castle Deverill, and the incredible sweeping story of love and family from bestselling author Santa Motefiore.

Their lives were mapped out ahead of them. But love and war will change everything…

Castle Deverill, nestled in the rolling Irish hills, is home to three very different women: flame-haired Kitty Deverill, her best friend and daughter of the castle’s cook, Bridie Doyle, and her flamboyant English cousin, Celia Deverill. When war breaks out, their lives will change forever. Wrenched apart by betrayal and swept to different parts of the globe, their friendship will be tested a thousand times over. But one bond will keep them together forever: their fierce and unwavering longing for Castle Deverill and all the memories contained within it."

Written by bestselling author Santa Montefiore this is a epic tale of romance, secrets, family and friendship with this, the first novel in the be-loved Deverill Chronicles,

Whether you enjoy the book or not please join us on the 17th for an evening of lively discussion about the together with delicious refreshments. Cost £1.

We will then break for the Summer and we will be reading:
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Parry - plus one other selection
(Full details in the September Gate)

To be discussed at our September meeting (date to be advised)

Happy reading, Marion Smith

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Board of Deputies Meeting

At the Board of Depu$es meeting in May, a surprise guest was Dr. Itzack Ifat, the central figure in the iconic photo at the Western Wall immediately following the capture of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War. He is seen listening to the Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev. Itzack spoke movingly of those desperate days, and the loss of many of his comrades during the war. Amazingly, after making a temporary memorial to the Fallen Jewish Soldiers, him and his fellow soldiers made a similar memorial for the Jordanian dead.

Similar respect had not been shown by the Jordanians, who between 1948 and 1967 desecrated Synagogues and used tombstones for latrines and roads.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Friday Family Service

On Friday 19th May, Rabbi Yuval conducted the first Friday Family Service, after school, in the Schindler Hall.

Unsure as to how many families would attend, word of mouth had done the trick and we were delighted that 17 children from the ages of 6 months up to 9 years, along with their family members, turned up, eager to participate! It was great to see many from the successful 'Mini-Ruach' playgroup and some non-members who'd been invited along too.

The atmosphere was relaxed, yet fun, with everyone singing in a circle following the Shabbat stories, songs and prayers led by our Rabbi, allowing all the children and their parents to join in. At the end of the service, some of the older children helped with the lighting of the candles and everyone said the blessings over the wine (grape juice!) and challah before enjoying a delicious buffet (courtesy of Katie Dack and myself) of pizza, crisps, dips, cakes and much more!

The rest of the time was spent eating, chatting, playing, meeting new friends and making a date for the next family service.

On that note, we do hope you can join us on Friday 7th July at 4.15pm which will be our last service before the summer holidays. Spread the word!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Religion School News

We are now recruiting staff for September, so please get in touch with me, if you are interested in teaching, or if you know anyone who might be suitable: headteacher@sps.uk.com.

A highlight for Ruach in June was the Family Service. While Philip and Jane provided coffee for parents, the students spent the first part of the morning with Graham Carpenter, in a fun music workshop, before joining parents and the regular congregation in the sanctuary for a truly uplifting service. Thank you to everyone who took part.

The next Family Service will be a Friday Family Service on Friday 7th July at 4.15pm. Natalie and Katie will be providing refreshments again. We look forward to seeing you there!

July will also see the end of term for Ruach, and we will be holding a celebration and prize giving (prize winners will be reported in the next issue of the Gate). We will also be welcoming Amie Taylor, who comes highly recommended by the book charity, PJ Library. Amie will be running interactive storytelling workshops for the students on Jewish themes.

Sadly, at the end of term, we will also be saying good-bye to two very valued members of staff. Phoebe Cohen, who has grown up in our community, was a student and an assistant at Ruach, and has been teaching Jewish Studies for the last two years. Phoebe will be starting her university course in the autumn. Rachel Vogler came to us from Finchley Reform Synagogue, and has been teaching the Bnei Mitzvah class this year. Rachel will also be concentrating on her studies next year. We will miss Phoebe and Rachel, and we wish them every success in the future.

Finally, our parent and toddler group, Mini-Ruach, is going from strength to strength, with over 20 children coming on a Friday morning. The last Friday session before the summer holidays will be on 14th July at 10am.