Thursday, 24 November 2016

Simchat Torah

Rabbi Michael Standfield - Chatan Torah 

For 50 years, if not more, I was involved in the selection of Chatanim and Kallot for Simchat Torah, in the various Synagogues that I served. Yet, in all that time, I was never offered the honour, or was ever considered for it. Perhaps the belief was that, as I was involved in leading the Service, I required no greater honour. Or it could have been that I was a paid employee and, therefore, didn’t deserve it.

It was, therefore, a great surprise and an even greater pleasure to be chosen to receive this great honour of Chatan Torah, especially as I haven’t been a member for as long as many other people. However, I do see it as recognition for the time I, happily, served the community, and my general support since becoming a member.

 I wouldn’t be a typical Jew if I didn’t complain (ha ha), so my big disappointment? Where was my flag with an apple stuck on it?

I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed the Services, and was delighted to have some of our family members in attendance at the evening service, and one of our grandsons helping me to overcome a ‘loss of voice’ problem.

My certificate commemorating the occasion has now joined my other awards and, eventually, it will be framed and hung on the wall together with my S’micha certificate.

I should like to conclude by extending my sincere thanks to Rabbi Yuval and the Officers of the Synagogue for affording me this honour. I shall continue to be a supportive member of the congregation and enjoy the warm and friendly atmosphere.

 Phil Zeligman - Chatan Bereshit 

Like so many things, it all began with a simple phone call…. In this case it was a call from Pearl who called to ask if I would like to be one of the Chatanim for Simchat Torah. I was stunned; surely there must be another congregant who is far more deserving of the honour? Nevertheless, I accepted!

Next up was to have a meeting with the Rabbi to determine if I would be Chatan Torah or Chatan Bereshit – I am Chatan Bereshit. Then the Rabbi drops the bombshell; there are no Junior Chatanim this year, so can I read both portions? I should have asked how much the Junior Chatan Bereshit would have to read but didn’t – I just said, “Yes, no problem”.

I received a copy of the Torah and Haftarah Readings for Simchat Torah and that is when I realised that I had 31 verses to read! Time to knuckle down and start learning my first Torah reading since my Confirmation (41 years ago). I knew that I needed help and that person was Gerry Ostermeyer. I could not have read my portion without his help and encouragement. Thank you, Gerry!

The next milestone was the rehearsal with the Rabbi, 3 days before Erev Simchat Torah! I am nervous and the read through does not go as well as I had hoped. Rabbi Yuval gives me the option of just reading the first half of the portion and then he would complete the remainder. Hmmm…. it would be easier but then I have said that I would do the whole portion. Thank you Rabbi Yuval for the offer but I think I will read it all.

Furious practicing over the next 3 days and then Erev Simchat Torah arrives. I sit as Rabbi Michael Standfield (who is Chatan Torah) impressively reads his portion and I’m getting more and more nervous. Rabbi Yuval calls me up and then the spotlight is on me. “Bereshit bara Elohim” and then I’m on autopilot and before I realise it, I’m saying “vayehi-erev vayehi-voker yom hashishi”.

Mazaltov to my fellow Chatan, Rabbi Michael Standfield. My thanks to Gerry, my wife Debi, Rabbi Yuval and everyone who came along to celebrate Simchat Torah. And of course, my thanks to Pearl - it all started with a simple phone call!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Religion School News

During October, Ruach made a trip to Oakwood Park to do Tashlich before Yom Kippur (symbolically throwing away our mistakes from last year). There was also an opportunity to play in the fantastic playground there. 

We started by thinking of something positive that happened last year, something positive that we want to keep with us as we go into the new year. Then we chose a mistake or a bad habit that we wanted to get rid of, and we threw bird seed into the water, as a symbolic way of throwing away that negative experience. Finally, we made a resolution for the new year, something positive for the future, and sealed the deal by eating honey cake. 

Also during October, we had a visit from LJY-Netzer, who ran a fun packed morning of activities on the theme of Sukkot. There was also an element of training for our assistants. Thank you to Sam Alston of LJY-Netzer for planning it all and for spending the morning with us. 

During November, there will be a Book Sale for the benefit of Magen David Adom, the charity chosen by Ruach students as this term's tzedakah project. The Book Sale will be on 26th November, to coincide with Mitzvah Day (see flyer). There is a Family Service on the same day, so please do come and join us. Now that the Hall has re-opened, our parent and toddler group, Mini-Ruach, will be meeting regularly throughout November and December. Our pilot sessions during September had an excellent response from SPS parents, as well as from parents outside the SPS community. The Hall is a fantastic space for our youngest members to play (see picture), and for parents to meet and chat, and offer each other support. 

I am delighted to report that the NLPS Trust has given us some funding specifically to support the parent and toddler group, so we will be buying some larger items to supplement the very generous donations of toys that we have already received. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Unsung Security Heroes

Never before in the field of Synagogue security, has so much been owed, by so many to so few. 

So, ok I've changed a couple of words from this famous statement but read on and I think you'll understand why. I write this article at the finish of Yom Kippur. Over 700 people entered, worshipped and left this site over the 4 days in complete safety. This was down to the unsung heroes of the security team. 

Now I know some of you were probably fed up of having to keep showing your ticket every time to gain entry but tell me, if you are a frequent flyer, are you ushered through security without going through the X-ray machine or having your bags checked? I think not! 

Every member from exec to council members, to people on all the committees and members alike had to produce their ticket. This is not necessarily security policy but a sign of the times. If in doubt they keep them out. 

Whilst the vast majority of people were in services, the security team were outside not only on the main gate and at the front of the buildings but out the back and down the road with constant walking patrols too. A thorough sweep of the site is now regularly carried out an hour before anyone is allowed through the gate. The ear pieces and radios worn by every security team member on duty is not for show but to make sure they are in constant contact with each other making sure every part of our site is secure to the highest level, meaning that if an evacuation or invacuation is necessary it is carried out quickly and efficiently. 

Why did I start off this piece with ‘by so many, to so few?’ Well these volunteers are on site every Friday and Saturday and all the services in between. In total they have approximately 40 people on their rota. In order for us to be safe, is it too much to ask you to add to this number? We ask for you to help two or three times a year; please email now ( to help security and give your friends and family the peace of mind that when they go to an SPS service, safety is of the utmost importance. 

- Michelle Golding

Thursday, 3 November 2016

A simcha through a Rabbi's eyes

Over the years I have attended more simchas than I care to remember. At one time, I was attending at least one a week. I got to the stage where I couldn’t look a chicken in the face, having eaten too many of them. On one occasion I was so tired of the ‘papier mache’ chicken that, when I was served with it, I informed the waiter that I didn’t want it. He assured me that it was kosher and perfectly acceptable, but I was adamant, no more chicken. He disappeared into the kitchen and must have informed the catering manager that there was ‘ganser meshugganeh frummer of a Rabbi’ who was refusing to eat the chicken. He reappeared with a generous plate of smoked salmon and salads. The Rabbi must not go hungry!

 After some years in the Rabbinate, and having done a lot of peoplewatching at these simchas, it dawned on me that there were certain stereotypes that were to be found in every Jewish family and could be picked out at these occasions. 

I had the greatest sympathy for the host and hostess who had to draw up a table plan, because in most if not all Jewish families there was to be found a broigus. Auntie Sadie would not talk to Uncle Sid. Why? No-one could remember, least of all Auntie Sadie & Uncle Sid, so it was necessary to make sure they were seated as far apart as possible, where they sat and glared at each other throughout the evening.
Ballroom dancing was a must at these events, and there was always one couple who thought that they were at a Come Dancing competition. They were the only ones present, who could tango and foxtrot, and God help anyone else on the dance floor who got in their way. 

Then there was the desperate mother parading her daughter who, if Moses had seen her there would have been another Commandment. Hence the need to parade her. Surely, amongst the guests could be found a suitable husband, but often to no avail. 

It always amused me, after everyone had sat down to begin the meal, there arrived the wealthy couple of the family who would walk in, apologising profusely for their lateness, carrying a small wedding or bar mitzvah gift, which looked as if it had been picked up at a charity shop. Invariably they left early, pleading another engagement that they had to attend. In the short time that they were present, the family would fawn over them with great expectations. 

There was, of course, the middle-aged couple who would use the event as an excuse to attract the opposite sex, the wife wearing a dress that just about covered the essentials and men’s eyes wandering ravenously around the room. To complement his wife, the husband would be dressed in, what he believed to be, a with-it outfit, but in truth looked ridiculous. 

And what about the two elderly men who spent the entire evening discussing business? And the two elderly matrons trying to outdo each other as to how well their grandchildren were doing? It all helped to pass the time and was an interesting tapestry of Jewish society.

- Rabbi Michael Standfield

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Religion School News

I am delighted to report that Mini-Ruach started on 9th September. This is our new parent and toddler group for children from birth to age 5. Grandparents also welcome! 
Future dates for Mini-Ruach are adversed in the weekly newsletter, and on the Mini-Ruach noctieboard in the Baron Harris room.

Thank you to everyone who has donated toys and equipment, so far, with a special thank you to Barbara and Gerry Ostermeyer. Ruach started on 10th September, and we were very pleased to welcome a new member of staff, Rachel Vogler, who will be teaching Kalanit (years 6-8).

The morning finished with an opportunity to practise our circus skills, with the help of an outside entertainer. Both students and staff enjoyed this, with tight rope walking one of the most popular experiences.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Interfaith Walk

On a sunny Sunday afternoon back in June I decided to go along to an Interfaith walk which had been organised by Brian Ball. All I knew was that along the walk we would be visiting a church, a mosque and a temple. It sounded interesting so with my mother and daughter in tow we packed a drink and an umbrella and headed off.

We started at Edmonton Methodist Church with an introduction from Brian and some refreshments. After a bit of mingling we entered the church to listen to Minister Alan Combes tell us about the church building. He explained that it didn’t look like a traditional church but that they had adapted the space to serve as a church for the congregation of 250 people. We sat on the lovely cushioned chairs and admired the soE carpet, balcony and music area for the children. We led into a discussion about children’s attendance (or lack of) at church – something we found to be a common problem across faiths.

We then began the short walk to the Mevlana Rumi Mosque which was just across the road. This was very exciting for me personally as I remembered coming to this building as a child when it was Edmonton Library. We were welcomed by Seval Gocke who began by saying how proud she was to be a female director of the mosque. We sat in a very grand common room and Seval told us about Ramadan (which was halfway through at that me) and invited us to special celebrations which were happening the following week. We removed our shoes and entered the prayer room which had a beautiful carpet. I was intrigued to see how the men and women were separated but surprised to learn that women could pray together with men albeit standing at the back. We listened to some prayers sung by one of the members.

Once our shoes were on we said goodbye and headed off to the Nagapooshani Ambaal Temple. On arrival we saw that the Temple is currently being rebuilt and we were taken to the temporary temple next door. The room was filled with statues which were introduced to us by Shanmuganathan Navaratnam (also known as Shan). He told us the names of each of the statues and ex-plained the animals associated with them.
It was overwhelming to see the amount of detail related to each one and their importance in the Hindu faith. We then went to see the build-ing site and the evolving new temple. How impressive! Each stone was shipped over from Sri Lanka and there were hundreds. I will definitely be returning to see the finished project which is expected to be ready next year.

The final stop on our walk was back to the start where we met Jagdish Aminaden from the Baha’i faith. He explained that they do not have a specific place to worship but rather they meet in halls or houses. Jagdish gave us a talk about the founder of Baha’i, Baha U’llah and the 3 main beliefs which are one God, one humankind and one religion. We then watched a video showing a holy place called Haifa in Israel where the ‘Shrine Of The Bab’ is found. The beautiful gardens surround the Shrine and this is also where the administration offices are based. It is definitely a place I would like to visit one day. I enjoyed the walk and the chance to find out more about the faiths. I learned that there are similarities and differences. It was good to speak to others along the way and share our experiences. I would like to thank Brain for organising and I look forward to the next interfaith event. Hopefully you will join me!

- Nathalie Muller

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Kabbalat Torah 2016

This years Kabbalat Torah service was led by Naomi and Sarah. Over the last two years they have developed their jewish understanding and have now come to the end. They planned, wrote and led the Saturday service. 

Below is what they wrote about each other and their time in Religion School.

Naomi by Sarah
Throughout my me at religion school I have had a friend in Naomi. I remember when she first walked into the classroom and how shy she was. However, over me I have seen Naomi blossom into a motiviated young woman, who has strong morals and is dedicated to achieving her goals. One of Naomi’s main goals in life is becoming an architect, using her creative abilities and talent in art. Naomi’s Jewish journey is certainly unique, as she has independently built up a strong bond with Judaism.

Sarah by Naomi
Sarah is a dynamic character. Always on the go and never stopping to take a break. Throughout our years at religion school, first learning together as young children while giggling at the back of the classroom, to where we are now. Having completed our Judaism GCSE, I have learnt several things about Sarah. She is head-strong, highly opinionated and thoughtful, always up for a laugh but still there when you need a

friend to turn to. Although Sarah’s journey may be unclear at the moment, I am certain her creative outlook on life and strong character will take her far.