15 February 2016
You may have seen some of the recent media coverage about The Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) holding Friday evening services in French. ‘Sacrebleu’, you might have thought… what’s all this about?!
Around a year ago, it occurred to me that, with the large number of French people in London, it would be a nice gesture to offer the French Progressive Jewish community services in their own language. I have lived abroad, and when in Switzerland had very much appreciated the English-language services there.
The LJS was looking for a new rabbi at this time and the appointments committee decided, irrespective of nationality, that French-born Rabbi René Pfertzel was the best candidate. He also wanted to provide a service to the French community in London and so, with the agreement of Rabbi Alexandra Wright, a date was set for the first service to take place in Hebrew, French and English.
After contacting French schools in London and the consulates of French-speaking countries, I wrote a press release and sent it to media. I was supported in these efforts by the LJS rabbinic team and their PA Naomi Richland.
The Evening Standard responded quickly and did a great piece. We also had a storm of requests for interviews with Rabbis René and Alex, as well as with one of our French members, David Herz, who generously gave his time for this.
On one particular afternoon, we had interviews every hour with different news, camera and radio crews from BBC London TV, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC News (online), Russia Today, BBC Radio 4, the Press Association (TV) and even the Swiss station Radio Fribourg.
BBC 1’s The One Show filmed on the day of the service, as did DW, a German international broadcaster. The actual service was attended by many of the media already mentioned, as well as the international news website Vice News.
Other coverage included pieces in Newsweek, The Daily Telegraph, The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News, The Jewish Telegraph, FranceInLondon.com and Tribune Juive, as well as the Israeli press. More coverage is in the pipeline, with TV channels from all around the world still requesting interviews.
And the event itself? Approximately 60 people attended the first tri-lingual Friday night service at which the sermon was given by René in French – a landmark for our synagogue, our movement and Judaism in the UK.
The date of the next such service will be on the seventh night of Passover, Thursday April 28. If you would like to attend, please visit www.ljs.org or call 0207 286 5181 for timings.
Jeanne Myers is a PR consultant and member of The Liberal Jewish Synagogue
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