12 April 2016
Three rabbis, two Christian clergy and a police officer were among 100 people celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodford Liberal Synagogue’s building on Sunday.
Woodford’s Rabbi Richard Jacobi put together a special civic service, which contained some of the community’s favourite prayers from the last half century.
Prominent members took it in turns to lead the congregation in prayer, or read passages detailing the history of the synagogue and Liberal Judaism.
The community was founded in 1960 as Woodford & District Liberal Jewish Group and moved into the current synagogue building – in Marlborough Road, South Woodford – in 1966. The building was purchased for £2,600.
Rabbis Harry Jacobi and David Hulbert attended the service, along with Woodford Liberal Synagogue’s Chair Jonny Hurst, Canon Ian Tarrant, Father Francis Coveney, Redbridge faith community officer Shahnaz Meah and the families of many of the founder members.
The service ended with a touching speech by Simon Benscher, the chair of Liberal Judaism, who has spent his entire life as part of the community.
Simon said: “For almost half of the time that Liberal Judaism has been flourishing in the UK, this building has welcomed countless numbers of people – Jews and non-Jews, the young and the not so young – constantly pushing boundaries and never discriminating.
“All who enter these doors have experienced the warm family-orientated welcoming atmosphere that comes so naturally from the amazing people who call this their synagogue.
“This building has witnessed so much over its 50 years. Baby blessings, b’nai mitzvot, confirmations – or Kabbalat Torah as it is now known – weddings, funerals, anniversaries and so much more.
“Woodford has played, and continues to play, a big part in the fabric of Jewish life in this area. I am proud of it, Liberal Judaism is proud of it and, most importantly, every member here should also be proud of it.”
Richard added: “This afternoon was a wonderful affirmation of our synagogue’s place in both the Redbridge, and Liberal Jewish, communities.”
The civic service came at the end of a weekend of festivity at Woodford, which also included a Shabbat celebration of TWO silver wedding anniversaries – with synagogue council members David and Tina Gold, and Bob and Di Kamall, both reaching the milestone.
Richard blessed each couple, before Woodford co-vice chair Alice Wilcock presented them with an engraved silver menorah and homemade celebration cake.
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