Yom Shabbat, 25 Elul 5774
Saturday, 20 September 2014

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A past mitzvah honoured in Stevenage

November 25th 2013
The JC

Just before the beginning of the Second World War, 500 Jewish children, mostly refugees from Nazi persecution, were evacuated with their teachers to Shefford, a small Bedfordshire town 15 miles north-west of Stevenage, where the North Herts Liberal Jewish Community is now based. The children were taken in and looked after by Shefford families until the end of the war.

When NHLJC heard of “this amazing generosity”, the congregation decided “to use Mitzvah Day as a means of demonstrating that a mitzvah like this is never forgotten”.

Working closely with the Mayor of Shefford, Councillor Paul Mackin, shul members arranged an afternoon tea for 50 residents of the town. And the guests included relatives of some of those who hosted the young Jews 70 years ago. “We also received offers of help from Churches Together in Shefford and the Shefford Historical Society, making this a truly interfaith event,” said shul chair Gillian Wolfe.  

The day they said Kaddish in Westminster Abbey

November 14th 2013
The JC

For more than 1,000 years, Westminster Abbey has been one of the most important sites of Christian worship in the country. But, last Sunday, it was the venue for a poignant ceremony of Jewish remembrance.

In a special service commemorating the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Jews joined with Christians to recite prayers, sing sacred songs and hear testimony from survivors.

The service started with a solemn procession by members of the Belsize Square Synagogue bearing six memorial candelabra up the central aisle of the abbey. The occasion was especially moving for them as their synagogue was founded in 1939 by German refugees fleeing the Nazi terror.

Dean of the Abbey, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, told the packed congregation, that the coming together of the two faiths in “a common experience of worship” was “itself a sign of hope”.

As the service came to a close and the congregation slowly filed out of the abbey, Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, described how the service had indeed given him a sense of hope rather than despair.  Read more

Hereford Scroll returned

15th November 2013

A sefer Torah which had languished in the vaults of a Hereford museum for 80 years was paraded through the streets of the city on Shabbat as it was returned to the Herefordshire Jewish Community on semi-permanent loan.

The Liberal Judaism-affiliated community took possession of the scroll after repairs were conducted under the aegis of the Herefordshire Records Office with funding from local Jews and a grant from the NLPS Trust.

Following the parade, a Shabbat service was attended by 90 people, including civic and museum representatives, past and present Herefordshire members and congregants from the Gloucestershire community, whose Rabbi Anna Gerrard officiated.

The scroll was gifted to the museum in 1933 by Colonel Tudor Fitzjohn, a distinguished First World War veteran.

Progressives pledge to pay staff the living wage

The JC
7th November 2013

Liberal Judaism plans to be the first synagogue movement to adopt the living wage across all its congregations.

The wage — a voluntary initiative launched 12 years ago by the grass-roots activist movement Citizens UK — this week rose to £7.65 an hour nationally and to £8.80 an hour in London.

It is intended to indicate the lowest income needed to live on, and is set higher than the legal national minimum wage, which recently rose to £6.31 an hour for adults.

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, said: “We are trying to make sure all our communities sign up to the living wage by our next biennial meeting in May. How could a Liberal synagogue committed to the social justice of our founders not do so?”

The wage would apply not only to employees but also to contracts negotiated for cleaning services, he explained.

Finchley Reform Synagogue announced this week that it was the first individual synagogue to be accredited as a living-wage employer.

The shul’s Rabbi Miriam Berger joined London Mayor Boris Johnson, at a Citizens UK event on Monday to announce the increase in the wage.

She said employers had a responsibility to take care of their employees, “so that they in turn can take care of their families”.

She hoped other synagogues would to follow Finchley’s lead.

The living wage is calculated nationally by Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy and in London by the Greater London Authority’s living wage unit.

Leather-clad bikers burn up the stereotypes in trans-America odyssey

The JC
1st November 2013

Jewish voyages of self-discovery are not uncommon, but few of them feature leather jackets and high-performance motorbikes.

Indeed, so unusual is the “Ride to Remember” — in which seven riders and a female rabbi traversed the North American continent on two wheels — that it became the subject of a Sky Atlantic documentary series.

With female Liberal rabbi Anna Gerard riding pillion, an assortment of Orthodox and secular bikers set off across America to raise money for Holocaust education courses.

The ride inspired documentary maker David Notman to follow their journey after meeting members of north London bike gang “Yids on Bikes” and hearing about their trip.

He commented: “Rightly or wrongly, everyone I tell about this series is surprised that Jewish bikers exist at all.”

Gary King, from Watford, who rode on the trip, was impressed by the profile his American counterparts enjoy.

“There is an Israel parade in New York where they shut down the whole of Fifth Avenue for the riders. The Star of David is everywhere. It is amazing — you wouldn’t see that here. I’m proud to tell people I’m a Jewish biker now.”

The group made pit stops along the way, meeting people from a wide range of backgrounds, from Jewish and non-Jewish bikers to small-town residents.

Rabbi Gerard explained that the group had originally wanted a bike-riding rabbi to join them. “I don’t ride a bike, but I agreed to go on the back of one. It felt like a unique experience and opportunity to explore all aspects of Jewish culture across America,” she said.  Read more

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