12 May 2020
By Alexandra Simonon
The sixth cohort of Liberal Judaism’s Ba’alei Tefillah lay leading course started with a bang on March 8.
On that day, 16 candidates 15 fifteen communities and five countries, along with their three tutors, gathered at the Montagu Centre for a day of learning.
We had all heard of coronavirus by then, and we had diligently put posters up asking people to wash their hands as soon as they came into the building, and not to shake hands. Instead we all tried the new way of greeting each other by ‘elbow-bumping’ (remember that?).
At the end of an uplifting and inspiring day we said our goodbyes and agreed to meet again at the Montagu Centre on May 10. By then, surely this would all be over, and if it wasn’t, well, we’d be washing our hands really well as we sang ‘happy birthday’.
You can guess what happened next: soon after that we were all in lockdown. We had to adapt by holding our next learning day on Zoom (or as one participant renamed it: ‘Jew-m’).
Because of this, we also chose to tweak the programme of the day and focus on the challenges faced by service leaders in the current situation. One of our sessions was a debate between the tutors on the theme ‘Zoom services: a blessing or a curse?’ following which course participants shared their own views and ideas on the future of service-leading and indeed Jewish communal life. The range of opinions and the creativity shown was wonderful.
We held a beautiful and truly pan-European shacharit service, with participants from England, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium.
Our next day of sharing and learning will be on July 12. We don’t know where it will be, but we’ll all be there!
If you or someone in your community is interested in becoming a service leader, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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