Liberal Judaism at Westminster Abbey Trees of Life service

11 October 2022 – 16 Tishri 5783
Rabbi Charley Baginsky with faith leaders

Liberal Judaism had a number of representatives at today’s Trees of Life service to honour those who died and served the community in the Covid-19 pandemic, held at Westminster Abbey.

Liberal Judaism CEO Rabbi Charley Baginsky, pictured above with other faith leaders, gave a ‘blessing of the saplings’, which you can read below.

She was joined by Rabbi Nathan Godleman of The South London Liberal Synagogue (representing clergy), LJY-Netzer movement worker Jess Mindel (representing youth), The Ark Synagogue’s Carole Woodcock (representing carers and volunteers) and Annie Henriques of Norwich Liberal Jewish Community.

Annie’s husband Stuart Goodman was one of the first people in Norfolk to die after contracting Covid-19 and her son also fell ill. Annie paid tribute to Stuart and spoke of the family’s suffering in an article here.

The service was led by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle. Others giving a ‘blessing of the saplings’ included senior Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Zoroastrian, Zoroastrian, Sikh and Buddhist leaders.

The saplings, along with a stately Spaeth Alder tree, will form the centrepiece of a new Trees of Life glade at the National Memorial Arboretum in the National Forest. Visitors will be able to pause, take a moment and reflect at this new living memorial.

Charley said: “It was meaningful to be able to come together as faith leaders in such an auspicious venue and unite for this memorial – just as we united our communities to support each other during the pandemic.”

Trees of Life glade: design concept

Trees of Life glade: design concept

Blessing of the saplings by Rabbi Charley Baginsky:

While Covid is far from being over and while the impact is still being felt and will be perhaps for generations, it is important to have a moment and pause to thank those people who helped and supported the community at large and to remember all those we lost.

Rav Nahman would ask his teacher Rabbi Yitzchak for a blessing (Talmud, Taanit 5b).

“Let me tell you a parable,” Rabbi Yitzchak replied. “It is like one who was walking through a desert, hungry, tired, and thirsty, and came upon a tree with sweet fruit, beautiful shade, and a stream of water beneath it. He ate from the fruit, drank from its water, and sat in the shade of the tree. When he got up to depart, he said: ‘Tree, Tree, with what shall I bless you? If I say to you that your fruits should be sweet, your fruits are already sweet; if I say that your shade should be pleasant, your shade is already pleasant; if I say that a stream of water should flow beneath you, a stream of water already flows beneath you! Rather, I will bless you as follows: May it be God’s will that all saplings which they plant from you be like you.”

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