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Thought for the Week

At a recent meeting, Rabbi Rachel described the period of the High Holy Days, up to Simchat Torah, as “rabbinic autumn manoeuvres”. I confess that was a new one on me, but I thought it captured perfectly the military feat of organisation, precision and sheer stamina that it represents for our rabbis, and of course for all those who help and support them, organising mitzvot, setting up spaces for worship – real and virtual – singing and making music with them, taking parts of services …

But it is the rabbis who take the strain of leading us, and however exact the organising has to be, for them it’s personal. They know as a person every name on the list read out at Yizkor; they have to judge the mood of the communities after 18 months of Covid and judge how best to lead us from mourning and sadness to hope and renewal. We owe them huge thanks and admiration, and our ongoing support.

And what do we need after autumn manoeuvres? A nice cup of tea, of course, and there plenty around this week. Gillian Walnes-Perry will treat us to the history of afternoon tea on Tuesday afternoon. And while tea and Torah hasn’t got quite as long a history, you can help maintain the tradition by joining one of our rabbis on Wednesday morning.

Sunday afternoon’s event entitled “Japan to Lithuania during World War II” promises to tell the engrossing but harrowing story of Zorach Wahrhaftig, who persuaded Dutch and Japanese diplomats in Lithuania to issue travel documents to thousands of Jews.

And earlier I mentioned renewal. For Mosaic of course, a vital part of our communal renewal is our new building in Stanmore Hill. If you couldn’t make last Sunday’s update, “More than half way there”, do catch up with the recording, on the Mosaic website or directly here.

Have a good week

Jeff Highfield

October 12, 2021

Thought for the Week

And so we’ve reached the end of the mammoth season of festivals, our rabbis, wardens and lay readers have put their feet up (temporarily) for a well-earned, if brief, rest. Our festival prayer books are boxed away, and those who built a Sukkah have dismantled it. With Stanmore Hill still under construction, there was no communal Mosaic sukkah this year. Fortunately the Leiblings built one, and many of us took advantage of them doing so to pop round to enjoy their hospitality and shake their lulav. And the zest of the Etrog remains as sharp and distinctive as ever.

And with the turning back of the scrolls to Bereshit, the cycle of the new year continues……

Except that this year is different, very different.

This year will bring a new home for our Community. We are living through a challenging time, not just for the six months since we vacated Bessborough Road, but for the 18 months since Covid impacted upon each and every one of us. And the challenge is not yet over, as we juggle with hybrid services and zoom, and wait impatiently for the builders to hand over the keys to our new home.

Completion is getting closer, and we’re well over half way there. To keep you in the picture, we have an update zoom on Sunday 10th October at 5.30 pm, where you can see and hear in detail how the building is progressing, and learn some of the exciting new features, for example about the aesthetics, and the new IT. You’ll be able to meet our new development Rabbi, Anna Posner, and learn how groups such as HaMakom, our religion school, plan to use the new facility.

Please do join us on 10th October, to see YOUR new Synagogue, or indeed your THREE new Synagogues becoming more of a reality.

Until then, Good Shobbos, and stay well,

Harry Grant

September 30, 2021

Thoughts for the Week

According to tradition God considers and judges us on Rosh Hashanah and writes our fate in ‘The Book of Life’, that will be sealed on Yom Kippur: ‘On Rosh Hashanah we consider how judgement is formed and on Yom Kippur we shall consider how judgement is sealed’ we read at the beginning of the Erev Rosh Hashanah service last week. This idea is reflected in the traditional greeting ‘chatimah tovah’ (A good seal) with which we greet one another on Yom Kippur.

The idea that God makes a note of all the wrong we do and decrees the length of our lives accordingly is terrifying, and also not quite true! In our experience goodness is not always rewarded with a long life.

The beautiful but somewhat unsettling Unetaneh Tokef hymn, which we find in the mussaf prayer of both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur suggests that ‘repentance, prayer and charity avert the evil of the decree’. At first glance it seems to say that repentance, prayer, and charity performed, particularly at this time of the year, will promise us a longer life, but these too do not guarantee longevity. It merely means, it has been suggested, that those who repent their misdeeds, pray regularly and give to charity will be able to better endure whatever comes to them.

The fact is, we do not know what lies around the corner, or what the New Year will bring. What we do know is that community and times we meet online or in person for prayer and study enhances our spiritual and social lives. We also know that the practice of repentance benefits our inner life and our interpersonal interaction with others, and that contributing to charity improves society and alleviates the suffering of others. May they all bring a chatimah tovah.

Rabbi Kathleen de Magtige-Middleton

September 8, 2021

Thoughts for the week

On Monday evening, we will be entering the new Jewish year of 5782.  Part of the genius of Judaism is its down to earth nature, and pragmatic approach to life.  Acknowledging that human beings are not perfect, that we will make mistakes in our lives, our tradition offers a way of setting us back on the right path.  That is the concept of t’shuvah, and it lies at the heart of our High Holy Day season.  Normally translated as ‘repentance’, the word t’shuvah comes from the root shuv, which means ‘to turn’ – therefore a turning, returning to God.

You could say that there are five stages of t’shuvah, five ‘Rs’ of repentance: Recognition, Remorse, Rejection, Restitution and Resolution.

Recognition: recognise that we have done something wrong, acknowledge and accept responsibility through confession and the following four ‘R’ stages.

Remorse:  feel regret because of our actions.

Rejection: reject the action for which we need to seek t’shuvah.

Restitution:  seek forgiveness and, where possible, make restitution.

Resolution:  resolve not to repeat our misdeed.  True repentance for a wrongdoing means that we do not repeat it when the opportunity arises.  The Torah teaches us that we can undo the past by what we do today.  We can undo the past by not repeating our mistakes.  The gates of repentance are always open.

I love this season.  It gives us an opportunity to stop for a moment, to take stock, to recalibrate, to clear the books, to make peace with ourselves and with others, to review the past year and go forward into the next one with a fresh perspective and renewed energy – to make t’shuvah, a turning towards the good in us, a turning towards God.  Hashiveinu Adonai eilekha v’nashuvah, ‘Turn us back to you, O God and we shall return’.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Shanah Tovah u’M’tukah – a good, sweet, safe, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Rabbi Rachel Benjamin

 

September 2, 2021

Thoughts for the week

Hello, and Chodesh Tov. Our tradition teaches that the Torah was given for the first time on Shavuot; that is, the sixth day of Sivan (this year, mid-May). But, descending the Mountain, Moses saw the sin of the Golden Calf. In his rage, he shattered the first tablets. The midrash places this event on the 17th of Tammuz (June 27). There followed 40 days of grief and lament – with the Children of Israel, camped at the foot of the mountain, desperate and uncertain what their future might hold outside the Divine relationship. On Rosh Chodesh Elul – which we observed this Sunday and Monday – a shofar rang out through the Israelite camp and Moses was invited back up the Mountain to receive a second set of tablets. He returned with these on the tenth of Tishrei – our Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur, then, should be a day for sombre atonement; but also for joyous celebration. The Talmud (Taanit 26b) describes it as Yom Chatunato – God’s own wedding day. These forty days from Elul to Yom Kippur, then, are an eit ratzon – a time of forgiveness and kindness, and period when – whatsoever trauma has come before – we look as if towards a wedding party.

You will have plenty of chances to mark Elul with your Mosaic community. On Sunday 15 August, at 5:30pm on Zoom, Philip Silverton will be surveying important trends in modern Art and Design. On Tuesday 17th, at 2:30pm on Zoom, Rose Gartenberg will be telling the amazing story of her wartime years. And finally, looking further ahead, join a virtual teatime quiz on August 22nd. Details for all these events and more can be found on the Mosaic website.

Chodesh tov,

 

Student Rabbi Anthony Lazarus Magrill

 

August 12, 2021

Thoughts for the week

Staycations are in vogue these days due in large measure to the COVID-19 pandemic hence Michele and I decided to spend a few days in late July in deepest Norfolk.

We found a lovely Airbnb a few miles from Thetford. Our cottage was situated on the former estate of Lynford Hall, a spectacular mansion in the heart of Thetford Forest. There we were amongst lakes, parkland and thousands of acres of forest – a perfect chance to reconnect with nature.

Walking in green spaces has proven brain-healing qualities. Essex University research team Green Exercise found that walking within nature helps to reduce stress levels, improves mood, enhances psychological well-being and improves attention and concentration. Unlike urban spaces which can be mentally demanding, nature involves what is called a ‘soft fascination’ which means the brain is stimulated without being drained.  Well it was indeed fascinating and extremely relaxing. We also enjoyed a river boat cruise on the glorious broads and a visit to the pretty coastal village of Blakeney.

Norfolk has so much to offer but it was still undeniably good to get back home – a chance to reconnect with our children, wider family and friends.

Dwelling on the theme of reconnection it occurred to me that whilst Mosaic has done an outstanding job in keeping the fabric of our community together since the onset of the pandemic I can’t wait to reconnect in person with my many Mosaic friends. Moving in to our new home in Stanmore next year will be doubly rewarding. The prospect of new premises is very exciting in itself but perhaps more importantly, with COVID hopefully under control, we will once again be able to meet regularly – perhaps in a service or at a Kiddush or simply over a cup of tea and a biscuit.

In the meantime there is much to enjoy online each week. For example, next Tuesday afternoon, you can enjoy an interesting talk about the Jewish history of a medieval village. For more information about this and other events check out the Coming Soon section in this newsletter.

Phil Austin

 

August 5, 2021

Thoughts for the week

 

As I write in late July, summer arrived with a vengeance, but was then replaced by storms! Oh to be by a pool overseas! However, the furthest we have made it this year is the Cotswolds. Whilst so-called ‘Freedom Day’ occurred on 19th July we remain constrained, as the Delta variant continues to hit the UK.

It’s now 16 months since I hugged my son, Joseph. He lives in New York, and our family miss him. We missed his 30th birthday in June. I’m sure there are many similar stories across the Mosaic Community, where we have been unable to meet (physically) close friends and relatives and/or share important occasions with them. In some cases, this sadly means not wishing ‘long life’ in person to those mourning when someone close has passed away, due to Covid-19 or for other reasons. As infections per day remain in the tens of thousands, and deaths and hospitalisations increase again, it is likely to be some time before we will truly be free and back to relative normality.

In the meantime, we must do our best and be grateful we have Zoom! We continue to hold Liberal and Reform Shabbat morning and evening services on Zoom, and I would encourage you all to join these – give them a try! The services, led by our Rabbis and other guest preachers, are always spiritually uplifting and meaningful, and allow us to meet together as a community.

On Sunday 1st August we have Edwin Lucas, a chance to ‘Meet the Teetotal Miniamphilist’ at 5:30 pm! This is followed on Tuesday 3rd August by an opportunity to ‘Meet Norma Brier, OBE’, at 2:30pm when Steve Levinson will interview Norma on her experiences supporting children and people with learning disabilities, including her time as Executive Director of Ravenswood.

 

Steven Sanderson

 

July 29, 2021

Thoughts for the week

It’s a funny time. Many of us are enjoying the new freedoms we have to go to restaurants, theatres, sports and visit friends. At the same time, the government’s plans to completely end all current restrictions, including mask wearing, seems rather reckless when only 64% of adults are fully vaccinated. We hope for the best but it seems more motivated by the needs of large corporations than the health of the population.

Gradually, and much more carefully, Mosaic is beginning to resume some in person activities. Both Mosaic Reform and Masorti have now held in person services, and Mosaic Liberal will be doing so in the next few weeks. Look out for emails and on the various ‘services’ pages on the website for dates and how to book. Rest assured that all activities will be streamed via Zoom so that those who cannot, or don’t want to come in person, can continue to join in remotely.

It’s also a funny time because we are in the 3 weeks, a traditional period of mourning between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av. It always feels strange to have a sad period just as we are enjoying warmer weather, but as the British-Jewish scholar Jeremy Schonfield argues, in hot countries in the middle east, summer is a time of discomfort and danger, and thus an appropriate time to commemorate historic tragedies.

We have wonderful study sessions on the 9th Av and its meaning to us today (https://choosemosaic.org/?p=25334) and then, more happily, on the 15th Av, sometimes described as the Jewish Valentine’s Day! (https://choosemosaic.org/?p=25337). Both of these will be led by Rabbis Rachel and Kathleen, with a guest speaker Rabbi Dr Eli Levin from congregation Darchei Noam in Ramat Hasharon.

Wishing everyone good health and a gut shabbes.

Zay gezunt,

Joseph Finlay

Director of Music, Mosaic Liberal

July 8, 2021

Thoughts for the week

It is so exciting to see photos of the brick laying ceremony and to feel that our dream of moving to our new spiritual home is actually becoming reality.  Living in Stanmore I often pass the old petrol station and feel a real flutter of excitement as I see progress on the building site.  Even though our community activities are limited to zoom at the moment I’m sure I’m not the only one longing to get together in person, which hopefully we will be able to do for the High Holy Days if not before.  As I’m on the Rites & Practices Committee at Mosaic Liberal Synagogue I can tell you we’re working really hard on preparing services and mitzvot for Yomtov (which is really just round the corner) whether they will be in person or on zoom or a combination of both.  I’m sure our sister Mosaic communities are doing similar.

Having to stay home during the Covid lockdowns and curtailing usual activities would have been hard enough, but being physically without the building was certainly very difficult for many of our regular attendees.  But thanks to the indefatigable Jane Prentice and her Community Group there are so many activities that it’s hard to find time to join in as many as I would like.  I’ll certainly find time this coming Sunday at 2:00 for a zoom “Experience of Jewish Meditation” with our member and coordinator of our Care Group Esther Aronsfeld, especially as it’s suitable for beginners and no need to sit in a lotus position!    Another fascinating event, also on Sunday, is a session called “Did God Workout?” – which is about art and biblical crticism.  Another unmissable zoom session is member and athlete Danielle Sanderson being interviewed on Tuesday at 2:30.

I have to say that one of my favourite zoom activities is Tea and Torah on Wednesday mornings at 11:00.  Whether it’s Rabbi Kathleen, Rabbi Rachel or Rabbi Natasha leading the session it is so fascinating to delve into the weekly Torah portion and study maybe only a couple of verses in depth.  Discussions are wide ranging and can go off in all kinds of interesting directions – and the atmosphere is warm and congenial.  Can’t wait till we can get together in person, and I can walk to shul which is something I’ve always wanted to do.

Lindsey Cohen

July 1, 2021

Thoughts for the week

As I watched the three symbolic bricks laid at 65 Stanmore Hill, I reflected on the different journeys that bring each of us and our communities to this point, and how we each respond in different ways to what we have experienced.

There is much to be excited about – as we see our new community home being built, and the expectation that we can soon (ish?) resume in-person activities with less restrictions.  However I also see the diversity of responses – some are excited and keen to move forward quickly, while others are understandably afraid of changes and seeking to hold on to what stability they have.  Our responses are conditioned by the past 15 months – where again our experiences have been extremely diverse:  some have found working from home empowering and have had a less frenetic pace, while others are struggling to come to terms with losses, being apart from loved ones and stresses arising from lockdowns.  Underneath that is also for many a lack of trust that our political leaders have the skills to manage the situation or that they are acting in our best interests.

Our response as a Community is to take the opportunities we see – but to do so cautiously, and in ways that acknowledge the diversity of experiences and needs as above.  We have had our first few “hybrid” / in-person shabbat services at Mosaic Masorti and Mosaic Reform, and are slowly ramping up over the summer, while continuing with activities on zoom.  Where possible we are doing in-person activities outside and if you would like to, and are able to, host a service or other (small!) event in your garden over the summer then please contact us to discuss this.

My slightly random musings are in part also based on a project that we started some months ago with small groups of members exploring our jewish stories – what choosing a jewish life means to each of us.  This project will be continuing across the community over the coming months (many thanks to the team) and one of the initial ideas that arose is the Jewish meditation experience on Sunday 4th July.  Given the past 15 months maybe we could all use some space together for contemplation and relaxation?

I’d love to hear from you with your thoughts, comments or questions on anything about Mosaic, so please contact me

Shabbat shalom

Mark Phillips, Mosaic Jewish Community co-chair

June 24, 2021