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Thoughts for the Week

Whether reading Emor this week, or alternatively Kedoshim, we are entrenched in Leviticus, and with it the minutiae, and often harsh or inconsistent detailed instructions from God.

Why should anyone with a deformity be forbidden from becoming a priest, as instructed in Emor? Or why should not working on Shabbat stretch to not driving to Shul, which in reality is far less effort than walking.

These are some of the 613 commandments we have been given, and which give rise to endless debate.

In my humble opinion, our primary obligations are not what we may or may not eat or wear. Far more important are the ways in which we conduct our lives with regard to others, to our family, our friends, our fellow members of Mosaic, and equally important, to the wider Community.

The minutiae of Leviticus remind me at this time of the minutiae of building our new home, as Stanmore Hill moves ever closer to completion. It was comforting to visit the site earlier this week, with an architect far more understanding of these things than me, who was reassured by the quality of what he saw. The structure is now complete, and installation of electrical, IT and air conditioning systems is far advanced.

The most significant item still awaiting delivery is the partitioning. While it was ordered some time ago, it could only go into production once the structure was complete, the tracking on which it runs was installed, and precise measurements could be made. That has all now happened, and we eagerly await its arrival.

And as completion gets ever closer, and we visit the site weekly to monitor progress, the detail of the job, whether macro or micro, becomes apparent, and each issue need to be addressed. How will the partitioning get into the building, if the external railings go in first? And when can we start emptying the spare bedrooms and garages of so many members who have housed our possessions for so long?

The minutiae, and detailed issues are in themselves reflections of our Community, where so many individuals come together, each on their own a very small part of a very large process. And while not one of us plays a unique role, without which we could not survive, each of us makes a vital contribution, making Mosaic the very special project that it is, and Stanmore Hill the home in which it will flourish.

Shobbos greetings to all.

Harry Grant

May 5, 2022

Thoughts for the Week

Bianca Liebowitz

Last night I lit my yellow candle in memory of Miss Bianca Leibowitz from Toplica in Serbia. She and I both visited Auschwitz. I survived at a different time from my visit, whilst she perished at the age of 4.   I recited kaddish for her and wondered what became of her family. Should I have wondered, or was it a foregone conclusion. I looked up the name on Google and there were no Bianca Liebowitzs on record. She came and went with no others named after her on Google.  I looked up my name and found a number – including me.  We have just gone through the season of Exodus and I have been thinking a great deal about exoduses from the Holocaust era, as well as the current Ukranian exodus, which is in the forefront of my mind. The Scottish National Bard Rabbie Burns speaks of “ Man’s inhumanity to Man.” It has been used often since he wrote it and it shows we have learnt not a lot.

I cannot get Bianca Liebowitz out of my mind. The terror, the pain, the lonlines, the fear and the unknown come to mind and she did not make it. Rabbie Burns  – not of the Jewish faith and not spelt the same way, has said it all and whilst the bard lives on in history, 6,000,000 perished in the Holocaust.  We remember them and so we should, today and always. Bianca has been remembered, as have 32,000 others this year, through lighting a yellow candle. May we gain strength from our lives and plant the seeds accompanying the candles this year, so that the yellow candle campaign is not a one-day wonder but a generator of blooms for the season ahead.

Spring has sprung and I want to pluck two things out of the weekly bulletin which are us, as a community.  The friendship club met up today and it is going to be a major source of Mosaic friendliness for all three parts of Mosaic once again.  Please let old friendships be rekindled and may new friendships be kindled to increase the enjoyment of all.

Henry Altman’s Tuesday walks are brilliant and are so mind and people engaging. One can be any age to join the walk and just like the friendship club, rekindle old friendships and develop new ones. I can imagine that Henry in the coming weeks will be walking past Stanmore Hill shul, so all the walkers will know at first hand and sight what is happening on the site.

Edwin Lucas

 

April 28, 2022

Thoughts for the Week

PESACH

Rabban Gamliel famously teaches that, on Seder night, ‘one who does not explain these three things–Pesach, Matzah and Maror–has not fulfilled their obligation.’ But shouldn’t it be reversed? A chronological order would teach Maror (representing the bitterness of slavery), followed by Pesach (the slaying of the first-born) and finally Matzah (the sudden flight to freedom). But here lies Rabban Gamliel’s wisdom. The comedian David Mitchell observes that ‘living in the moment’ is a fallacy: we cannot know whether any given moment was positive until we can put it in context. We do not know if we enjoyed a football match until the last-minute winner confirms it as either an enjoyable or a bitter experience. Just so, Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshishcha taught that we could never know the full bitterness of slavery until we had experienced a more complete human dignity after the Exodus. This is why Gamliel teaches Maror last–we did not know what bitterness we had suffered until we suffered it no longer. I hope your Seder nights will offer rich insights into what we have, where we’ve come from, and where we might be going.

 

Mosaic will be having a relatively quiet week over Pesach. We hope everyone meeting for the communal 2nd night Seder will enjoy an uplifting evening, and that the sun should shine for those on the Woodland Walk. After the Chag, you can join Neil Goodman for a fun quiz on the afternoon of Sunday, April 24; whilst on Tuesday April 26, Tony Bruce will be talking about his family’s history in early C20 Germany – ‘The Katzes of Koln.’ The Untangling Judaism course will recommence on the evening of April 26. All of these events are on zoom, and details are available via the Mosaic website. In person, Thursday April 28 will see the long awaited return of the Mosaic Friendship club, meeting temporarily in a Kenton venue.  For further details, please contact the office. Until then – Chag Pesach Sameach v’Kasher, wishing you all a joyous and kosher Passover.

Rabbi Anthony

April 14, 2022

Ukraine – what you can do to help

Many of us feel very helpless in relation to the war in Ukraine. But there are a few things we can do to help:

  1. The Borders and Nationality Bill has been to the House of Lords with a recommendation to remove clause 11, and is due to have its final reading in the House of Commons this week. This is relevant to Ukrainian refugees and all other refugees, and members are urged to write to their MP. Here is a model drafted by Rene Cassin you might like to use.

  2. You can register for the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme here.  Phase one of the scheme opened for formal applications on Friday, March 18th.

  3. You can send funds to Ukrainians through the World Jewish Relief, the World Union for Progressive Judaism, or the DEC (Disasters Emergency Campaign) Humanitarian Appeal – Red Cross.

  4. The Charity ‘Goods for Good’ are collecting goods to go to organisations helping refugees directly in the Ukraine and those crossing the borders into Poland and Romania. Particular items have been requested for now, and you can find them here. The goods you collect can be taken to Woodside Leisure Centre, Horseshoe Lane, Watford, Herts WD25 7HH, at any time during the Leisure Centre’s opening hours.  If you can print out this label , please do, and label your box accordingly.  Otherwise, please write clearly on your donations:  ‘HUMANITARIAN AID – GOODS FOR GOOD’.  Thank you.

  5. Rabbi Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Reform Synagogue has created a list where people can declare their willingness to house Ukrainian refugees in anticipation of when they are permitted to come to the UK. To get involved, contact Rabbi Romain on rabbi@maidshul.org
March 23, 2022

Thoughts for the Week

PURIM

The fun and frolics of Purim are nearly upon us. The festival of Purim celebrates Queen Esther (yay) and her uncle Mordecai’s (yay) success in foiling Haman’s (boo) plan to murder all the Jews in Shushan. A common tail in a Jewish festival, they tried to kill us, we failed, and now we eat. On Purim, we are not just commanded to eat but to really let loose. In the scroll of Esther 9:23 we read; ‘[Adar]…the same days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy…’ The Hebrew for the word translated here as transformed is, nahafokh which means to turn over. Purim is a time where everything is turned on its head through silliness, satire, costumes and drinking. We are commanded to gift mishloach manot, gifts of food to our friends and neighbours, and give charity to at least two people in need. The carnivalesque nature of Purim makes a dark story a true celebration and asks us to subvert, or turn on its head, the way we look at ourselves, each other and the world, even if it is just for one festival. Looking forward to celebrating with many of you.

For further details of Mosaic’s Purim celebrations, please see the newsletter below.

Rabbi Anna

March 10, 2022

Ukraine Crisis Appeal Update

The following has been received from World Jewish Relief:  The Jewish community’s response and generosity has been incredible. Thank you to those who have reached out, set up fundraisers, promoted and shared, hosted events, and who have held the Ukrainians in their thoughts and prayers, it is truly appreciated.

We are hosting a briefing event tonight (Thursday) at 7.30 pm at JW3 and online, hosted by BBC broadcaster Emily Maitlis. We will hear from experts on the ground in Ukraine and here in the UK about the situation, its political, social and economic impacts, its impact on the Jewish community, and what we in the UK can do to help. It’s not too late to sign up at https://www.jw3.org.uk/ukraine-briefing.

Here is the link to donate: www.worldjewishrelief.org/ukrainecrisis

March 3, 2022

CST – Together We Protect

From 5-7 March, CST is hosting a crowdfunding campaign called ‘Together We Protect’. Jewish people across the UK will visit a campaign website and donate to CST. Each donation will be matched from a special fund which will encourage people to give, and see their donations doubled. The objective of the campaign is for everyone – young and old – to come together to support CST. It is our joint responsibility to ensure the security of our Jewish community.

CST’s work allows Jewish people in the UK to live vibrant, safe and secure Jewish lives with confidence. Securing shuls, schools and events – wherever Jews gather together – CST is there to provide reassurance and protection.

Mosaic has always worked in close partnership with CST to create safe and secure environments for us and our children. CST provides training for our security guards, funding for the gates, fences and cameras that keep us safe, as well as keeping a watchful eye over our us from its 24/7 National Security Control Centre. CST never charges for anything it does and depends on charitable donations to survive.

CST is not ‘just another charity’ but is part of the very fabric of our community and so we are delighted to support this campaign.

So, from Saturday evening on 5 March, please visit the Together We Protect website, browse to the Mosaic page and give generously. Let’s join together to protect CST, just as they have protected us over many years.  https://www.charityextra.com/cst/mosaic     www.cst.org.uk/twp

    

March 3, 2022

Message from Rabbi Kathleen

We are all following with horror the terrible events in Ukraine, aware that one of our courageous colleagues, chose to stay with his congregation in Kyiv, and we’re also following the updates of colleagues who have fled the country. We’re shocked by the horrific symbolism of the bombing by the Russians of Babyn Yar which memorialises the mass murder of 34,000 residents of Kyiv during the Holocaust.

As Rabbis, we are asking the Government  to do more to provide safe passage to the refugees but are aware that, as yet, refugees are not allowed to come to Britain.  However, with other Reform and Liberal synagogues, we are collecting names of possible hosts to offer temporary accommodation to a Jewish (or non-Jewish) family or individual, if visas are suddenly granted.

There would have to be due process – such as safeguarding and to check your premises are suitable – while you would need to be assured that the guests would stay only for the time you stipulate is possible for you to host them.  We will then work with whatever major Jewish organisation and Government department that is taking the lead in dealing with temporary re-rehousing. We often refer to the kindertransport and what a wonderful effort that was.  Now may be the time that our generation is called to respond in a similar way. Please let the office know if you would like to be part of this effort.

If you seek other means to help Ukrainian communities, we suggest you get in touch with the World Union for Progressive Judaism and or World Jewish Relief in their efforts to provide aid.

World Union for Progressive Judaismhttps://wupj.org/give/ukraine/

World Jewish Relief: https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/ways-to-donate/appeals/1267-ukraine-crisis-appeal

We pray for peace and an end to Russian aggression.

March 3, 2022

Statement on Ukraine from the European Union of Progressive Judaism

The following Statement has been issued by the Rabbinic Assembly of the European Union of Progressive Judaism.

The Board of the EUPJ Rabbinic Assembly, the Association of Progressive Rabbis in Europe, joins with rabbis all over Europe in condemning the unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine and our hearts go out to our colleagues working in Ukraine and to their congregants as well as all of the millions of innocent citizens in the region.  This Shabbat our thoughts and prayers are for them and our deepest hope is that restraint and good sense will bring an end to this conflict before it grows and directly affects the whole of Europe.

We call for a Shabbat of Peace this coming Shabbat Vayakhel (Shekalim), and we ask our communities to pray for a return to diplomacy to bring about stability and enduring peace.

We ask all rabbis and communities to share with us the urgent actions of support they are making so that we can share ideas of practical help we can give.

Let us pray for and offer our services towards the wellbeing of our world, and let us believe that truth and love will prevail over lies and hatred.

Board of EUPJ Rabbinic Assembly

February 23, 2022

Support the Ukrainian Jewish Community

All of us within Mosaic Jewish Community will be thinking of the terrible situation faced by our fellow Jews and all the people of Ukraine following the news we woke up to this morning of the completely unprovoked invasion by Russia into the country.    Members of Mosaic Liberal in particular will be worrying about their friend Rabbi Alex Dukhovny, Chief Rabbi of the Religious Union for Progressive Jewish Communities in Ukraine, who was with them as Assistant Rabbi before obtaining his semicha.     Our thoughts are with Rabbi Alex, his colleagues and congregations at this very worrying time, and we wish them all strength as we pray for their safety and a speedy end to the conflict.

If you are looking for a way to express solidarity and practical support to the Ukrainian Jewish community, please have a look at this link :

https://wupj.org/give/ukraine/

In the light of the recent conflict on the Ukrainian border, the World Union for Progressive Judaism has launched the Ukraine Crisis Fund. We ask people from all over the world to make donations towards the support of the Jewish community in Ukraine. Money will be spent on individuals and communities to ensure their safety and wellbeing. If the conflict escalates further, your money will become crucial in providing necessary help for many people. If the tension eases, the fund will be spent on the development of the progressive Jewish community in Ukraine.

Rabbis in Ukraine are currently trying to ensure safety and wellbeing and provide pastoral support to their communities. Some of them decided to move Torah scrolls to safe places, help community leaders and congregants to move further from the Russian border and organise security for their synagogues.

February 23, 2022