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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

Thought For The Week: Freedom Day

21st June was supposed to be Freedom Day, when the midday sun “stands still” – before heading back to where it was last 21st December! If only our leaders had listened to Nostradamus the astrologer rather than Vallance the scientist, the Sun’s transit into Leo (time for a party) on 21st July rather than Cancer (stay home; bake more bread) on 21st June would have been blindingly obvious.

Perhaps a bigger question is not whether our sunny PM will by then have mutated from Air Raid Warden (“Stay home; turn out that light”) via Driving Instructor (“Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre”) to Flight Captain (“Doors to manual; cross check; prepare for landing”) but whether our emotionally exhausted population will be ready, willing and able to follow “an instruction to ignore instructions”.

But seriously; will Freedom Day matter after a pandemic that has taken 125,000 lives, devastated countless livelihoods, left millions unemployed; and disrupted the education and aspirations of a generation? Does anyone (SAGE or not) really know what lies at the end of the roadmap? Diversions, speed cameras and roadworks aside, it may be new but it won’t be normal.

On Tuesday 22nd June at 2.30pm Steve Levinson will interview Mosaic’s latest guest, Gillian Perry MBE, whose Anne Frank Trust is dedicated to helping young people embrace positive attitudes, responsibility and respect for others. Some challenge when lockdowns have diverted so many young people from a direct path to a stable and fulfilling future – allegedly to protect their grandparents!

With blank paper scarce, the teenage Anne Frank had to write her diary from the front and a short story from the back of the same notebook. Tragically, she was captured before her words could meet; she was never to greet a Freedom Day. But when we do, may her courage and irrepressible optimism inspire us to cherish our past as we begin to re-build our and our children’s future upon it.

David Safir

June 16, 2021

Thought for the week – how lucky we are

When I found I had ‘volunteered’ to do this week’s foreward, my first reaction was “are you kidding me?  On top of everything else?”, but then I appreciated what an honour it was, so here are my thoughts, hopefully fun, but not terribly profound!

Our daughter Daniella is having her Bat Mitzvah this week. Yes, 13 years ago, our gorgeous baby came into the world, with her tufty hair,  looked at me with her big brown eyes, and changed our lives for ever!  Sheer joy at times, but a good night’s sleep, or anything more than 3 hours at a time became a fond, but very nostalgic memory.

Now my baby girl is almost as tall as me (I’m 5’ 7”) , and we’re considering reinforcing the door hinges as we prepare to embrace the teenage years!  Oh how nice it was when she was little & we didn’t have to worry about tik-tok, online security, and I could at least find my makeup (on the odd occasion I had time to look at it!).  On the plus side, we can get a good night’s sleep now.  My point is let’s appreciate what we have at the time – its so easy to get caught up in everyday life and forget how truly lucky we are. “Don’t forget to be happy” as someone once told me.   For me, one of our blessings is the amazing community we are part of.  I’ve seen first hand the fantastic support available from Mosaic when you need it, and there is so much going on – just look at all the events in this week’s notices (follow on from this).   And if like me, you are often too busy to attend at the time, most are recorded, so you can watch them at your leisure – what an amazing library that must be becoming.

Speaking of appreciating or moaning about your lot, Daniella wrote the following poem.   I’d like to dedicate it to anyone who has ever struggled with their hair:  those with curly hair who’ve blow-dried their hair within an inch of its life, only for it to turn it into a Diana Ross / poodle look at even the mention of rain; parents looking for unwelcome visitors in their child’s hair; those with poker straight hair who struggle to get even a hair clip to stay in; teenagers experimenting with colour and ending up with multi-coloured hair, ….  Need I go on?

Sometimes my hair is curly, Sometimes it’s very twirly
Sometimes it’s wavy, Sometimes it’s lazy
It’s a great big mess, Oh, I wish it was less
My hair is everywhere, It’s my worst nightmare
My hair is all tangled, It’s like it’s been mangled
It’s as messy as a bird’s nest, And it never, ever rests
Mum calls it bed hair, I call it manic, It sends me into a great big panic
Lotions and potions, I’ve tried them all out, My hair now smells like a Brussel Sprout!
I’ve tried so many types of shampoo, My head is now like bamboo
Of long flowing locks I dream, I want to shout and scream
“You crazy rebel without a cause, It’s time for a pause!”
My hair has a life of its own, And it won’t leave me alone!

See you Saturday
Shabbat shalom

Kathy Phillips

 

June 10, 2021

Thought for the week – my love of science and religion.

I have often been asked when discussing my work (I am a research Scientist), how can I believe in God and at the same time support my passion for all things scientific.

My answer, easy. How can I believe in the teachings of the Torah and believe in evolution and the long journey we have undergone to reach this moment in time? Easy. What about miraculous unexplainable occurrences we read about most Shabbats. Does the timeline we believe in marry up with the billions of years it has taken the earth to form? Well, yes. No one really believes rationally that human kind in its developed form is only five and a half thousand years old, and these things can be proved scientifically.  We must try to distinguish between our understanding and knowledge now compared to the beginning of civilisation, and how this affects our lives.

So, how can I believe in miracles, such as the parting of the Red (Reed) Sea, the 10 plagues and a myriad of other impossible occurrences? Finding out more about these phenomenon’s through science is something I do from time to time. Talking of miracles, science is full of them. From the structure and purpose of DNA to man’s exploration of space, and soon some might say, of time. Everything is impossible until proved otherwise, which sometimes surrounds the skepticism of believing in a power greater than our own. That there is nothing above us only sky, to paraphrase John Lennon, seems naive and short sighted and lacks imagination, and without imagination, scientists throughout the ages, would not have uncovered the many wonders of this world and beyond, and many of my scientific colleagues have a similar view.

Whilst talking about what seemed impossible or at least unlikely, join us next Thursday to hear from Rabbi Gilad Kariv – Israel’s first Reform Rabbi to become a member of the Knesset.

Shabbat Shalom

Joel Abrahams

June 2, 2021

Thoughts for the week

It is an irony that over past generations the Jewish Community has generally allied itself with the liberal-Left in British politics. However, the recent decade has seen an emergence of an anti-Israel sentiment from this formerly moderate sector that so easily corrupts into an undercurrent of distasteful anti-Semitism. With a shift to the political Right in Israel, hawkish policies have spurred on a vocal BDS movement and has led to many in the community feeling intellectually uncomfortable with its traditional allegiances, if not bordering on being politically homeless. The liberal-Left or centre-Right frequently provides us with uncomfortable choices.

The conflict of the past few weeks has demonstrated that an anti-Semitic undercurrent lies not very far below the surface and can so easily rise to spread its foul stench. It goes without saying that the death and injuries sustained by innocent Gazan civilians is awful. There is no point in wasting space here to affirm Israel’s very clear right to defend itself to avoid injuries, death and destruction within its borders. However, the mass demonstrations around the world and the virulent anti-Semitic hatred recently demonstrated across social media has highlighted what we all know well, that self-righteous anti-Israel rhetoric so easily sprouts a very far from subtle but venomous hatred that its proponents will consistently deny was ever motivated by racist intent.

Make no mistake, we are a target, simply by reason of our birth; and whether it comes from a convoy of beflagged cars on the Finchley Road, the megaphones in Hyde Park or the postings on Instagram, the lessons of history demonstrate that we should be constantly alert, maintain our guard and avoid any relaxation of our security. What is particularly worrying is that although these concerns are felt within our own community and picked up by our own use of Social Media, the prevalence of it is not adequately covered by the mainstream media and does not permeate the wider community. Where are the news items on our televisions? Where are the articles in our newspapers with any degree of prominence? Where is the public outrage at even a miniscule level as compared with the unity that supported the BLM movement? There is virtually nothing, radio silence – but perhaps we should not express genuine surprise.

Over time, anti-Semitism comes and goes in waves but never evaporates and the recent events merely serve to emphasise the appalling reality of that fact and the fragility of our complacency. For ourselves we face a dilemma – do we loudly and proudly display our Judaism or shrink back and try to safely disappear in a confusion of assimilation? That may be easier to answer and deal with in the areas of North West London where so many of us live and go out. It is harder elsewhere or if one is on a University campus or travelling on public transport to and from school or work. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer, but we must all surely be aware of the issues that arise from the simple accident of our heritage and birth that repeatedly gets stoked by the forces of ignorance and evil.

On a lighter practical note, as members of Mosaic, we are frequently reminded of the contribution that we can make to society and to help the environment. In keeping with that dual theme, this coming Sunday (30th May 2021) please join our Mitzvah Day project collecting litter on Stanmore Common, very near to our new home on Stanmore Hill.

 

Neil Mendoza

May 25, 2021

Thoughts for the week

A few days ago I received an email from a charity telling me that I was to receive an award of 500,000 dollars. Very nice but clearly a scam. Phishing emails are normally a little more sophisticated than this and, these days, most of us are on the alert for such cons on social media and in texts and emails.

Unfortunately we don’t seem to be anywhere near as careful when it comes to forwarding or sharing emails, or Whats Apps on the subject of Israel.

In the last week or so I imagine all of us have received “from friends” emails that update us on the latest developments in Israel, and Gaza and the West Bank. Many of these leave us nodding our head in agreement as they tend to confirm our views (or prejudices). I received one such email from numerous sources which was clearly spreading fast (hence going viral). It was headed “breaking news” and was the text of a speech the Israeli Prime Minister had just made to the Knesset. It had a bellicose tone and gave Hamas a 24 hour deadline to stop firing rockets after which Israel would invade and re-occupy Gaza. Many of its recipients would have been nodding their heads and thinking “good on you Bibi”. The problem is this speech was never made and was pure fiction – fake news. Not very different from the photo of joyous Israelis dancing in front of a burning Al Asqa Mosque. Literally an attempt to inflame opinion.

So at this sensitive time, when we are all wondering what we can do to help save lives, one answer is to take care before we pass on information that is designed by extremists to provoke mistrust rather than encourage moderation. It is always a good idea to ask “what’s the source?” of any alleged news, and a “reliable friend” or “a neighbour’s workmate” is not sufficient. My suspicions about Bibi’s speech were confirmed when I could find no reference to it on the BBC, Reuters, Ha’Aretz or even Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile on the home front I can reliably urge you to Zoom in on Sunday May 23rd at 4.00 pm for our celebratory fun afternoon farewell to Bessborough road. This a real event, with real Mosaic people even though it is online only.

Steve Levinson

May 20, 2021

Thoughts for the week

In traditional communities, Shavuot (which begins on Sunday evening) lasts for two days (Sivan 6th and 7th).  In Liberal and Reform communities, and in Israel, it lasts for one day.  We are thinking especially of all those in Israel now, and pray that peace and calm may return to the land before the festival begins on Sunday evening.

Shavuot is one of the Shalosh R’galim, the three Pilgrimage Festivals.  Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, was originally a harvest festival, celebrating the end of the barley harvest, and the beginning of the wheat harvest.  Its agricultural beginnings are reflected in two of its names, Chag Ha-Katzir, ‘the harvest festival’, and Chag Ha-Bikkurim, ‘the festival of the first fruits’, when the first fruits were brought to the Temple in Jerusalem.   The name Shavuot,’ weeks’, reflects the Omer period from Pesach to Shavuot, when we count each of the 49 days, or 7 weeks.

In Exodus chapter 19, the Torah tells us that the Israelites came to Sinai on the third new moon after their dramatic exodus from Egypt.  Because Shavuot comes seven weeks after the Exodus festival of Pesach (in the third month of Sivan), the rabbis claimed that the festival celebrates God’s revelation at Sinai, the giving of the Torah to the Israelites.  With that, and the rabbinic name, Chag Matan Torateinu, ‘the festival of the giving of our Torah’, Shavuot gained a profound new meaning because, without rules, freedom soon degenerates into chaos.  With that, it also gained durability and a touch of eternity.

So, the holiday of Shavuot commemorates the gift of the Torah to the Israelites, and there is a custom to stay up through the whole night of Shavuot, engaging in study.  Known as Tikkun Leil Shavuot, this custom expresses our love for Torah and its study.

There is also a custom to decorate the synagogue with flowers, to recall the legend that Mount Sinai burst into flower while the Israelites waited to receive the Torah.  Also, the first fruits were brought to Jerusalem in baskets decorated with flowers.

Shavuot celebrates the brit, or covenant, between God and the Jewish people.  A contractual relationship, as a love relationship, requires from us loyalty and commitment, such as was shown to Naomi by her daughter-in-law, Ruth.  At Shavuot, we also read the Book of Ruth, because it takes place at the right time of year (Ruth gleaned barley in Boaz’s fields), and, also, Ruth’s loyalty and commitment is symbolic of the loyalty and commitment of the Jewish people to the Torah and to the people of Israel.  Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David, and Jewish tradition has it that King David was born, and died, on Shavuot.

Oh, and, of course… there’s the cheesecake!  It is customary to eat dairy foods such as blintzes and cheesecake on Shavuot.  One explanation for eating dairy is that when the Jews received the Torah on Shavuot, they were not ready with utensils for kosher meat preparation, so they ate dairy, which is relatively easy to prepare instead of meat.  Another explanation is that the Torah is compared to milk and honey.

All the details of our celebrations of Shavuot can be found in this weekly e-mail, and also on our website.   Our Liberal and Reform communities will be welcoming our twinned community in Israel, Darchei Noam, with Rabbi Dr. Eli Levin, on Erev Shavuot and also our friend Rabbi Dr Michael Hilton.  Liberal Judaism offers opportunities to study all through the night, with a variety of learning options.  Our Masorti community will be meeting in person for the first time in many months, in a garden service.

Also, on Sunday afternoon, at 4:00pm, before Shavuot begins, there is an opportunity to meet Keren David, journalist and author of 12 Young Adult novels.  Her latest book, ‘What We’re Scared Of’, is about contemporary anti-Semitism and Jewish identity.

On Wednesday, Tea and Torah continues, at 11:00am, with the weekly opportunity to study parashat ha-shavua, the Torah portion of the week, with one of our Rabbis.

And finally… a heads up for a very special celebration on Sunday, May 23rd at 4:00pm, when we have a chance to get together (still on Zoom) to reminisce over the 60+ years at Bessborough Road, with memories, a quiz, music, photos and more, and also there will be news on our new home at 65 Stanmore Hill.  Look forward to seeing you there!

Rabbi Rachel Benjamin

May 12, 2021