A report from Ruben Qassim:
I visited my first death camp this summer: Jasenovc, in Croatia. What I saw and learnt there will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am sure I can say the same for other teenagers who went on LJY Netzer’s Kayitz to Serbia, Austria and Croatia this summer.
The focus of our trip, led by student rabbi Gabriel Webber, was the richness of Jewish life in these countries before the Holocaust, and it is fair to say I learned even more about Jewish life than I have on previous LJY Netzer trips. In Sarajevo, I was particularly struck how the city’s mosque was situated directly next to a church and synagogue.
LJY Netzer has been central to my life since I went on my first trip at the age of nine. Next year, I lead on Kadimah, and I can’t wait. Lauren Keiles and Nina Morris-Evans, the brilliant madrichot on this trip, have shown me how it should be done!
Kayitz 5779 Ruben Qassim
A report about the 2019 tour by Rebekah Treganna:
After a brutal year of GCSE preparation, I was overjoyed to finally arrive at the airport ready for what had been promised to be the trip of a lifetime - and it was.
Spending almost a month in Israel with 42 other 16 year olds, and our 5 incredible madrichim, was a truly unique experience. We toured all over the country learning all about the different groups in Israeli society from their own firsthand accounts: Charedim, the Druze community, Ethiopian Jews, the LGBTQ+ community, the Bedouin, and Palestinians.
We did not shy away from difficult conversations about reform Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict, which illuminated new ways of thinking for all of us, and challenged our existing ideas about our relationship with Israel as Liberal Jews. Our political education did not stop there, as we quizzed Nathan Jeffay on geopolitics and spoke with Women of the Wall about the Orthodox Monopoly over Israeli-Jewish life. LJY's four pillars (Tikkun Olam, Youth Empowerment, Liberal Judaism, and Reform Zionism) were incorporated into everything we did, ensuring our trip was filled with chances to live out the ideology we so often discussed.
However, it was not all education. Aqua Kef, rafting on the Jordan, beach time, floating in the Dead Sea, and countless water hikes cooled us off from the hot Israeli sun (which reached 43 degrees on some days!) and free time in markets allowed us to get to know our surroundings well. A particular highlight for me was camel riding in the desert, followed by hiking Masada before sunrise the following morning - while incredibly tiring (and sweaty), it is definitely a memory I will never forget.
Each of us developed our spiritual and religious Jewish identity, visiting the Western Wall and even leading our own services on the final shabbat of Tour. We also got the chance to live out iconic LJY experiences - staying at the much-loved Kibbutz Lotan and grabbing Netzer merch at the headquarters of the WUPJ! But perhaps the most incredible part of tour was the strong bonds of friendships we all made, which I know will last a lifetime.
I can't wait to continue my LJY journey.
We wanted to wish Rabbi Rebecca a huge mazel tov on celebrating the 18th anniversary of becoming a rabbi. We are so fortunate to have her - she really does makes every congregant and visitor feel welcome and included. She has the rare ability in leading our services to help us reflect on Torah and make sense of the wider world with her great insight and thoughtful commentary while helping us to forge strong lasting relationships both inside and outside of our community. We wish Rebecca many more years (with us!) to come.
This week is Refugee Week and I wanted to share this Radio 2 “Pause for Thought” on Judith Kerr’s book “The Tiger Who Came to Tea” and the way we welcome guests. Click here to hear the broadcast.
Also, let’s hope the longest day of the year isn’t the last of sunshiny days and balmy evenings. Click here for another “Pause for Thought” on that subject.
Rabbi Rebecca’s speech and appeal on the occasion of the Gala Dinner:
Thank you Ed Balls. Thank you Richard Greene and thank you my brilliant friend Erica Wax who persuaded Ed to come.
You might expect me to talk about the roof, which does needs replacing. And the fact we run out of space every Shabbat morning, and the fact our windows are tired and the red carpet needs refreshing. All of this is true. Our building is our temple and it requires our love.
But it is the relationships that make this community and that is why we must secure the future and health of this congregation.
I look around this room and over the 8 and a half years I have been with you I have learned so much about so many of your lives. Your illness, and losses some of them devastating and some easier to bear. The births of your children and the marking of their childhoods, I know who bounded up the steps of this Bimah and who needed more cajoling. I know who amongst you have wept here in this synagogue building and which of you have shared joy.
That is what I celebrate tonight that this is a community of deep connections. You have found your way here brought by parents or of your own volition. Motivated by loneliness, disappointment from other parts of the Jewish world or just where we are. The path of your life brought you to this threshold and as the conservative siddur describes’ it has been kind to straying feet’.
Our liberal synagogue has been a home and a haven for many of you, who needed to find such a welcoming and tolerant place and some who fell in love with the congregation as they arrived. Perhaps greeted by one of the 4 rabbis over its past 66 years. We are a unique community, our messy shul with a soul. The only Liberal Jewish synagogue from St Johns Wood to Southgate.
It is the stories of people here that necessitate us to raise funds to allow us to move forward purposely and generously. To teach children well, to keep our teens, train and develop our young people. Offer learning and intellectual debate for all of us , offer music to uplift the soul, reach out to you in times of sadness accompany you through all your milestones/ rites of passage. And act on behalf and with us all for a just society.
We have much more work to do. A community gives a sense of belonging, structure and connection. We might argue that we have never needed that as much as now.
The poet Raymund Carver wrote in his poem Fragments “And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth..“
Finchley Progressive Synagogue tries hard to do that.
Please be generous.
Delving into Judaism and Hebrew 8 Week Course Rabbi Rebecca’s Home, those asterisked are at FPS* Learning from 7.00 - 8.45pm. Each session stands alone but together they create a fuller and more integrated conversation about Judaism.
Tuesday 23 April ORDER
Understanding the Seder (order). The Exodus from Egypt has become leitmotif of Judaism. Unpacking and building on this central thread. How does Order connect to empathy?
Tuesday 7 May MEMORY
Jonathan Safran Foer suggests Jews have 6 not 5 senses, the sixth being memory. Iyar (this month) holds extra dates in the calendar added by the early State of Israel. These were unprecedented changes to Jewish tradition. Do we need them to remember?
Tuesday 21 May* CALENDAR
The Hebrew alongside the Gregorian. The time frame of a Jew.
Tuesday 4 June * TORAH
Both a pillar of being Jewish and a way of expressing Progressive values.
Tuesday 11 June WHO’S WHO
Denominations: The Jewish ‘Food Chain’. The wider community of Israel Klal Yisrael.
Tuesday 25 June MINYAN
Community at prayer. Why congregation matters. What we gather for? The rules and expectations of being community.
Tuesday 2 July* MAZAL TOV
Birth, Coming of Age and Commitment…Jewish rites of Passage: Why Mazal Tov matters.
Tuesday 9 July KADDISH
Jewish customs around death and what it brings to life.