11/12 October 2019, 12/13 Tishrei 5780

The morning after Yom Kippur our hearts are full for many reasons. Not least, to return home and discover the attack on the synagogue in Halle. Two killed, and fear and insecurity unleashed on our Day of Atonement. We stand in solidarity with them and I want to acknowledge with gratitude those who stood outside our synagogue all day yesterday. Our members and our friend Ian Katz who comes back to give so much of his time and expertise every HHD. With heavy hearts we understand why security is necessary.
I am so grateful to all who work so hard in our community in all areas. Those who contribute to the running, security, learning and spirituality of our synagogue . You'll see why I love Marge Piercy's poem To Be of Use:

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,

who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,

who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,

who do what has to be done, again and again...Hopi vases that

held corn, are put in museums

but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for water to carry

and a person for work that is real.

Shabbat Shalom and thank you,
Rebecca

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4/5 October 2019, 5/6 Tishrei 5780

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Shabbat Shuvah tomorrow and I am thinking of big fish. Despite the walks we are doing every day, with the changing leaves and conkers under our feet, I am thinking of the Jonah story and the image of him swallowed by the dag gadol. No other biblical character is quite as brilliant for considering our own attitudes of stubborness, ambivalence about choices and faith. Ironically Jonah is the most successful prophet. The only one who has immediate results. Those grudging words he says to the king and people of Ninevah (in 40 days Ninevah will be overthrown) work. They don sackcloth and ashes and repent. He's the greatest prophet because he is so familiar, so absurd, so human.

What better focus for us than him?

Most of us, like Jonah, at one time or another, avoid our task, choose sleep over wakefulness and sail away if we can. Jonah steps on our toes. Come hear the book read on Yom Kippur.

Shabbat Shalom
Rebecca

27/28 September 2019, 27/28 Elul 5779

It's been for some of us a good year and a full year. As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we think of our lives but also what we can bring to other peoples' lives.

Teshuvah U’Tefillah U’Tzdakah ….. Repentance, Prayer and Charity (justice) will avert the evil decree. We will chant this many times over the HHD services. There is much to comment on this verse, and I will be, but for now as we approach Sunday the idea of righteous giving and support is important. Generosity is key.

A friend received a message the other day. His name was mentioned and honoured as his brother made a donation to the food bank in their South African synagogue. Instead of a physical Rosh Hashanah gift, they donated to the food bank in his name. I loved this idea.

We all agree Food Banks are not the answer and we are right to feel ashamed that so many people rely on them here in our affluent United Kingdom. Charity can't end poverty. But while the need is there, we are responsible for sharing what we have. So please donate money or food in family or friends’ names. We will happily send a Rosh Hashanah email to anyone you donate for.

Join us in the learning and activities we have as we prepare here at FPS for Rosh Hashanah to bring it extra meaning and joy.

Shabbat Shalom
Rebecca

20/21 September 2019, 20/21 Elul 5779

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All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail better. Samuel Beckett, Worstword Ho! 1983

We try hard in our lives, seeking to do the best we can and floundering at times. If HHD gives us a chance to reflect then what better way than to consider our failures. What are we proud of and what do we regret?

There is the clear obligation to forgive others as Maimonides reminds in his Laws of Tshuvah It's forbidden for a person to be cruel and refuse to be appeased. What about the way we look at our own successes and failures?

Join Rabbi Howard Cooper and me to discuss and study together (at FRS) this Saturday night before Selichot service: Fail Better.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom and so pleased Ivriah is back and Cafe Ivriah filled the Small Hall last week as the children began their lessons and we learned Kiddush. #TheNewTen #LearningJewishSkills.

Rebecca

13/14 September 2019, 13/14 Elul 5779

Rabbi Rebecca writes;

I am busy searching for all texts and anecdotes to open our hearts this month of Elul. This is to signify the journey we begin on 29 September, Erev Rosh Hashanah.

This week I listened to Malcom Gladwell’s new book Talking to Strangers. His premise: we can never really know the stranger and often as humans make catastrophic errors of judgement about people we meet. We rely on feelings and instinct and sometimes are very wrong. How prescient of the BBC to broadcast this Book of the Week now when mistrust and suspicion is palpable in our parliament and filters down to others.

Gladwell recounts one of the greatest ‘follies’ in 20th century history, Neville Chamberlain’s catastrophic misreading of Hitler. But he softens judgement by demonstrating how difficult it is to read others.

A tiny verse in the portion this week Ki Teitze captures this unease and mistrust:

When you go out [as an army] against your enemies, be on your guard against anything untoward in them. (23:10) and yet is somewhat contradicted by a later one: You shall not subvert or abuse the rights of the stranger… (24:17)

I invite you to consider trust this week, and the way we offer and withhold it. Shabbat will be 14 Elul, almost half way through the month. I am reminded of Barbara Crooker’s poem In the Middle* of a life that’s as complicated as everyone else’s, struggling for balance…

Good luck with Elul and look out for our new learning beginning next week and our shared Selichot service at FRS on 21 September, beginning with my study session with Rabbi Howard Cooper entitled Fail Better.

Shabbat Shalom to all
Rabbi Rebecca

*https://poetrydispatch.wordpress.com/2007/11/04/barbara-crooker-in-the-middle/

6/7 September 2019, 6/7 Elul 5779

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This is a photo of the entrance to our synagogue. Rarely a person arrives nowadays without commenting on its beauty. Sasha Conroy is responsible for this and her gardening helpers, most notably David and Sam. There is even an irrigation system in place to sustain its bloom. Many of us who come often to FPS might have ceased to notice this impressive addition to our garden. It is universally acknowledged that joy and appreciation diminishes after the initial spike. During the month of Elul why not look again at things we often forget to appreciate, looking up or out at sights that bring us joy.

Gratitude can always be sharpened, indeed focusing on the good is a skill. Elul, the preparation month before the HHD gives opportunities to reflect and consider.

In Musar, the system of ethical improvement created by Rabbi Israel Salanter, a later rabbi Rav Wolbe turns the idea of judgment of ourselves, so necessary for Elul into something appreciative too. (Alei Shur II p. 160): We find that in order to regret one’s transgressions, it is first necessary to know the enormous positive qualities which reside naturally within us. Looking for the good, out and in, is undeniably beneficial

It’s the 5th day of Elul, today Thursday 5th September, do check out all of our Elul activities as we gear up to Rosh Hashanah.

Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Rebecca

30/31 August 2019, 29/30 Av 5779

Zoe Jacobs writes:

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I spent the bank holiday weekend on Brighton beach. The extraordinary sunshine warmed the pebbles around me, and – when I wasn’t swimming – I enjoyed hours of picking up and cradling warm, smooth stones.

They felt so permanent in a moment where everything from our weather to our politics seems frighteningly impermanent. It is calming to have solid, ancient things around us as we navigate through this storm.

Our Judaism, our Torah and our wonderfully dependable festivals offer us this anchor as we transition into September. Join us through Shabbot or Chaggim, through Ivriah or Delving into Judaism. Our roots keep us stable.

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And, if on your wanderings, you also find stones warmed by the sunshine please inspect them to see if there is a hole through them. Please also look out for conkers, shells and other rain-proof, natural decorations we can use for our – impermanent – sukkah. Collection jars are ready in the synagogue.

Shabbat shalom,

Zoe

23/24 August 2019, 22/23 Av 5779

History, as we know, as a way of repeating itself. How can it not?

As the M.S. St. Louis cruised off the coast of Miami in June 1939, its passengers could see the lights of the city glimmering. But the United States hadn’t been on the ship’s original itinerary, and its passengers didn’t have permission to disembark in Florida. As the more than 900 Jewish passengers looked longingly at the twinkling lights, they hoped against hope that they could land. Those hopes would soon be dashed by immigration authorities, sending the ship back to Europe. And then, nearly a third of the passengers on the St. Louis were murdered. Most of the ship’s 937 passengers were Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany.

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And so we watch with horror the waters off Lampedusa, Italy. The same island of Lampedusa where that extraordinary fisherman made crosses out of life boats, one of which resides in Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge.

Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has reluctantly authorised 27 migrant children rescued at sea to disembark from the charity vessel OPEN ARMS anchored in limbo off Lampedusa Island for days.

He agreed to save the ‘alleged’ minors despite it being “divergent to my orientation”. And the remaining 105 adults and 2 accompanying children are to stay on the boat the NGO says is not fit to hold them. They are considering flying them to Spain but their options are limited. Immigration is challenging. We would be naive to believe otherwise, but there are moments when the word ‘No’ is inhumane. Both in stories and in real life. Proactiva Open Arms says the situation is untenable, visiting doctors agreed.

The iconic verse “A human being does not live on bread alone,” found in this week’s portion, Eikev (Deut. 8:3) invites us to think of all in this scenario, those that rescue and those that are rescued.

May a safe solution be found speedily.

Shabbat Shalom

Rebecca

PS. 2 hours ago the boat was ordered to disembark and the refugees allowed to enter Lampedusa. May they and the Islanders find safety and ease.

16/17 August 2019, 15/16 Av 5779

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LJY Israel Tour just returned. It included 4 FPS folk, and also Kayitz, the year above, visiting Croatia, Serbia and Austria, 20% of whom were from FPS. I have been thinking of Coming of Age Summers. I'm not sure if you can remember yours, I can recall mine and here it is remembered for posterity on Radio 2 Pause for Thought, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07hkg07

There is something viscerally different about these long days of Summer. a slowness kicks in even when we work at our desks. This week's portion Va'etchannan contains the Shema where we are told to remember and talk of these things; God morning and night. We often forget it's Torah not a ready made prayer composed generations after. The blessing before the Shema, Yotzei Or u'Vorei Hoshech who makes light and creates darkness takes on more meaning during these light evenings.

This Shabbat evening will be our August Resouled. Do join us if you are here and experiencing summer in North Finchley.

Shabbat Shalom and look forward to seeing you.

Rabbi Rebecca

9/10 August 2019, 8/9 Av 5779

Last weekend I went to listen to Yael Naim at the Purcell Rooms. She is an Israeli French songwriter, indeed she became the first Israeli ever to be in the U.S top ten when one of her songs was picked by Steve Jobs to advertise the new Mac Book Air in 2008.

She brought much Jewish neurosis ad charm to her performance on Sunday, including her protegee, 'younger brother' Eyal another Israeli musician who warmed us up before she arrived. Her repertoire had been upbeat but Sunday's concert was her new material, 'fresh from the fridge' as she described. It was mournful and full of both grief and acceptance. I find such music always moving. Indeed Joni Mitchell and Carole King form the soundtrack of my life, melancholic female vocals.

But sitting in the Purcell rooms life and our Jewish calendar coincided. Unwittingly it was the perfect way to approach the 9 Av which falls this Shabbat and is, as we know, the ultimate day of mourning in the Jewish calendar. We Progressive Jews, have struggled at times with this memorial of disaster; for the destruction of both temples, believing as we do in progress of Judaism from Temple worship, but the day has also acted as a magnet for disaster throughout history. But, of course, we have no problem engaging with grief and mourning and so this day reminds.

Rabbi Alan Lew z'l *changed my perspective when he suggested 9 Av, Tisha B'Av is the gateway to the 'undoing' of our hearts in preparation of Elul and the HHD season. We will only benefit from the renewal and return that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer if we unpack or break up the walls, protection and stubborness that we have built through the past year [or years].

Whether you relate to the history and memory of this day or the symbolic and religious opportunity it gives, it offers something rich.

This year we do not have a commemoration at FPS but I attach a Thought for the Day I recorded for Jewish Care on the theme of Tisha B'Av. Click here to listen.

Shabbat Shalom and hoping your summer is suitably recharging and relaxing.

Rabbi Rebecca

*This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation 2003

26/27 July 2019, 26/27 Tammuz 5779

Mattot means tribes or clans. the name given to this week's portion. But it coincides with the quiet period of Summer when many of us will be relaxing in our clans, with our tribes and even ourselves, the most critical clan member. It's a welcome custom we have of re-calibrating ourselves during the weeks of high summer. The next portion often doubled with this is Maasei; Journeys. Again apt for this time of year.

Some of us travel and some of us stay put and enjoy our gardens. We will be here, enjoying our countryside.

Taking a pause and that second cup of coffee with a book after breakfast might be just what the soul needs after the fast pace of life, work and school. Even for a few days.

Here is my Pause for Thought on Coming of Age summers and the joy of laziness.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07hkg07

Shabbat Shalom to All

Rabbi Rebecca

12/13 July 2019, 12/13 Tammuz 5779

We anticipated the donkey of this week’s portion with our Pet Service last shabbat. Exceedingly concerned about decorum, flow and interruptions I was pleasantly surprised by the service. Admittedly not to everyone's taste but we managed a memorable Shabbat B’Yachad with 8 dogs and 2 rabbits making up our minyan. And we truly managed to pray. This week’s Parashat Balak is famous for the talking donkey (it probably inspired the makers of Shrek). But actually the donkey just points out the obvious. What are you doing, she asks Balaam, and pay attention to what is happening, not least me talking. Forget the animal, words of wisdom are shared.

I took some days at home at the end of June. Attending to the children and their needs and just catching my breath. Balancing being a parent with work and busyness is always interesting. I know some of you have not experienced it or perhaps are far from those days, but the challenge of sharing oneself across our responsibility and passion is never dull. Being busy is a blessing and I never forget that but it sometimes entails robust consideration and planning. We often have our eyes fixed on goals ahead and can miss the life we are in the midst of.

Shefa Gold, a rabbi and liturgist wrote this extraordinary poem. We can, she suggests, miss " the miracle is where you’re standing”.

The treasure is where you’re standing.

I just had to tell you …

Though your gaze is fixed on distant shores, 

and though you’re scanning the sky madly for that one

miracle that will tuck your doubts to bed

and kiss them away.

You’re looking for the one that will clinch it, aren’t you?

Well, you’re looking too far … ‘cause,

the miracle is where you’re standing.

Miracles are commonplace.

They can walk in broad daylight, 

and not be recognized.

But rare … oh so rare is the one who can step up to that

imposter-ordinaire and rip away the mask and say to

each and every day in its disguise,

‘Aha! This here and now is miracle and I wasn’t fooled

For a minute.’

The miracle is where you’re standing,

But who would think to dig beneath the soil of his own

complaint.

Here is my Pause for Thought on Leaving Home as well, some of you may be navigating that at the moment.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07f6zs2

Shabbat Shalom. 

Rebecca

5/6 July 2019, 5/6 Tammuz 5779

Zoe Jacobs writes:

As a Harry Potter fan, I love a bit of magic and this week's portion is full of it. Blood sprinkling, hyssop dipping, rock knocking and serpent sculpting.

It seems an odd moment in the Israelites’ story – where problems come up, God waves her metaphorical magic wand and the problem disappears.

This is not how it works any more. We might be grateful we are no longer likely to suffer 40 days and 40 nights of rain (climate change aside) nor do we think we should stone women who have been sexually assaulted. But neither do we have a direct line to God’s magic powers. If we want something to change, it is people who will make it happen.

This week I am on Citizens UK 6-day training in Birmingham. FPS is a member institution of Barnet Citizens and it is with, and through, them that we successfully petitioned Barnet Council to welcome 50 Syrian refugees to the borough and recently ran our listening week which led to our Barnet Citizens listening event.

As one of the leaders on the course just said, “We are here to make change … (I really must stop writing this and start listening again!). This week, along with 50 others from around the UK, I am exploring the best ways we as institutions, and groups of institutions, can create the ‘people power’ to make change. It is inspiring and exhausting. I think this is a remarkably accurate representation of the emotions we’ll experience as I – and I hope, we - move forward trying to make change in our local communities. It is challenging and difficult and can be frustrating but sometimes it will be extraordinary.

It is a shame we don’t have a magic wand, a shame we can’t change the world by clicking our fingers. But we can’t and this is the next best thing. I hope you join me on the Citizens journey.

Zoe Jacobs
Youth and Community Development Manager

28/29 June 2019, 25/26 Sivan 5779

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I never stop being thrilled that our young people flock to FPS and their activities. Of their own volition, and I am assured this is true, they choose fortnightly to be part of their KT group on Saturday evenings.

The photo shows the first year class enjoying an evening of Radio 4’s Panel Games with Jewish tasks. Highlights were singing Adon Olam to the Beatles’ Hey Jude. Playing The Unbelievable Truth they snuck facts about Rabbi John Rayner z’l and Lily Montagu past team mates. In short, they were impressive.

I share this during the week of Parashat Korach where Moses is challenged by Korach who insists in Numbers 16:3 "….all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Eternal is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the God’s assembly?” Now Korach famously was causing trouble and there is much written on his challenge for leadership, exceedingly topical at the moment. But for me in our congregation I am reminded of the truth of his statement here. When I’m not here I see how rich we are at FPS in fabulous teachers and those who lead services and organize us from our teenagers to our older folk.

Watch out for our beautifully lay-led services this Shabbat and consider learning if it takes your fancy. My door is always open to talk more how you can contribute your skills to FPS.

Shabbat Shalom to all
Rebecca

21/22 June 2019, 18/19 Sivan 5779

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As a proud constituent member of Liberal Judaism, supporting our Days of Celebration is our responsibility. It's this coming Sunday for our 2019 Day of Celebration. The theme “If I am only for Myself ....” explores the roles communities play in supporting their members, when the state does not. How do we manage welfare and ongoing structures of activities that make our synagogues the community hubs they are. I have chatted to a few FPSniks who have confessed being unexcited by the title. Please come anyway. Let your children be part of the LJY NETZER track, meet their madrichim whom they'll encounter on Kadimah.

Be part of learning and building what our movement looks like and cares about. This year our focus is inwards towards our synagogues and what they manage to do. I do hope you will consider joining me and my family, even at this late stage.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Rebecca

p.s looking ahead to our PET Service, a regular joyful Shabbat B'Yachad with pets! No cats unless they love dogs! Lizards, dragons, good natured dogs, tortoises, fish in bowls...anything you would like to bring! Exotic is good.

14/15 June 2019, 11/12 Sivan 5779

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Last weekend’s Shavuot celebrations (Dalet & Hey, right, making 'Tanach cake' at Ivriah on Sunday morning), combined with Kabbalat Torah celebrations, reminded me of the power of stories.

I have just recorded 8 Pause for Thought scripts to be aired on Radio 2's late night programme with OJ Borg and repeated on Sunday mornings. For this week the Best Story Ever. Stories are brilliant and I truly believe that one of the most important story-related skills children can learn is to tell stories about themselves and each other.

Last month the fantastic author Judith Kerr died. She was 95 and had written stories for 60 years. Judith was famously a refugee. She arrived in this country before WW2 seeking refuge here with her parents and brother.

In her book When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit she shared her experiences of leaving her home in Germany and travelling in danger across Europe to safety in London. She was one of our most beloved story tellers and my favourite is The Tiger Who Came To Tea.

All my children grew up on this story book as did I. A tiger knocks on Sophie’s door and has an unexpected tea with her and her mother. He wolfs down cakes and sandwiches, even the tins in the cupboard are emptied. Sophie gazes on delightedly, as the tiger drinks all the water out of the taps and finally Daddy’s sad face appears as he arrives home and is told there is no food left in the house. And to the delight of Sophie they all go out for sausage and chips.

Judith always rejected the suggestion that the tiger symbolised the Nazi Gestapo echoing her own experience of unwelcome guests knocking on your door. Actually the reverse seems to be true.

Judith Kerr has told the best story ever because she of all people knew of the kindness of strangers, the joy of being open to the unexpected, the welcoming of visitors (human and otherwise) and the excitement of an unanticipated dinner out in your pyjamas.

And in this year, with all its uncertainties, this is the story I’ll keep coming back to. A reminder that, like Abraham welcoming visitors to his tent in the heat of the day, I must always reach out to strangers, remain open minded and generous and welcoming. Judith taught us and our children an invaluable lesson, that welcoming a tiger to tea is exactly what one should always do.

Shabbat Shalom and let’s hope we keep telling stories.

Rabbi Rebecca

7/8/9 June 2019, 4/5/6 Sivan 5779

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Last week I stumbled upon the oldest synagogue in Europe, Solanova in Trani, Puglia. Most exciting as we found ourselves on VIA SINAGOGA and followed it till we arrived at the gates with the Magen David. This year one of our newer members went to the Beth Din and wrote an amazing essay about the history of Jews in Italy.

We are all curious when it comes to Judaism's presence in other lands and the connections we feel with it. Our new Beit Midrash Series on ROOTS deals with exactly this. Learning is something we love at FPS.

Shavuot comes this Saturday night and with it we have our evening of learning, we have invited members of FPS to lead sessions on Judaism from their perspective; Sara Dibb on Biblical Images in Art, Robert Bud on Whether Science and Religion are Bed Fellows.  , Our Emeritus Rabbi Frank Hellner on the Shavuot Controversy, our Kabbalat Torah first year group on their commitment to Judaism in conversation with the Book of Ruth. See the programme below.

Shavuot's alternative name is The  Time of the Giving of The Torah. It is a neat circle we have managed this year by holding our annual Confirmation/Kabbalat Torah service on Shavuot. Our 15 year olds "Receive Torah" on the anniversary (so we hold onto) of Receiving Torah at Sinai. This year's group all grew up at FPS. some were even born into the community, one young man is  a 4th generation member!

I can think of no better way to honour our community than this. Song of Songs Rabbah tells the midrash of the Israelites needing to offer God sureties in return for receiving the Torah and its covenant. God rejects ancestors and indeed parents as guarantees; but happily accepts their children 'these are good sureties ...'
I like to think our children are the same for us. 

Join us this weekend. Bring your own cheesecake for our communal tasting and some interesting bread and cheese for shared supper on Saturday evening.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom and Hag Shavuot Sameach, 
Rebecca

31 May/1 June 2019, 26/27 Iyar 5779

I struggled through A Level mathematics because I liked the simplicity of numbers. My answer was either (occasionally) right or (usually) wrong. And yet, it seems there is one go-to way to make numbers complicated: put them in the hands of humans.

We are a subjective, emotional race, and it seems when we come into contact with something even as empirical as numbers we infect them with our complexity, turning them into subjective, emotion-ridden, experience-influenced opinions. As the results of the EU elections came in, I was struck by how the same numbers were being used to support completely opposing arguments.

This week the Torah (in aptly named portion B’midbar; ‘numbers’) is mainly about numbers as God asks Moses to organise a census. But for a decent majority of the Torah we get contradictory stories and inconsistent rules. If plain(ish) statistics and numbers become complex and subjective, what are Jews supposed to do with a text that comes ready-made with inbuilt complexities? It seems cruel, almost, to request we walk towards a text that requires such constant questioning and grappling. I feel like God is asking an awful lot of us.

If the world were a simple space of black and white, yes and no, right and wrong, I might welcome the opportunity to get my teeth into some complex contradictions. But at the moment I seem incapable of understanding anything that’s going on in ‘real life’, never mind adding an extra dose of ancient incomprehensibility for fun.

But the Beatles – an obvious source of advice – offer insight into this situation; we get by with a little help from our friends. On the evening of Saturday 8 June we will come together for Erev Shavuot for our Tikkun Leyl (study evening) where members and guests will be offering us a chance to untangle some of the toughest Jewish complexities. Whether you come to dive into a challenging text, or to escape from a challenging world, please do join us. And bring cheese, bread, cheesecake and fruit for our bring-and-share dinner (from 6.30pm) and Kiddush (at around 9pm). There'll also be a Shavuot service on the morning of Sunday 9 June (further details below).

Shabbat shalom
Zoe Jacobs

24/25 May 2019, 19/20 Iyar 5779

For those that were not with us last Thursday night I wanted to share my Appeal from last week’s Dinner 

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"Thank you Ed Balls, thank you Richard Greene and thank you my brilliant friend Erica Wax who persuaded her brother-in-law to come out to Finchley and speak to us. 

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 eight and a half years I have been with you, I have learned so much about so many of your lives. Your illnesses 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 four rabbis over its past sixty six years. We are a unique community 'our messy shul with a soul' and the only Liberal Judaism synagogue from St John’s Wood to Southgate.

It is our stories that necessitate the synagogue raising funds to move forward purposely and generously. To teach children well, to train and develop our young people. To offer learning and intellectual debate for all of us, bring music to uplift the soul, reach out to you in times of sadness, accompany you through all your milestones. And of course act together for a just society.

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." 

Shabbat Shalom to all
Rabbi Rebecca

Our teenagers waiting to say HaMotzi as our President Alan Banes welcomes everyone. 

Our teenagers waiting to say HaMotzi as our President Alan Banes welcomes everyone.