13/14 October 2023, 29 Tishrei 5784

This week has been unbearable.

The week following Simchat Torah is usually a quiet one for the Jewish world. Sukkot get taken down and synagogues get tidied after the heavy footfall of the High Holidays. But this year, we awoke last Shabbat-Simchat Torah to the news of Israel at war. 1973’s Yom Kippur has permeated everything, only this time it’s been citizens, not just military, who were caught by this surprise attack.

The Jewish world unequivocally condemns this attack on Israeli civilian life. Across Liberal Judaism and the wider Jewish family, we stand with Israel and its citizens during this terrible time. In this small world of ours, it seems no-one is exempt from knowing someone who is lost or missing. Attacking innocent civilians is always fundamentally wrong and will never do anything to bring about a better future for Israelis or Palestinians. I am thinking especially of those with family and children in Israel, particularly in the army. It is an unimaginable suffering for them.

I am keenly aware of our families navigating how to talk to children about this so they know it is not their responsibility to explain events in Israel and Gaza; similarly, I am mindful of our students at university, nervous on campus. This week we are offering several opportunities to connect and reflect together.

I will send families resources to aid conversations at home and I will endeavour to ensure that all feel as equipped, supported and comforted as is possible.