17/18 July 2020, 25/26 Tamuz 5780


This portion of Mattot-Maasei, the last in the Book of Numbers, mentions cities of Refuge; arei miklat feels pertinent this week. Originally envisaged as a safe place for those who had caused accidental death; where they’d be protected from vigilantes before they went through the justice process. Invariably modern commentary considers their contemporary application. Miklat comes from gather. What makes our community a place of refuge and safety? What makes our community a place that is fair and just for all members to be equally ‘at home’? Last night’s well attended Beit Midrash considered just this. Our own Elijah Michael and the two guest speakers; Madeline Young and Lia Grant challenged us.

We have identified ten steps for our synagogue intended to address two differentiable but related issues – ensuring that we are a fully welcoming and inclusive community for Jews of colour and ensuring that we are an actively anti-racist community. As our Honorary Secretary Tamara Joseph explains;  It is not at this stage a considered and developed strategy or plan, but it is a place to start.  As Rabbi Charley Baginsky said at the LJ Community Briefing about this, “I am sorry that we are at the beginning, but we are at the beginning.”

Our first stage emerging from last night is to establish a working group which reports to council to undertake a systematic review and evaluation of FPS’s practice between now and Rosh Hashanah as an act of Teshuvah so that by Rosh Hashanah we are ready to set out a programme of action for the following year.  We have identified realistic and critical goals. If you are ready to join this important and timely work tell me.

For now I wish you Shabbat Shalom, all of you and a moment of peace and difference for those 24 hours.

Rabbi Rebecca