22/23 October 2021, 16/17 Cheshvan 5782

Last weekend we had an amazing visit to Nottingham’s Beit Shalom’s Holocaust museum. Our children met with a survivor and throughout learned about kindness of individuals that meant lives were spared. They understood this as allyship. They are familiar with this term of empathetic friendship and care.

I write with a certain fire of frustration this week. How can one not feel that in the face of racial injustice. We learned yesterday in London Jewish News that Hillsong Mega Church have bought the former Hippodrome building in Golders Green. This is just weeks after the approval for Islamic use of the building was shamefully halted. It seems so blatant so discriminatory that a mega church with huge community is given approval whilst a Muslim centre is not. I’m shamed that all the work of supportive Barnet institutions and their superb legal team failed in the face of this prejudiced decision.

Yesterday many marched to oppose the new Borders Bill, a bill that threatens the humane and decent way to offer asylum and means for refugees and migrants to find a home here. Only ‘worthy’ refugees will find asylum on our shores, many will be declared inadmissible and all of this will hamper integration.

I know there are those that suggest our Jewish faith not tread into areas political, but I cannot understand such a separation of concerns. The prophetic voice is part of our contemporary Judaism. This week’s parashah Va’eira so nuanced and challenging sees Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael ostensibly to die in the wilderness. They don’t, after God reassures they will be saved and Ishmael will father a great nation himself. But medieval commentators criticise Hagar freely as a mother. The tension is there.

I see our constant re-interpretations of Torah and religious texts as directly informing and inspiring our Judaism. We learned this week in our Delving class of Rabbi Michele Brand Medwin who says God is whatever power, history being, ideal or consciousness that inspires us to mitzvot.

These mitzvot include standing up against injustice and encouraging others. We’re teaching it to our children and we are learning all the time.

Anger precedes action sometimes.

Shabbat Shalom,