5/6 April 2024, 27 Adar II 5784

Last week, we hosted an Iftar – a break fast meal for Muslim neighbours fasting during Ramadan, with invited interfaith friends and local politicians. Coming together during these heated times was an uplifting affair. (Thanks to Tamara Joseph, Natasha Kafka, Janine Garai and Citizens UK for pulling it together with a fantastic team). We had just had Purim; Hindus had just celebrated Holi; we were marking the middle of Ramadan; and we were looking ahead to the Easter weekend that would fall just days later. It is, by any reckoning, a spiritual and reflective season and it felt as though we captured it. There is so much that unites us across faiths and cultures and the different paths we may take to the sacred.

I thought about this last weekend as I visited the Chagall Museum of Biblical Memory and also Henri Matisse’s Chapel in St. Paul de Vence. All my adulthood, I have wanted to visit and have finally managed it. Each artist describes how, for him, this place was the pinnacle, the denouement, of his creative life. For the first time, I noticed as an amplification of Jewish suffering the images of Jesus on the cross that Chagall incorporates into his biblical scenes, the shape of God’s cloud by day made up of hundreds of individual faces. Matisse’s focus on the infant and mother, reflected in the azure blue of the windows and paint, echoed the peace and simplicity of the chapel.

“I started with the secular and now in the evening of my life, I naturally end with the divine,” wrote Henri Matisse about the chapel. Both men were proud of their reaching towards God and religion. Following them juxtaposed so beautifully, even in the rain of the Cote D’Azur, the pathways to our faiths and the diverse ways in which we travel.

I was proud of FPS last week as we stood in solidarity and support, appreciating different paths to God, and my heart was uplifted as I was drawn in by the sacred works by those French artists.

Maybe we will manage our own modest stained glass in our renewed and restored synagogue.

Shabbat Shalom,