Let me take this opportunity to tell you about our exciting programme ahead.
At our Shabbat evening service on 11 January, we will have a very special guest speaker, Canon Andrew White, a highly esteemed Anglican Church leader. My thanks to Susan Storring for making the connection.
Canon White is a seminal figure and true friend of our people and State of Israel. As Vicar of St George’s Church in Baghdad, he led the local Christian community at the height of Iraq’s conflict with ISIS. The turmoil requiredhim to have 35 bodyguards.To those who have met him – virtually every leading world leader, political and religious – he is a larger-than-life figure. He left for Britain in 2014 because of the risk to his and his family’s lives.
Andrew White is a supporter of Israel, navigating the extraordinary hostility toour Jewish State. He will tell us the story of his connection with Judaism and Israel. Fluent in Hebrew, he has studied at an Orthodox Yeshivah and the Hebrew University, knows Talmud and sacred texts, keeps Shabbat, loves Israel and was even kashrut mashgiach (supervisor) for Cambridgeundergraduate Jewish Society.
He and his wife adopted five Iraqi children, two of them named Yossi and Jacob. He wrote his thesis on The Role of Israel in Christian Theology for his Cambridge doctorate and has written an incredible history of Christian anti-Semitism. His multiple sclerosis has not stopped him engaging with world leaders and promoting Judaism and its people. You must hear this extraordinary man!
The next morning, 12 January, Belsize Square Synagogue will join other congregations to increase awareness of mental health needs. We must always be sensitive to mental health issues and those suffering from them, including in our community.
For those who would like to (finally!) learn to read Hebrew and enjoy participating in our services, I am holding a Monday evening 4-week crash course, 7.00-8.15pm on 14, 21, 28 January & 11 February. If you plan to join my regular students let me know and I will prepare extra texts for you.
Stay tuned for our annual Interfaith Class with St Peter’s Church and Reverend Paul Nicholson, along with Imam Mehmed Stubbla. Last year’s class was a real treat. Further details to come but this series takes place in March-April, before Pesach.
On 1 March we usher in our 80th anniversary festivities with a special Shabbat service and dinner, joined by the children’s choir of the Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue from Berlin, along with their parents, and listen to their minister, Rabbi Jonah Sievers. The date coincides with Shabbat UK.
My final announcement is really exciting! Our trip this year (Wed 15 to Mon 20 May) will take us to Prague with its Jewish history from the Middle Ages till today. We will see the Jewish Quarter and Museum with the leading guide, my colleague Rabbi Ronald Hoffberg, and visit Kafka’s House and the 16th-century Jewish cemetery.
We will spend Shabbat in Prague and listen to concerts and talks from, among others, Dr Tomas Halik, Professor of Religion and Jewish Studies at Univerzity Karlovy, and Helga Weiss, survivor and preserver of the art created by the children of Terezin (Theresienstadt).
If you are interested, please contact Claire Walford by sending her an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. I do hope these opportunities inspire your enthusiasm and interest in exciting Jewish experiences I aim to provide.
Rabbi Stuart Altshuler