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School Visits – December 2014

With Hanukah just round the corner, infant/junior schools in the area have been keen to learn about the festival and Judaism in general. Steve made four visits to schools for this purpose in recent days.

3 December to Little Gonerby CofE Infants School just outside Grantham to talk about Judaism in general and Hanukah in particular. This was to year 1 children aged 5-6. They had very little knowledge or understanding of the concept of a religious faith, but they all sang with enthusiasm ‘Heyvenu Shalom Alechem’.

4 December to Ellison Boulters Cof E Academy in Scothern to take their whole school assembly to talk about Hanukah. At a previous visit earlier in the year, Steve had taught the children here how to sing ‘Heyvenu Shalom Alechem’. They really surprised their new Headteacher with how well they remembered it.

5 December to Kidgate Infants School in Louth. This was a similar visit to the one on 3 December except that the children were in year 4 and had a much more perceptive view on Judaism. And they asked much deeper questions!!

11 December to Manor Leas Junior School near North Hykeham to go once again through the story of Hanukah. These were also older children and they really grasped the essentials of ‘Heyvenu Shalom Alechem’ with little practice.

It is very rewarding interacting with such young and bright minds who are keen to know about another faith. All the children in each of the schools were very well behaved, polite, attentive and responsive to being asked many questions to test their understanding. No doubt there will be many more visits in 2015, with the first already planned for mid-January.

LIM Discovers Jewish Rhodes

by Dorothy and Karen

On holiday in the Greek Islands this summer, with five minutes to spare before the bus left, we managed to find the Square of the Martyred Jews in Rhodes city and, wandering into the street behind it, stumbled across one of the loveliest synagogues we’ve ever visited – Kahal Kadosh Shalom (Holy Congregation of Peace). Built in 1577, it is thought to be the oldest surviving synagogue in Greece still in use. We promised to return, and at the end of our holiday, managed to get back to Rhodes and spend several hours looking round the synagogue which has beautiful mosaic floor made from sea-pebbles and an amazing Jewish museum.

Jewish presence on the island of Rhodes dates back to 2nd century BCE and is mentioned in the book of Maccabees. In 1500, the Grand Master of the Knights Templers expelled the Jewish community living on the island. But in 1522, Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire invited Jews to come to Rhodes and start a new community. Many of the Jews who came were Sephardim fleeing the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition and they found a life of peace and acceptance on the island. By 1920s, the Jewish population on Rhodes was around 4,500 people worshipping in six synagogues.

But in 1944 the island was occupied by the Nazis and on 23rd July a roundup of Jews began with 1673 Jews arrested and deported to Auschwitz. Only 150 survived the death camp. Today only a few Jewish families still live on Rhodes.

There are many wonderful things about the museum and synagogue we could mention, but two stories stood out for us, which seem particularly special –

In 1944, when the Rabbi of the synagogue realised the Jews were about to be rounded up, he was frightened for the safety of their 800 year old sefer torah and other scrolls, so he took them to a close Muslim friend of his on the island, the Mufti of Rhodes. The Muslim leader said that it gave him the greatest joy in the world to cradle the precious sefer torah in his arms and lay it in the one place he knew the Nazis would never look for a Jewish scroll – the pulpit of the mosque! There it remained safely hidden in plain view for the whole of the war, until finally it could be restored to the Jewish Community. You can still see it in the synagogue today.

The second story concerns Bey Selahattin Ulkumen, the Muslim Consul-General of Turkey, who risked much to rescue 39 Jews from Rhodes and 13 from Cos who would otherwise have been deported to Auschwitz. In 1990, in gratitude and recognition for the Jewish lives he saved, B’nai B’rith and Yad Vashem declared him ‘Righteous among the Nations’. When asked why he had done it he simply said ‘I have to do my duty for my people and the Jews of Rhodes are my people.’

If you ever find yourself in the city of Rhodes you can take a fascinating tour of the ancient Jewish quarter either doing it yourself using the guide book on sale in the synagogue shop or as a Jewish walk led by a member of the congregation. But even if you don’t have time for that, do stop in at the synagogue which is open all throughout the summer for tourists and visitors. They would love to see you and you’d be assured of the warmest of welcomes.

Devon Visit 5 – 9 June 2014

Micky and Steve, accompanied by Pat and Peter, set off down the A46 and then the M5 en route to the West Country to spend a few days with Dorothy and Karen.

And what a great few days it was, too. Apart from enjoying a super Friday evening Shabbat meal together beautifully hosted and prepared by D and K, we all did lots of touristy things together in the local area including a delightful walk on Dartmoor, visits to excellent pubs for evening meals, long walks along the seashore near Bude, a day at the Eden project (see photo) marvelling at the bio-diversity of all the plant life, plus interesting visits to beautiful and picturesque market towns and villages scattered about the area.

D and K live in a wonderful village, full of communal spirit with an amazing village shop and a pub that serves meals that would satisfy the keenest hunger. They are very happily settled there and we were privileged to be able to share so many of the local attractions expertly guided by them both.

LIM Fish and Chips 29 March 2014

Last weekend 7 LIM members - Steve, Micky, Olga, Pat, Peter, Jane and Yvonne - met for a fish and chips lunch at the Bardney Heritage Centre. This was a purely social gathering to enjoy each other’s company and to deepen the bonds that make LIM such a great kehilla to be part of.

We had paid a similar visit last October that had been so successful that we had to make a return visit. Unfortunately, Ruth, Natan, Edna, Margaret, Maxine and Steve all were unable to attend for varying reasons, but we were delighted to have Yvonne’s company.

The weather this time was far more favourable with a gentle Spring flavour to the warmth of the air and the blueness of the sky. As with the last visit, the Heritage centre made us most welcome and the quality and quantity of the fish and chips was as good as ever.

This meeting gave us all a good chance for a social natter and helped to deepen the already strong ties that bind LIM members.

School Visits – 24 and 27 March 2014

In the past Steve has worked closely with the Ellison Boulters C of E Academy (formerly Junior School) in Scothern. Apart from visiting the school to teach children about Judaism, Steve also organised for some of the children to take part in the CCJ Advent-Hanukah Celebration in the Chapter House of Lincoln Cathedral in 2010 and 2012.

This close liaison has resulted in Steve receiving two invitations from the school; first, to their main school assembly on 24 March when he will tell the children about Pesach and second to a special event they have organised on 27 March at which the Bishop of Lincoln will be dedicating a new Quietness and Prayer Space in the school grounds. Steve has been asked to teach the whole school ‘Heyveynu Shalom Alechem’ in Hebrew to greet the Bishop as he enters the building after the dedication.

Siegfried Pinchut z”l

With great sadness we learn of the passing of Maxine’s father, Zig. This, coming so soon after Maxine lost her mother, is even more a reason for all members of LIM to send Maxine our thoughts and prayers, to wish her Long Life, and to let her know that we all send our condolences. While this loss had been expected, it does not take away the pain or the sense of bereavement. We wish Maxine and her family all the strength they now need to support each other and to help them through these difficult days.

Irena's Vow Thursday, 13 February 2014

Eight members of Lim went to see an amazing play about a Polish Catholic woman – Irena Gut – who saved the lives of 12 Jews during the Holocaust. Edna and Margaret, who could not be with us on the Thursday, had been to see the play earlier in the week. The evening began when we met at Prezzo’s Restaurant in Brayford Pool for a light supper before moving on to the Drill Hall to see a play.

"Irena's Vow", by Dan Gordon, had been playing on Broadway in New York, but earlier in the week it had its European première at the Drill Hall. This evening’s performance was the final performance in Lincoln before the play moved to York.

The play is based on a true story and is taken from much of the dialogue of actual conversations with Irena Gut-Opdyke, and traces the rescue campaign launched by her, at great risk to her own life. In 1982, in acknowledgement of her bravery, Irena was recognised by Yad Vashem as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations", an honour given to a non-Jewish person for immense acts of bravery in saving Jewish lives.

Irena’s story is as remarkable as any you will hear about the Holocaust. Although she herself was not Jewish, she suffered rape, torture, forced labour and various indignities and other violent acts perpetrated by both Russian and German forces that invaded Poland in 1939. She was Polish, but had a German name and was therefore mistrusted and suspected by both camps. Along the way she witnessed horrendous acts of wanton murder and brutality inflicted on Jews.

Eventually, she found herself employed by a senior, 60-something year old officer in the German army as his housekeeper. Also working there as slaves were 11 Jews. Irena overheard an SS officer tell her employer that he should plan on finding alternative workers since very soon all Jews would be removed from the area. Irena knew what fate would be in store for the Jews and vowed she would save them all.

The story is too detailed to relate here, but suffice to say through her bravery, deviousness and what can only be described as chutzpah, plus a large helping of luck, she succeeded in hiding all 11 Jews for almost three years, plus a 12th who joined them later. If that was not enough, she also succeeded in hiding them despite the fact that a married couple among them had a baby son, whose cries threatened to expose their presence at any time. They all survived the war.

At the end of the performance, which was met by rapturous applause, the audience was treated to a talk by Irena's daughter, Jeannie, who had travelled specifically from the USA to join the theatre company. Jeannie added further insight into Irena’s life after the war, how she was reunited with her four sisters after almost 40 years and how she came to tell her story. Her added testimony came straight from the heart and was a fitting tribute to the incredible story of her mother’s wartime experiences.

As a wonderful pièce de resistance, Jeannie surprised the packed Drill Hall by introducing Roman Haller, the very person who had been the tiny baby born during the years of hiding in the German officer’s house. Roman, who had travelled especially from Munich, Germany, to be at the Lincoln performances, took to the stage and addressed the audience. He also spoke very movingly about how he had met Irena once again many years after the war. It was a very highly charged emotional reunion.

After the play, members of the cast plus Jeannie and Roman mingled with those of the audience who wanted to stay behind to meet them. Steve had arranged especially that they should meet members of a Jewish community in Lincoln and so members of LIM spent time with Roman Haller, who in turn was very pleased to meet fellow Jews. All the members of LIM who were present agreed that this was, indeed, a most powerful and thought-provoking play and felt very privileged to have met one of the actual survivors of the story.

2014 Holocaust Memorial Commemoration in York

Steve and Micky Griffiths, from the Lincoln Independent Jewish Minyan and of CCJ Lincoln, accepted an invitation to take part in the Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) Commemoration that took place in the Chapter House of York Minster on Tuesday, 28 January.

The format of the event was very special. Following Evensong, the choir, clergy, readers and general public moved in procession to the Chapter House. There they found a large Magen David (Star of David) drawn out on the floor in the centre of the room with a tall stand and candle at each of the 6 points of the star.

After short words of welcome by the Revd Canon Dr Christopher Collingwood, Canon Chancellor at York Minster, the Minster Choir sang a very moving rendition of the English translation of the Mourners Kaddish set to music especially written for the occasion by Richard Shephard. Steve followed this by chanting in Hebrew and then reading in English the Eyl Maley Rachamim memorial prayer for the departed who were lost in the Holocaust and in the various genocides of the past 100 years.

Over the next two hours there was a reading every 15 minutes on a Holocaust theme, drawn from the writings of Eli Wiesel, the former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, John Donne and other writers who have commented on the human condition and man’s inhumanity to man.

While these readings were taking place, members of the public were invited to light a memorial candle. Each candle was then carefully placed along the lines of the Magen David. The aim that was achieved that evening was to light 600 candles, one for every 10,000 Jewish souls lost in the Holocaust. When all 600 candles had been lit, the resulting image was at the same time, stunning, haunting, very moving and extremely poignant.

Steve and Micky were very grateful to Sally Guthrie, who had planned all the readings, and to Helen Moore, the Community Engagement Officer of York Minster, for the invitation to attend and for all their dedication to making this such a moving and successful commemoration of HMD.

Visit to Nettleham CofE (VA) Junior School – 23 January 2014

Steve G has just returned from a very successful visit to the Nettleham CofE (VA) Junior School. The school had invited him to talk to two classes of Year 4 (9 years old – ish) students about Judaism as part of their core curriculum studies of other faiths. The classes (about 60 children altogether) had just started these studies and had focussed on the Shabbat. Steve was there to reinforce and add to this teaching.

The children, all very well-mannered and behaved, displayed a creditable level of knowledge about Shabbat. Through plentiful questions and explanations, Steve quickly established a productive dialogue with the children, working more in a conversation-style of teaching rather than formal lecturing, with plenty of interaction from the children.

In addition to Shabbat, Steve talked about how Jews prepared for prayer demonstrating the wearing of a tallit and tefillin. He showed the class what Hebrew looked like and chanted a few lines to demonstrate how it sounded in synagogue. He also answered a myriad questions on every aspect of Judaism from kosher food to knowing when Shabbat starts and ends. Steve also taught the children (and teachers present) the singing of heyveynu shalom alechem. A short while later the head teacher, David Gibbons BA (Hons) PGCE, called by and was duly impressed with this singing.

All in all, this was a very productive, enjoyable learning experience for everyone. It also reinforced the value of learning about faiths other than our own. Steve was very impressed by the school and would be very happy to return again to talk about Judaism if invited.

Pamela Pinchut z”l

With great sadness we note the death of Maxine’s mother after a long period of declining health. Happily, Maxine and Steve were able to be in the USA and be with her in her final weeks, supported also by other family and friends. All LIM members send condolences, wish Maxine Long Life and hope that she will find the strength and comfort she needs at this time among those she is with and those who are in touch through direct contacts and through social media.

Meet the Rubensteins - 26 December 2013

We had been contacted via the LIM website by Tamar Rubenstein, whose daughter, Naomi, would be entering Lincoln University next September. Tamar wanted to know of any Jewish presence in Lincoln. After an exchange of messages Tamar said she and her family would be visiting Lincoln over the Christmas period to get to know the area for Naomi's benefit. Steve and Micky arranged to meet them on Boxing Day at noon in front of the Tourist Information office in Castle Square.

Most of the local cafés were closed that day, but the Wig and Mitre pub was open for business so Micky secured a table while Steve waited at the rendezvous. Tamar and family were spot on time and what a delight it was to meet them all. They included husband, Scott, and orthopaedic surgeon, Naomi, sister Rachael and brother Jack.

Over a light lunch we covered a lot of topics as we got to know them, including the background to LIM, life and Jewish life in Lincoln and generally something about each of us. It was a most enjoyable hour spent in the company of a very friendly, interesting and warm-hearted family. We look forward to welcoming Naomi to as many LIM meetings as she is able to attend next year.

LIM at St George’s Carols - 7 December 2013

For the third year LIM members received an invitation to attend an afternoon of presentations and chosen carols. The invitation had been extended to all the various groups who regularly used St George’s Church facilities. These included a ladies a dance troupe, a zumba class, a charity shop, a toddlers group, us at LIM and a walking association.

Each group said a few words about their activities and then chose a carol for everyone to sing. This year, since Hanuka was over, Steve chose to give a very brief explanation of how Hanuka compared with Christmas - no connection, but some similarities – and then elected to teach the gathering Hiney Ma Tov Umana’im. This he did with great success even to the extent of dividing the room into two and singing the song as a roundelay. He said that he had chosen this particular song since its translation was extremely apt for the occasion – “How good it is for brothers and sisters to sit together”.

After the singing everyone enjoyed a lovely buffet of sandwiches and cakes. LIM members received a lot of positive feedback from others not least how they had enjoyed an insight into our faith and how really lovely our songs and music were.

LIM On Parade – 17 November 2013

LIM members have been active this year in support of the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal and to support the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) as they commemorated Remembrance Sunday. Steve and Micky are the Poppy Appeal Organisers for the whole of the North Hykeham and Bracebridge Heath areas. Variously throughout the period of remembrance they were ably helped by Jane, Ruth, Natan, Pat and Peter in placing collecting boxes in 140 retail businesses, shops, schools, pubs and garages, static collecting in the foyer of Asda, collecting the boxes back in at the end of the period and counting the takings. This year the area raised some £11,400 which was a record.

Steve, Micky, Ruth and Natan were also heavily involved in a Poppy Appeal fund-raising concert given by the City of Lincoln Male Voice Choir in which Steve sings in the tenor section.

Steve and Micky went to Nottingham AJEX on Remembrance Sunday (10 Nov) where Steve was the Parade Commander and Standard bearer. The following week they were in London where Steve was the joint commander of No 2 Battalion on the national AJEX Parade that was reviewed by Prince Michael, Duke of Kent.

Our Golden Couple

LIM enjoyed a very special celebration when we met for Simchat Torah. The following day would be the golden wedding anniversary of Ruth and Natan. They, of course, had always been claiming that they did not want any fuss made over them. But LIM members were not to be put off. Unbeknownst to the two, during our Rosh Hashana meetings we had quietly signed a card wishing them hearty mazeltovs and more and we had all made a personal donation towards a gift token. Moreover, Cantor Jacky and Brian Chernett, close friends who live in London and had met Ruth and Natan, also happily contributed to the gift.

Before we began the Simchat Torah celebration, we presented them with the card, the photo opposite of the two in their typical Steampunk gear, and a gift voucher from Pennels Garden Centre for an amazing £100. This garden centre has a huge range of both indoor and outdoor gifts, plants, books, ornaments and the rest. We are so happy that we could provide them with the opportunity to buy whatever they liked for themselves or their home, or indeed both. They are both much loved members of LIM and we all schlepped some nachos being able to help them celebrate this wonderful milestone in their lives.

LIM Kol Nidre Appeal 2013

LIM members decided this year, as their Kol Nidre Appeal charity support action, to repeat the idea of donating food items rather than money to the Lincoln Food Larder. In the days between Rosh Hashana and Succot, members bought and collected a wide range of foods from tinned goods, dried pasta, bottles of juice, cleaning materials and even pet food.

Kol Nidre Appeal

This collection of groceries will be given by the Food Larder to people who have fallen on difficult times and have no means of helping themselves in the short term. LIM is very pleased to have been able once again to make this donation.

Board of Deputies – Communities Partnership Project

Through this website we received an email from Tori Joseph who is the project manager for the new Communities Partnership Project (CPP) which is being established by the Board of Deputies. They have yet to complete the CPP website but when it is up and running it will be used to meet the many aims of the Project.

These aims include activities that could be of great benefit to LIM. For example:

To link the smaller Communities to all that the varied, dynamic and ‘life sustaining’ UK Jewish Community has to offer both nationally and regionally.

To be a single contact point for small communities, able to direct and signpost to other providers. An official website for the project will host a variety of resources and links, and will provide regional forums, blogs, and information for local services and events.

Wherever possible to bring the remote communities together either with other similar communities, or with larger ones who might provide more local support

LIM members discussed this approach last Shabbat and agreed that we should take advantage of the CPP. Tori now has the LIM programme of HHDs and other meetings for the rest of the year and has noted the details of our website. In return, we will add the CPP website link to our ‘Judaism’ links when it is established.

CCJ Lincoln Visit to Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre - 27 July 2013

On 27 July, CCJ Lincoln made a very successful visit to the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre, near Laxton in Nottinghamshire. The party, some 40 strong, comprised members of the Branch, members of the Lincoln Independent Jewish Minyan plus friends and other interested people. There were two core elements to the visit: ‘The Journey’ exhibition and, after lunch, a talk by Holocaust survivor Martin Stern.

‘The Journey’ is an amazing educational tool for schoolchildren in year 5 and higher. Indeed, the whole concept of this exhibition is a very bold, almost controversial way to teach children about the Holocaust, but without showing any of the real horrors that occurred in the 1940s. Set in 1938 and seen through the eyes of a 10-year old Jewish boy who is keeping a diary of his experiences, we move from his home to his classroom, then to a street, then to his father’s shop with a secret hidden annex and finally to a railway carriage.

At each stage, we learned how Jews suffered ever increasing discrimination, restrictions, violence, intimidation, arrests, enforced moves from home, loss of status, of friends, of work and so the litany goes on. We experience Kristallnacht and we witness the arrangements when the family went into hiding. Finally, the boy is selected to travel to England under the Kindertransport programme.

Our guides, Alisa and James, explained how they encouraged the schoolchildren who visited to view the exhibition as their own personal journey along with the central character and therefore engage at a personal, first-hand level what it must have been like to suffer in this way. Above all, the young visitors were encouraged be very pro-active and to keep asking questions. They were typically guided to ask why it happened and how it could have been allowed to happen and who the perpetrators were and what they might have done had they been there and, of equal importance, how their own behaviour might help prevent such things happening again.

After a beautiful buffet lunch, the group then heard a talk by Martin Stern, a Holocaust survivor, who was a small child at the start of WW2 living in Holland. This is not the place to tell his story, but perhaps the most telling piece of information that emerged early in his talk was the fact that halachically he was not Jewish because, although his father was Jewish, his mother was not. Even so, in the eyes of the Nazis and their Nuremberg Laws he was Jewish and so suffered for it.

The group spent remainder of the day visiting the Holocaust museum and enjoying the very poignant gardens with their many plaques dedicating roses to persons and groups lost in the Holocaust.

If any reader has not visited the Centre for a while a return visit is highly to be recommended. ‘The Journey’ exhibition is a very courageous and effective educational tool and is best experienced first-hand. Indeed, the whole Centre remains a jewel of commemoration, education and compassion.

LIM at St. George's Church, Swallowbeck, Carol Service

Saturday, 1st December 2012 began with a diary meeting at Micky & Steve Griffiths’s house. Yet again, they provided us with lunch. All ten of us. Talk about feeding the five thousand. The bread buns, however, were provided by Peter Smithers and baked with his own fair hand. Everyone should have such a partner, a real culinary artist! Thanks to all.

In the afternoon we were all invited to take part in St. George’s Church, Swallowbeck, Carol Service. The Service was designed to bring together all the many and varied groups who use the Church Hall. These range from ballet dancers and Zumba right through to the Lincoln Independent Jewish Minyan (LIM), one of Lincoln’s two Jewish groups.

The service was lively and entertaining with each group doing their own thing. Steve Griffiths from LIM even had the congregation singing in Hebrew which balanced well with the traditional carols sung from a carol sheet sponsored by the charity ‘Embrace the Middle East’.

After the service we were treated to a wonderful buffet tea provided by the ladies of St. George’s. Altogether a jolly good time was had by all. Three cheers and a big thank you to all concerned.

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