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Joint Chairs Blog

Richard and Paul's

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Pesach Blog

“No man is an island” - John Donne’s words are as true now as they were in 1624.  Pesach is family, community, continuity.  In the days before Pesach, Paul and Rina celebrated the visit of Paul’s brother and children from Australia.  On election day in Tel Aviv, Richard and Sue were at the joint birthday party for their two-year-old Israeli and seven-year-old British grandsons with four generations present as the two boys cut the - Arsenal, naturally - birthday cake.  These things matter.

But not everyone is so fortunate and even those who are have needs that cannot necessarily be met from the relatively narrow perspective of family.  One of our most important functions as a shul is to provide the community support that helps plug the gaps and it’s especially good that, at this time of the year, we’ve at last been able to appoint our Pastoral Care Coordinator.  It’s taken a long time but as soon as we met Deborah Golend, we knew that the wait had been well worth it.  Deborah brings vital qualifications and a great personality to the role and will be establishing a structure that will mean that we can give strong professional advice as to who to turn to when needs arise, be it from within the community or through external agencies.  

Community is a key theme for us at present and it is the core topic for Rabbi Jonathan’s retreat from 10th to 12th May at Charney Manor.  There are still a few places left so if you are interested - the retreat is always an enlivening experience - contact Rivka or book directly  at this link at this link.

The next exciting development - although we have to wait until July 7th - will be Zahavit formally obtaining S’michah (rabbinic ordination) and extending her role as a member of the rabbinic team to virtually full-time with us. We will celebrate this publicly in due course.

We are taking two quite small but significant steps towards greater equality and diversity. 

First, we are changing the Haderech pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah arrangements.  From September 2020, all young people in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah programme at NNLS will start Haderech with their year group at the beginning of Year 6 and will complete their Bar/Bat Mitzvah programme with their year group at the end of Year 8. Students will progress through Haderech with their school year group (rather than by termly cohort). This will bring boys and girls of the same age together (in the past, boys were one year older than girls). These changes will foster better and more equal relationships and will be more conducive to their learning and emotional well-being.

This will mean that girls celebrating their Bat Mitzvah will have greater choice as to when to celebrate their simcha and this could be any age following their 12th birthday or when they are 13. Boys will continue to celebrate their Bar Mitzvah after their 13th birthday.

Secondly, we are now able to correct an anomaly in relation to civil marriage registration.   We have always been able to register civil marriages for mixed-sex couples but, for complex and arcane historic reasons, we have not been able to do this for same-sex couples who celebrate a Shutafut ceremony.  Thanks to trail-blazing work by Rabbi Jeremy Gordon and the New London community, we now have a pathway that will enable us to put same-sex couples on an equal footing and remove the need for them to have a separate registry office civil marriage.  We are taking the necessary administrative steps to formalise this - Rabbi Jonathan has confirmed that this does not involve any halachic issues or any change to our policy in relation to the status of marriages from a Jewish perspective.  There is a more detailed paper on this at this link for those who would like more detail.

Turning to a more mundane, but vital, topic, we have, for the first time in the history of the shul, changed our auditors following a procurement process.  The new auditors, haysmacintyre who are auditors for a large number of major charities, have now completed their work on our 2018 accounts. This went well and special praise is due to our finance and executive team as changing auditors is a challenging task.  Our Treasurer, Mark Flenner, commented “We should all take comfort and be pleased that we have undergone a fresh audit by one of the leading charity audit firms (and a Top 25 audit firm) and been given a clean bill of health”.  Mark has now established a Finance Committee and is building on the solid base that he inherited from his predecessor, Tony Bogod - who has huge skills beyond brilliant adaptations of West Side Story.  Our thanks and appreciation go to all.  

So far, we’ve been looking inwards at ourselves but Pesach is also one of the times of the year when we look at helping others through our Pesach Appeal.  Please read the Pesach appeal literature sent out with the Pesach magazine - in parenthesis huge thanks to our editors, Adi Bloom and Nick  Gendler, and to our designer, Alex Mutkin for their great work on this - and respond as generously as ever. (You can donate online via this link)

Much else goes on - quite apart from our core business of running three adult and multiple children’s services.  People from other communities often comment with a degree of wonder on our range and the fact that we have so many people actively engaged in leading services.  It’s a good opportunity to thank all of them and all of our volunteers - we could elaborate but Dayenu comes to mind.

Chag Pesach Sameach - and, as we said in our last blog, we do invite feedback.

Paul and Richard, Pesach 2019

Thu, 20 June 2019 17 Sivan 5779