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Shabbat Mikkeitz/Chanukkah 5782

03 Dec 2021

Dear Members and Friends,

I am writing this message following a moving gathering of members of the LJS and guests for our annual multi-faith Chanukkah celebration. Coming together in-person this evening, I was reminded that last year we were all online and it was so difficult to evoke the kind of atmosphere that we encountered this evening – the warmth of old friends and new, meeting each other once again or for the first time.

Zara Mohammed, the first woman and youngest ever Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain spoke about the challenges of being a woman in her role and the difficulties the pandemic has created. But she also reminded us that it was faith organisations and the individuals who are part of them who stepped up to help others in altruistic and generous ways.  It was Zara’s first engagement in a synagogue. Bharti Tailor, who was the first female Secretary General of the Hindu Forum of Britain and President of the Hindu Forum of Europe spoke about the universal symbol of light. Bharti appears in the familiar photograph of a similar Chanukkah celebration at the LJS about 10 years ago in a yellow silk sari.

Rabbi Jeff Berger, who received his ordination from the Judith Lady Montefiore College gave a brilliant exposition of the prophetic text which formed the theme for this year’s celebration: ‘Not by might, not by power, but by My spirit, says the Eternal One of Hosts.’  ‘Might’, he said, represents collective force, the might of armies; while power represents the wielding of tyranny by individuals.  God’s spirit offers something different – something that allows us to see God’s presence in our midst.

Harriet Crabtree, the Executive Director at the Interfaith Network for the UK brought together the words of all the speakers and addressed herself to dialogue, encounter and understanding.

Rabbi Igor led the lighting of the candles with distinguished guests Sarah Reynolds from Salusbury World, Imam Mehmed Stublla from the British Albanian Muslim Community, Deputy Lord Mayor and chair of Westminster Faith Exchange, Councillor Ruth Bush, Karen Buck MP and Mehri Niknam, lighting a candle each. The shammash was lit by Eli and Rosa Wolchover from the LJS.

And it was moving to know that individuals joined us from India, Pakistan, Ghana, Israel and around the UK. Steve Derby, our consultant, who helped the LJS to master-mind the event, received this text from Farhan in Lahore, Pakistan, where it was 1.30 am:

                     ‘Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity virtually to join the event. It was my first                           time joining a Jewish event…  God bless you.’

When a group of men spit at a bus full of Jewish teenagers on Monday night in Oxford Street, where the group were celebrating the first night of Chanukkah, we need to ensure that we have an open door to all those who know little about Judaism and the Jewish people and offer a model of dialogue and openness that can spread like light throughout our communities.

May the light shine upon you and your dear ones and bring you tranquillity and peace.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanukkah Sameach from,

Alexandra Wright

Mon, 6 December 2021 2 Tevet 5782