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Yom Kippur

15 Sept 2021

Dear Members and Friends,

In a short time, we shall gather (whether in the Sanctuary or online) to celebrate the beginning of Yom Kippur.  Wherever we are, those first moments of lighting the Yom Tov candles and then listening to Gemma Rosefield play Bruch’s Kol Nidre, will take us on our own interior journey for the next 25 hours.

We enter a world of prayer and music, of fasting (for some of us) and self-affliction. We ask ourselves, what does it mean, when we can’t all ‘stand before God’ as the Torah portion for the morning of Yom Kippur tells us?  And how do we effect that transformation of which Deutero-Isaiah speaks in the Haftarah: ‘Is not this the fast I look for…. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and to bring the homeless poor into your house? When you see the naked, to clothe them, and never to hide yourself from your own kin?’

It has been so hard to embody those teachings and values over the past eighteen months when the synagogue has closed its doors to everything but its Nursery School and services.  How have we been able to show hospitality at kiddushim, chavurah suppers or Pesach sedarim while sitting at our screens alone with our seder plates on display in front of us?  Is it enough to send a voucher to our guests at the Drop-in for people seeking asylum and not welcome them across the threshold of the LJS? Creating an atmosphere of joy and uplift has been a challenge knowing that only a few people could come into the Sanctuary, unable to sing or join in with the prayers. These restrictions have bowed our spirits and bound our hearts for too long.

But now, with caution, we are able to welcome people back into the synagogue; we are beginning to re-open our activities and we must find the strength to retrain our spirits, to open ourselves to joy and celebration and to find meaningful ways of embodying our teachings of hospitality and welcome, supporting the frail and elderly, teaching our children and young people in person and reaching out beyond the walls of the synagogue to those in need.  And those of us who have felt fortunate in many ways to have managed through these months, must find the strength to support those who have really suffered and been challenged by repeated lockdowns – children, teenagers, students and adults of all ages.  It is precisely at the point of freedom that we often lose our nerve, and fearfulness of what lies ahead can be overwhelming.

As we leave the synagogue on Thursday evening or switch off our devices at the end of the Yom Kippur services, let us pray that the words of contrition and promise on our lips will galvanise us to renew our passion for social justice and change how we are in the world.

We must rediscover what is good in the world – the altruism, kindness and generosity of millions of people, the self-sacrifice, and desire to bring into the world the knowledge that the vast majority of humanity is defined and driven not by selfishness and greed, but by a willingness to care for others, to give more to those who have less, and to preserve and sustain the precious beauty and resources of the environment.

May you and your dear ones be sealed for a fulfilling and peaceful New Year of 5782.

Alexandra Wright

Mon, 20 September 2021 14 Tishrei 5782