Following Barnet Synagogue's Community forum on anti-Semitism, we were visited by our local MP, Rt Hon Theresa Villiers, who listened to our concerns at a special meeting. Also at the meeting were Chief Inspector Mariner of the Metropolitan Police with responsibility for the Barnet area, and Danny Stone of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism. See the video of this important event
The last in a series of three lectures in the series, “Jewish/Muslim Relations and its Effect to Counter the Deligitimisation of Israel” was presented by Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini, a Talmudic and Koranic expert, is speaking on relationships between Jews and Muslims and will include looking at whether statements from the Koran and Talmud are actually interpreted in a correct manner. He is a fellow in Islamic studies at Leo Baeck Rabbinical College and a lecturer in Abrahamic religions at Al-Azhar College. He is listed in this Wikipedia article and you can read his JC article here.
Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini was accompanied by Sam Westrop, Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and author of a report into the Interfaith Industry.
The more people who hear what Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini has to say, the more the opportunities for a peaceful coexistence between our peoples.
Arnold Moscisker arranged a thoroughly enjoyable evening with five members of the Shul entertaining the audience with fascinating anecdotes about their famous (and not so famous) ancestors:
The Shavuot flowers this year had a World War 1 theme to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. An addition to the flowers, there was a display of significant Jews in WWI as well as family photos from members of the Shul whose relatives fought.Thanks go to Natalie Shaw for orchestrating a magnificent display.
A most enjoyable day was had by all, despite the heavy rain when a group of 38 Barnet members, lead by Paul Lang and assisted by Susie Shaw, took a day trip to Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes, in honour of Morris Hoffman z"l, who worked there during WWII. With audio-visual guides in hand we learned of the establishment of Bletchley as a centre for code breaking during WWII, as we toured the different buildings and huts in the grounds of this mansion house. Of particular interest was Hut 3 where Morris worked during the war, translating and making sense of codes that had been deciphered in the next door hut. Hut 6. It was a huge job as the German Enigma machine had 159 million, million, million different possible permutations! After a picnic lunch we split into two groups and were taken on a tours of the estate by interesting and informative volunteer guides from Bletchley Park. We braved the driving rain (typical Bank Holiday weather!) and we learned much as we walked around the beautifully kept grounds. Bletchley grew from a few hundred to over 5000 people at the end of the war, and the NAFFI there served 35,000 meals a month! It seems amazing in our age of text, emails and Facebook, that the secret work at Bletchley was never exposed - infact it remained an official secret until 1974. Also remarkable is that in the 1980's the whole site had fallen into disrepair and was going to be bulldozed to make way for a brand new housing estate! Thankfully due to tree preservation orders this was prevented and over time, and with the help of National Lottery Funding, the site has been saved for the nation and developed into a truly wonderful and educational visitor experience. We finished off the day with a visit to the National Museum of Computing which is also on the site, where a Colusus computer has been rebuilt. We were told how the Bletchley staff succeeded to decipher the even harder to break codes from the Lorenz machine.
It strikes me that the staff at Bletchley in some ways were far removed from the privations and hardships of the war (Bletchley was not discovered by the Germans and so was never bombed apart from one random, stray attack by a bomber that could not find its intended target), and in other ways were right on the front line of the battle saving countless lives and months, probably years of warfare. The war was probably shortened by two years because of the work done here.
Susan was born Zsuzsanna Blau on 9th September 1930 in Felsögöd, Hungary.
From late April 1944 Adolf Eichmann took charge of the deportation of Hungary’s Jews. Most of them were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Susan, her brother and their mother were all sent to a ghetto in Vác and from there to an internment camp. In late May 1944, they were sent by cattle truck to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Susan was separated from her mother who was sent to join a group of elderly prisoners. She later learned that her mother had been murdered. Susan was selected to work, and remained in the camp for around 10 weeks before being sent to Gubben in Germany to work as slave labour in an armaments factory. With the Allies advancing, the prisoners were forced on a Death March to Bergen-Belsen. On 15/04/1945 Susan was liberated by the British army. After she was hospitalised for tuberculosis, typhoid and severe malnutrition, she was sent to Sweden to recover.
After liberation, Susan found that her brother was the only member of her family to have survived. Over 50 of Susan’s relatives had been killed during the Holocaust. Susan wasn’t able to return to Hungary to visit him for 20 years. After the war, Susan lived in Sweden before moving to Canada, where she met and married a fellow survivor.
Today she speaks to thousands of young people about her experience as a survivor.
Rabbi Lerer conducted a "mock seder" for the members of the Monday Club
From humble beginnings 65 years ago, in a rented local garage, Barnet Synagogue has grown to a vibrant and dynamic community with over 550 member families. It has celebrated this momentous anniversary with a weekend of communal events.
At a Civic Service on Saturday morning, 27th April the community played host to The Worshipful, The Mayor of Barnet, Cllr Brian Schama, and his Mayoress, The Rt. Honourable Theresa Villiers MP and a host of dignitaries including Ward Councillors, local Christian clergy and senior officers of the three emergency services.
The Mayor addressed a packed synagogue, appealing to all present to “step up” and take their place in the community. He referred to the various opportunities he has had during his year in office, to witness first-hand the difference volunteers can make. Councillor Schama also talked about the contribution the Jewish community has made both to Barnet and beyond. He said that as the grandson of Jewish immigrants, it has been an honour to be Barnet’s First Citizen over the past year.
The children of the community played their part in the service, giving explanations for the portions of the Torah reading and also performing excellently in a choir, which enhanced the service.
Following the service, messages of congratulation were read out from all the former ministers who are still living, followed by an address by the present incumbent, Rabbi Barry Lerer.
A cholent Kiddush followed the service where guests and congregants mingled and enjoyed Barnet’s legendary warmth and hospitality.
On the following afternoon, there was a Tea Party which had been styled “By the Community, For the Community”. The brainchild of, Board of Management Member, Rochelle Kleinman, in the run-up to the event the synagogue kitchen resembled “The Great British Bake Off”, as various groups of women took their turn to bake their specialities for the big day. The aromas of cheesecake, cupcakes, scones and quiches permeated the building for weeks!
The afternoon was a relaxed and informal occasion with entertainment provided by members, including 12-year-old Jamie Lesser who played the piano and Max Witriol, accompanied by Scott Hatfield, who sang a number of parody songs, written especially for Barnet Synagogue.
Barnet Chairman, Ivor Ward made a presentation to Mrs Kleinman, together with Frances Spillman who led the catering, and also to Ronnie Pallester who had organised the previous day’s service.
The community are now looking forward to the next 65 years!