On Saturday 13 February, we will be celebrating the Bat Mitzvah of one of Kehillat Kernow’s prayer leaders, Liz Berg. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner will be coming down to Cornwall to lead the service. Rabbi Laura will also run a guided discussion after the service on the subject of the stranger. This is particularly pertinent at present as we make our way through the book of Exodus, where the Israelites exchange the settled life of strangers in Egypt for that of wanderers in the desert. The experience of being strangers haunts the Jewish people throughout its history, in the Torah, in Tanach, and right up to the present day. Kehillat Kernow is now a settled community in the ancient land of Cornwall, one of a fellowship of communities in Britain. At the same time, we are now witnessing the suffering of peoples being forced to flee their homes and become strangers in neighbouring countries in the Middle East and in Europe. We cannot ignore this phenomenon.
Please note that service reminders aim to build a bridge between the last Saturday service two weeks before and the one being announced. They will therefore often focus on the previous parshah rather than on the one in the title.
How much punishment does Pharaoh want? Having watched – nay, been instrumental in making – his people suffer ever increasing horrors, he gathers his army and sets off in pursuit of the Israelites only hours after agreeing to their departure. Once he catches up with them, does he not see the pillar of cloud which guides them by day or the pillar of light which guides them by night? Well, he is not the only one not to see clearly, for the Israelites themselves suffer from a failure of vision and a failure of faith. The sight of the Egyptian army throws them into a blind panic. Yet God is there to support and save them. They cross the Red Sea and thank God in song. This should be enough, but it isn’t, and soon the people are complaining again, this time about the lack of fresh food. God sends quails and manna and, in so doing, introduces the basic law of Shabbat. They travel some more and became thirsty, and again they lapse into discontent.
Of course, they are not used to freedom. One of the contradictions of slavery is that, while you are forced to labour, often for long hours every day with little or no respite, you are not obliged to do anything for yourself. Everything is decided for you. It is, therefore, not so surprising that a people that has not acted for itself in living memory should be frightened and easily discouraged when it walks into the unknown. What is more, by the end of B’shallach, for that is where we are in the story, the people have started literally to fight for themselves and to provide support for their leader. As they engage in battle with Amalek, they enable Moses to be their inspiration by holding up his hands where the soldiers can see them from the battleground. The road to freedom, both physical and spiritual, is not completed, but it is begun.
A fitting preparation for Yitro, which begins with Moses’ father-in-law advising Moses to appoint community leaders at different levels to administer justice, so setting the foundations for a system of government which will last until the time of the kings. The people move on to Mount Sinai, where there is to be a great revelation. But to hear this revelation, you will need to come to the service at Three Bridges School this Saturday at 10.30. Liz Berg of the lyrical voice will be leading us.
The first two weeks by recently departed Kehillat Kernow member Joanne Gore
As I start to write I am taken back exactly one week and was at the airport with my parents, first in line at the emerging queue to check-in. Packing a 3-bedroom house into 3 suitcases was a challenge and I knew I was way over the 60 kg weight allowance allocated so had a strategy: Plan A – cry, Plan B – unpack! Turns out Plan A wasn’t needed and Plan B was only required as the 34 kg of one case exceeded the legal limit, so Plan B was put into place and a few items removed to get it to 32 kg.
Some may know that security to board a plane to Israel is tight and there are regular questions: “Did you pack your bags yourself?” (Yes) and “Did anyone give you anything to carry for them?” (No). To which the guy gestured towards the folks then said “Not even your parents?” (No, I’m being selfish and it’s all for me!). A quick tearful goodbye and I was off…
It had been drilled into me that upon arrival in Tel Aviv under no circumstances was I to go through passport control without being met for paperwork to be done. If nobody was waiting (highly likely) there was a phone at the side of the passport control area that I should use to ask for people to come get me. As I was walking along the last corridor I could see a man with a name placard and was hoping to see my name on it when it came into vision – hooray, I had been met! And then after being processed and going through passport control to get my bags and a taxi I had the loveliest of surprises, Tracy (cousin), Michael (cousin’s husband) and their middle daughter had come to the airport to meet me (with banners, in case you haven’t seen the picture).
People had been advising that everything is done really slowly and has to be done in a certain order. Take a book to read whilst you’re waiting… Well, fortunately I haven’t experienced that. Michael had organised people at the bank that I would be coming in (Tuesday) and with lots of congratulations and welcomes I opened a bank account. A week later I have a credit card, ATM PIN and chequebook!
Tuesday afternoon Tracy and I went into Tel Aviv to take some things to the apartment I’ve rented for the next few months, and to meet my flatmate (Annie). That afternoon we went for a walk along the beach and saw a beautiful sunset. We then walked via the Ulpan where I enrolled to learn Hebrew, the class starting 15-Dec was full so they put me on the next one starting 17-Jan, which was already half-full. On Wednesday Annie kindly accompanied me to the Ministry office where there was no queue and I was seen immediately, paperwork processed, and off for a leisurely lunch before catching the bus to visit Adina and her family in Ariel.
Thursday was busy too – back to the bank to pick up the credit card, this meant I could set up a mobile phone contract, which I did on our drive to spend the weekend in Eilat (downside I was phone-less until the drive home on Saturday night). Shopping in Eilat doesn’t have tax, with the holiday discounts I did well, unfortunately only on essentials, such as towels, linens, pillows, but I got a “Dream” card and now have 100 shekels to spend in January – woohoo!
Fantastic time in Eilat, shopping, walking in the canyon and descending down the washed-away ladder ie lots of crunching and jumping; also walked to and from the beach too. I got a welcome to my Israeli family and a very scrummy birthday cake too.
Then Sunday, Day 7, I took a 3 year-old girl for a walk to the shops to buy eggs, interesting as I don’t speak Hebrew and she doesn’t speak English – she was all smiles when asked if she had fun! Then I met Tracy’s middle daughter’s boyfriend who had come to pick her up before coming back for a big family dinner – they came back engaged (lucky I brought my party shoes and frock). And if that wasn’t enough celebrations Tracy & Michael and each of their children brought gifts to help me settle into life in Israel: a cactus and a potato peeler signifying that Israeli’s may be prickly on the outside but once you get under the skin they are good; a photo frame for pictures of me and new friends that I’m about to make; pepper spray because it’s legal here; a hot water bottle as that’s one of the items that was in the discarded 2kg; and a bottle of Carmel wine (owl series) to go in the bottle holder that was a birthday gift.
So, all in all, I don’t think I could have asked for a better start here in Israel. I have moved most of my things to Tel Aviv now and will stay in the apartment for the near future – I forgot to mention that Michael’s sister has a friend who works at the school and got me bumped up to the class starting tomorrow!
Last week I was in Budapest with my family for a visit; schools in Israel are closed during Chanukah and it was a good time to go away together.
Hungarian Jewry was sophisticated worldly and integrated within the general life of the country both before and after the First World War. Much of the modernisation of the country was due to Jewish influence, and the Jews were proud of being Hungarian. Before the Second World War 25% of Budapest was Jewish.
When Germany invaded its ally Hungary on 19th of March 1944 Eichmann prepared to deal with a community that until then had hardly felt the Holocaust. In a period of just over six weeks in May and June 1944 more than 400,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz in 138 trains.
The Jews of Budapest began to be persecuted in October 1944 both by the Nazis and the Hungarian Arrow Cross. Jews were marched down to the Danube or onto the bridges over the river to be shot and their bodies thrown in the water. A ghetto in Budapest was established on 29 November 1944 but only lasted for six weeks until liberated by the Russians on 18th of January 1945. This was when Raul Wallenberg, Carl Lutz the Swiss diplomat and others risked their lives to save thousands of Jews.
Beautiful sophisticated and elegant though it be, I found Budapest very disturbing. As we walked along many of the Ghetto’s streets I could see in my mind’s eye Jews being marched along these same streets to their deaths. The Shoe Memorial on the bank of the Danube commemorating those who were shot and thrown into the river (after removing their shoes which were valuable) was particularly moving.
On Friday night we attended the service in the Heroes Temple, erected in the 1920s as a memorial to the Jews who fell in the First World War. On Shabbat morning I went to the Hungarian Ultra-Orthodox minyan, a piece of unreconstructed Jewish history whose 3½ hour service concluded with potato Kugel and Slivovitz instead of Scotch!
But the greatest memory was spending a week with my children and grandchildren, all of us citizens of the State of Israel, the future of the Jewish people.
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