Zac Berger, now officially known in the family of Israel as Yitzhak ben Sha’ul, was joined by many members of the community, his family and friends for his Bar Mitzvah held on the 9th of Adar, Shabbat Zachor, the 28th of February at Shabbat services conducted by Chairman Harvey Kurzfield.
Zac read the maftir passage from Parsha Tetzaveh, the Haftarah reading and sang the blessings for both in excellent Hebrew. Members of the community and his family participated in various parts of the service. Harvey, who tutored Zac for his Bar Mitzvah presentation, was visibly pleased with how well Zac did with his readings along with proud parents, Mr and Mrs. Saul Berger, his siblings and grandmother.
A fine Kiddush provided by the family followed to celebrate Zac’s major accomplishment. Rachel Brown, KK secretary, organised and prepared the venue for the event.
Mazel Tov Yitzhak!
ELKAN’S VIEW 25th February 2015
Israel is building itself up for the elections on 17 March, and like the electoral perspective in the UK, the situation in Israel gives no clear indication of what might happen.
There is undoubtedly a strong feeling against Netanyahu. He is perceived to have been in office for too long, possibly to have damaged relations between Israel and America, and a fresh mind is needed at the top.
As in England, politicians make mistakes especially approaching an election, but the behaviour of the Israeli police is curious. One might almost imagine that there is a department which stores up political peccadilloes for release as soon as an election is called.
But who to vote for? Israel has had a number of Prime Ministers (such as the very successful Menachem Begin) who have come into office without previous experience, but it could be dangerous at the present time.
The main opposition to Bibi (as he is universally known) is Buji – Israeli politicians acquire strange sounding nicknames! Buji, or Isaac Hertzog to give him his real name, has a superb pedigree (his father was President, his Grandfather was Chief Rabbi of Ireland and Israel) but no track record whatsoever and lacks charisma. Another uncertainty will be the 12 seats that the united Arab parties are expected to hold; 10% of an elected legislature in a so-called apartheid state! This Arab bloc might be the key to a coalition, also including one or more of the religious parties – very strange bedfellows!
But will anything change? Israelis are worried about Iran and the bomb, coupled with the inability of most Western governments (and especially the American disaster) to face up to what is really going on. The two state solution is not an issue, because the status quo is bearable, the Palestinians who live in the West Bank by and large do not want an independent state (conditions in Israel are much better than anything that Abbas has been able to produce) and realistically there is no Arab leader who can sign a peace agreement on behalf of the Palestinians and make it stick.
And you think politics in Britain are complicated at the moment!
ELKAN’S VIEW 18th February 2015
I am writing this after two amazing weeks in Hong Kong and Thailand. I had never been East of Israel and the interaction with other cultures has been quite fascinating.
Hong Kong has some very interesting Jewish features. The community developed in mid Victorian times when Great Britain took over the territory from China, and Jews mainly of Indian or Baghdadi origin settled there. The very beautiful Ohel Leah synagogue was built by the Sassoon family and opened in 1901.
The development of Hong Kong as a whole progressed greatly when Sir Matthew Nathan was appointed Governor in 1904. He was an identified Jew, a member of the New West End Synagogue who had been trained as an engineer in the British Army and employed his training in a number of postings. He held four foreign governorships during his career and was in charge of Ireland at the time of the Easter Rebellion in 1916.
Nathan was keen to develop Kowloon, just across Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong Island. He was interested in town planning and was also responsible for the development of the Kowloon-Canton railway into China itself. When Kowloon was laid out the main thoroughfare naturally bore the name of the Governor. Nathan Road, today often nicknamed “The Golden Mile”, an amazing experience of neon lighting and shops selling anything and everything, is named after Sir Matthew. Nathan died in 1939 and together with his brothers Sir Frederick and Sir Nathaniel is buried in Willesden Cemetery.
I had the unusual experience of going to shul up the public escalator to the Mid-Levels area where the Ohel Leah synagogue is situated. Because the Shul is surrounded by skyscrapers, and for a vast figure sold off some of its spare land for development, it has an almost mythical reputation among Jewish communities. Among its recent rabbis have been both Rabbi Jackson and Rabbi Van den Bergh (both of whom will be known to many of my readers), and Chief Rabbi Sacks visited there every year. After the service the whole community is invited to a sit down Kiddush which is really a sumptuous two course meal.
Bangkok was not so fascinating from a Jewish point of view, although I am interested in the relationship between Judaism and the gentleness of Buddhism. Chabad has a presence in Thailand and helps many of the Israelis for whom a backpacking visit to the Far East is a rite of passage after finishing their army service.
But the most amusing memory that I bring back is of two little boys wearing Kippot playing in the Ohel Leah Synagogue, and talking to each other in Chinese!
ELKAN’S VIEW 11th February 2015
Returning to last week’s topic; one of the problems as Melanie Phillips saw it, and I believe she is absolutely right, is the breakdown of respect for religion, especially in the United Kingdom. In former times the Church of England, broad and tolerant though it be, and possible to be almost all things to all men, was the glue that held the fabric of society together. The influence of the church has waned, especially in the second half of the 20th century, and the net result has been a vacuum which has been filled by a secularism which has no particular moral compass.
The church appears to have been affected by the same deep fear of Muslim extremism as the rest of society. Christians in Islamic countries are being persecuted on a level that has never happened before. In Nigeria and other African countries, in the Moslem countries of the Middle East, Christians live in fear of their lives. Churches have been burnt down with their congregations inside them. Fear stalks their congregations. The silence of the church is both amazing and disgraceful.
The reluctance to criticise the Muslim world, and to stand up for their Christian brethren, is a dishonour upon the behaviour of the church. What is it of which they are afraid?
There is a way of resisting Muslim extremism, and that is by force. Expensive though it may be, it is still cheaper in terms of human freedom than sleepwalking into allowing the creation of Muslim republics throughout Europe. Standing up to Islam is regarded as strength; silence is interpreted as weakness.
The recent statements by leading politicians in both Britain and France, attempting to reassure the Jewish communities of their safety and of their place in the society of the host countries, may be too late. Are we, as Sharansky said recently, witnessing the beginning of the end of European Jewry?