The first four sedirot of the Book of Sh’mot are worthy of a thriller. They are packed with action and excitement and move at an almost dizzying pace.  A small baby is saved from death by the ingenuity of his mother and sister and by the compassion of an Egyptian princess. The baby grows to be a man, is angered when he sees an Egyptian overseer beating a Hebrew slave and strikes down the oppressor. He becomes a hunted man, flees to Midian, where he steps in to help a group of women shepherds who are being bullied by their male counterparts, marries one of the women and settles down, only to be challenged by the voice of God coming from a burning bush. He begins, tentatively and full of misgivings, to assume a new role, is sent back to Egypt, but is almost killed by God on the way, rescued only by the good sense and faith of Tziporah, his Midianite wife. Reunited, after so many years, with brother Aaron and sister Miriam, he confronts the all-powerful Pharaoh and demands that the Hebrew slaves be allowed to go into the wilderness and sacrifice to God. The Pharaoh’s obstinacy means that plague follows plague until, finally, the killer blow of the death of the firstborn brings the Pharaoh to his senses – at least for a time. 

The Israelites prepare to leave Egypt, collecting their belongings as quickly as possible, wrapping their unleavened bread to take for the start of the journey. They leave, apparently with the blessing and good riddance of the Egyptians, only to be pursued by the now furious Pharaoh and his mighty army. The might of this army proves to be its undoing, since the weight of the heavily armoured soldiers and horses drags infantry, cavalry and chariots down into the mud, unable to flee the returning waters of the sea.  Seeing the Egyptian army drowned, Moses leads the people in a song of celebration and is followed by Miriam and the women, dancing, drumming and singing in their turn. This would  surely be enough, but, no, there is more to come. After the Israelites take their first steps towards freedom, swinging precariously back and forth from joy and faith to despair and complaint, they are attacked by Amalek. Led by their commander, Joshua, and inspired by Moses, they win their first ever battle. 

A thriller, but so much more, too. Justice has surely won the day. The Egyptians suffer in ways that lay bare their arrogance and false beliefs. Both the final plague of the death of the firstborn and the destruction of the Egyptian army are supreme examples of poetic justice. After all, the Pharaoh had commanded that all the Israelite baby boys should be killed at birth and the army is submerged and mired by its own strength. Surely the people are right to sing in celebration. Justice, yes, justice. Yet where is mercy, that all-important balancing attribute of the Eternal One? Not all the Egyptians hate the Israelites and, in years gone by, during the time of Joseph, they had honoured them. Well, mercy is there, too, and we will discover it many chapters later when God says to the people, through Moses, “You shall not hate an Egyptian, for you were strangers in his land.”  Not only does God show mercy, he instructs us to do so too. We may have been oppressed, we may deserve to celebrate the humbling of our oppressors, but, one day, we need to forgive and forge a new relationship. 

We have much more than a thriller to consider. To find out a little of that much, come along this Saturday at 10:30, when Pat Lipert will lead us in celebration, justice and mercy.

Books…Books…Glorious Books!

The 1st of December got off to a rousing start with the sprit of Tzedekah in full swing. The annual Book Swap and Cake extravaganza at The Kurzfields took place.  This charity event which raises money for the Cornwall Hospices began many years ago to honour the memory of one of our dear members, Kate Fagin (z’l). Many people from our community and members of the greater Cornwall community were present to find many new good reads and to offer some of their own in exchange A raffle was also held. The splendid tea, coffee and myriad array of sweet goodies only added to the day and donations were generous and very gratefully received. Thank you Jacqueline and Harvey for all your hard work to make this yearly event so very special.

Jacqueline has asked me to let you know that they made £594 at the Book Swap. Jacqueline says, “Thank you to all who came and made the afternoon so enjoyable.”

To see pictures click here.

Film Food Night-Ushpizin

Happy Beginnings, Happy Endings

Saturday November 3rd was our evening for food and film. Despite the rain outside,  the sun shone inside Malpas Village Hall.  We came, we ate, we watched and  we enjoyed. The Israeli food fest was only equalled by the charming Israeli film, Ushpizin.  Ushpizin means ‘visitors’ (hopefully Tsaddiks, but not in this case), who are welcomed, housed and fed inside your Succah during the 8-day festival of Sukkot.  Despite the poverty of the childless couple, their fervent  prayers are answered and in many ways, “nes gadol hayyat sham.”

We began in joy with an abundance of fine dishes prepared by our members, all with an Israeli theme. Each time we meet, we are all overwhelmed with the amazing array of culinary treats laid out before us. As Gloria Jacobson said, “When is there ever a Kehillat Kernow event that is ever under-catered!”

The film after added to our naches, filled with sadness, hope, joy and a very happy ending. The baddies turned good; the couple were blessed with a son, their lives, like ours, were filled gratitude and the knowledge that despite all, life is very good when you look towards the light.

To see the pictures taken on the night clik here.

Cornwall Jews and Muslims talk story

Over forty members of Kehilat Kernow and members of the Islamic Community Centre gathered together at Carnon Downs on Sunday, 7th October, for a session of story-telling representing their traditions. Members of Christian communities and members of the Faith Forum also attended.

Jeremy Jacobson, Chairman of KK, introduced the afternoon social event along with Dr. Dureid Rifai, head of the Islamic Community Centre.

The afternoon event highlighted the various traditions we all bring to our communities and how much all of us have in common.

A series of stories told by Jeremy, Harvey Kurzfield, (with help from two members of our community and a member of the Islamic community), Rachel Brown, Isaac Feldman, Ahmed, Miranda  (Atilano) Brown, Dr. Rifai, and David Hearle followed.

The afternoon exchange culminated with a sweet and savoury buffet prepared by both communities.

Click here for pictures.

New Booklet on the life of Lemon Hart

A new publication on the life of Lemon Hart, one of Cornish Jewry’s most famous ancestors who lived in Cornwall in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, has now been published by the Penlee Gallery and Museum Penzance.

Written by local amateur historian, Keith Pearce, an expert on the history of Cornish Jewry, the biographical booklet contains much new information not previously published before on Lemon Hart and his family. Hart, most famous for his rum which still bears his name, has been the subject of much colourful mythology related to slave ownership, slave ships and plantations, and that he supplied the British \Naval ships with their ‘tot’ ofrum.  This publication  attempts to separate fact from fiction so that a more accurate picture of Hart can be established.

The booklet is available through Penlee House, local, national and online booksellers for £5.00.

Jewish Community of Cornwall