2020 AGM

Kehillat Kernow

AGM Meeting

15 November 2020

Present:  Jeremy Jacobson (Chairman), Harvey Kurzfield  (Honoray Life President) Adam Feldman (Vice Chairman), Rachel Chatfield (Secretary),  Leslie Lipert (Treasurer), Mai Jacobson, Pat Lipert, Jacqueline Kurtzfield, Anthony Fagin, Carolyn Shapiro, Roger Chatfield, Stephanie Berry, David Jewell, Gay Jewell, David Hearle, Anne Hearle, Cynthia Hollinsworth, Jacqueline Harris, Yaron Peled, Liz Berg and Vera Collins.

Apologies: Melanie Feldman         

Welcome by Jeremy and Minutes of last AGM  Minutes approved 
Matters arising None 
Council Officers Reports Chairman – Jeremy Jacobson OBE I was recently asked to contribute to a talk addressing the question “What is the purpose of religion in the twenty-first century?” for the Academic Academy at Callywith College Bodmin. There were two other faiths represented, namely Baha’i and Pagan. I find the former attractive, the second bemusing, but that’s another matter. I gave three reasons why religion is relevant from my Jewish perspective.   The first is that it provides the counter balance to the current obsession with the ‘I’ as opposed to the ‘we.’ This is something which Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (z”l), spoke about a lot. In an introductory article for the recent  jubilee edition of The Scribe (the Journal of Babylonian Jewry), Sacks cites the behaviour of some people when the first lockdown was introduced: the stripping of supermarket shelves,  leaving vulnerable and more considerate shoppers without essential goods, the abuse handed out to shop assistants for simply trying to do their job, because this got in the way of individuals immediately getting what they wanted, the flouting of social distancing measure and isolation rules on the basis of an assumed right to do what one likes. On the other hand, there were many examples of kindness and self-sacrifice: asking after neighbours and helping them with shopping and other things, the volunteering to help the NHS and social services. The second reason is that religion provides us with rules and a guide to ‘good living.’ Any religion worth its salt has a value system upon which is built a body of ethical practices. This is certainly true of Judaism, which tells us how we should treat the poor and the vulnerable, our family, neighbours, friends and enemies, how we should behave towards animals and the wider creation. I don’t need to tell you that we have rules for every situation imaginable.   The third reason is spiritual. You don’t have to believe in God to include a spiritual dimension in your engagement with life and the universe, but the religious vision by its very nature is predicated on the existence of a force beyond ourselves.   By this time, you must be thinking that you have come to the wrong event, that this is a sermon not an annual report. I will try to cut to the chase. After the event at Callywith College, I began to examine our activities in the light of the reasons I have described. Let us start with our regular services. They are filled with ritual, both words and actions. Why do we repeat these week after week, season after season, year after year? There are several answers to this question, one of which is that we love the coming together that the rituals call for. We share words, songs and actions which spark a sense of belonging both to our own community and to the wider Jewish nation, and to a practice and history which enriches our humanity. For myself, this sense is what has always motivated me. When the first lockdown came crash, bang, wallop into our lives early in the year, the motivation became all the stronger, however desperate the circumstances, or precisely because of them.  I have asked myself why, now that things are more difficult, we meet for services not once a fortnight, but weekly and why we are holding monthly events instead of every now and again. They are not always well attended (hint, hint, say no more, say no more) but, as Pat said to me when I was in a temporary slough of despondency, each service is a mitzvah. If only a few members are there, it is still worth doing. Please, don’t take this as an excuse not to attend. I want to see you all as much as possible and am sure I will after what I have said, the more so when I remind you who the hard-working, dedicated souls are who keep our services on the road: Adam, Cynthia, David Jewell, Harvey, Jo, John, Liz, Paul, Pat and Sharim.  And let’s not forget Jenni, who, before she fell ill, was also a new member of our shilchei tzibbur. Thank you all!  Thanks also to our steadfast friends David and Hannah Jacobs who have continued to support us both through services and regular communication and encouragement. And thanks also to Rabbi Maurice Michaels, who came down from Bournemouth in February to lead a Shabbat service and in the evening to bring Rachel and Roger (now both) Chatfield under the chuppah and make an honest couple of them.   Let us now look at another activity, namely festivals. This year, even before the lockdown, we did more than our custom, starting with a terrific Chanukah party hosted by Pat and Leslie. We took advantage of this festival to honour our hosts with a presentation of a new yad, a yad to point the way through our ever-repeating story, our values, practices and faith. Pat and Leslie perfectly illustrate the ‘we’ behaviour I have mentioned. They are the backbone of our community, working endlessly to keep the community alive, talking the talk, caring for others.   We just managed before the lockdown to squeeze in a Purim party at Malpas Village Hall. Such a fun way to remind ourselves of how the good can sometimes defeat the evil of unbridled ambition and arrogance. A costume competition for the children, good food and the Megillah of Esther are a good tonic for any bout of pessimism.   On to the Seder, by which time we were in lockdown, physically cut off and confined. Can there be a worse sentence for Jews than this? We might have kvetched a little, but we were not so daunted that we keeled over and shrivelled up. While the nature of the Seder does not lend itself to celebrating together via Zoom, we made the best of it by celebrating with our families and then sharing pictures of our tables decked with the symbols of Pesach and the story of the Exodus.   A few weeks later it was Yom HaShoah. This is  hardly a festival, but neither is it a cultural event, so I will include it here. We had already participated in Holocaust Memorial Day in January. We were involved in one way or another in the exhibition in the Cathedral, together with candle lighting and prayers, a service with our friends from Redruth Baptist Church, and prayers and readings around the peace pole in the Dor Kemmyn field at Penmount. Despite the activities some of us had sense of dissatisfaction at the lack of co-ordination among the different organisations and the scanty publicity the events received outside our own community. It was fitting, therefore, that we should organise our own Yom HaShoah event, which was both very personal to us but also involved non-Jews who we invited to attend through the Cornwall Faith Forum and Redruth Baptist Church. It turned out to be a most moving occasion, from the lighting of the six candles, each with the name of a child who had perished in the Holocaust to the poignant story told by Cynthia of her mother, Blanka Engelberg, a Holocaust survivor. This was truly an event during which we looked beyond individual selves to the history of, in many cases members of our own families, and in all cases of the wider family of Israel.    As already suggested, the paradoxical result of the restrictions Covid-19 has placed on our normal lives has led us to do more, not less. Shavuot is a case in point. A first rate service led by Liz, together with a collective online munching of cheese cake enabled us to celebrate together the beautiful story of Naomi, Ruth (my favourite person) and Boaz.   And so on, festival wise, to the High Holy Days. Again, there was much which was positive to celebrate. Whereas in the previous two years we had the services of two student rabbis (and very fine student rabbis at that) for Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur only, this year we received the same support for Rosh Hashanah as well. Although initially concerned that sharing Student Rabbi David-Yehuda Stern’s services (in both senses) with two other communities would dilute the impact, I found that having South Hants and the Isle of Wight with us strengthened our sense of belonging to the great Jewish family. As for David-Yehuda, he did a superb job of bringing the three communities together.  He was meticulous in the technical preparations needed to enable us all to combine and to ensure that things went smoothly. Belt, braces and safety pins, I should say. He planned carefully and involved us to the hilt. The services were accomplished, spiritually fulfilling, deeply serious, but also joyful and conducted with a light touch. Zoom is not a particularly engaging medium, but DY made it as engaging as it could be. Well done to him!   The High Holy Days were not the end either, for we also had a little of Succot as its first evening coincided with Cynthia’s Erev Shabbat service. Cynthia successfully added some of the Succot ritual to the evening and Rachel and Roger did their bit by waving the lulav for us all to see. Just a pity we could not smell the Etrog!   Festivals are an integral way of remembering and celebrating our shared story and the behaviours and values it embodies. It’s ‘we’ not ‘I’, examples of bringing good out from suffering and hardship.   While it took us a little while to get going, we have also ended up holding more events than normal. These have ranged from Story-telling, to ‘Jewish Britain: Your Favourite Object’, for which we each chose something from the online exhibition of fifty objects in the Jewish Museum of London, to  ‘Cornish Island Discs’ and ‘Just a Jewish Minute’. Our programme will continue on a monthly basis, using as our inspiration a list of ideas produced by Pat in a creative burst.   Understandably our normal frequent, though irregular, cycle of school and college talks and workshops was suspended in March, we have still responded to the call where necessary, participating in the educational events organised by the Cornwall Faith Forum. The Callywith College talks mentioned at the beginning were part of these.   Talking of the Cornwall Faith Forum, we have continued to play an active role in this, attending annual events, initially in body, later in ‘spirit’, such as International Peace Day, besides meetings and discussion groups. One of these is currently focussing on ‘Conflict in our different faith traditions,’ a challenging topic, but one which we need to address. It is not enough to celebrate what we have in common. It is vital that we also face up to our differences and deal with these in a spirit of understanding and the search for solutions.   Another result of the limited framework within which we lead our lives has been the hunger of the media for stories and commentaries on them. We have been interviewed more frequently this year than ever before.   Although Kehillat Kernow is not organising the restoration programme of the Ponsharden Cemeteries, we are involved in a personal way through Anthony and Leslie. Both of them have worked extremely hard over the last few years, as members of the Friends of the Ponsharden Cemeteries, to look after, plan and raise funds for the ambitious restoration, a far greater venture than the restoration of the Penzance Jewish Cemetery to beauty and dignity. This year has proved momentous with the decision of the National Lottery Heritage Fund to award over £300,000 to the project. There is much to look forward to and we can already be proud that, through two of our intrepid members, we have again performed that most honourable of mitzvot, i.e. to honour the dead, not to mention restoring part of Jewish-Cornish heritage and contributing to the education of generations of Cornish children and adults.   And while I am congratulating and thanking people, let me also mention my fellow Council members, who have continued to give of their time and talents. Adam, the gentleman who likes to say yes, even though he barely has time enough in the day to blink; Carolyn, who has agreed to become our Education Officer and, who, besides has delivered some very successful workshops and volunteered to help Jewish freshers at Falmouth University, is also now taking a leading role in Holocaust education; Harvey (Welcome back again, Harvey; so good to have you with us!), another chap who says yes, Leslie, already mentioned, but deserving a second or third mention for his continued amazing administration and financial flare; Rachel, always ready to help people and an invaluable guiding voice, Roger, who had the good sense to choose a name alphabetically next to his wife’s and another person of good sense in whose hands our security concerns are guaranteed practical and realistic consideration, and finally Pat, who, like her good husband does more than I can say and without whose support, this Chair would be without a rudder.   Did I say ‘finally’? It was a mistake. Three of our Council members are stepping down after years of service. One of these is Anne, a founding Kehillat Kernow member who served on the Council for twenty years, including acting as Treasurer. Besides organising the Pesach seder, with husband David, and other community events through the years, Anne made the Torah mantels for our scrolls and the Bein Gavra with which we honoured Bonnie in 2017. I have, besides, found Anne’s warm words a great encouragement. I am pleased to say that, while stepping down from the Council, Anne has assured me that she is ready to carry on with the seder, so Covid 19, step aside!   Then there is Anthony, a man of many skills and many doings.  The artist in him showed in the portable Ark we use for High Holy Day. His eloquence was in evidence when he delivered the first speaking event on Masada at Carnon Downs. Besides this event, Anthony has hosted several Kehillat Kernow events in his home and has supported many other events. His skill with words can be seen in the several books he has written, including recently ‘Cycling through China’, and in his contributions to our Newsletter . According to a little bird, apparently two new books are around the corner. As if this weren’t enough, Anthony has put on photography and sculpture shows. The first of his ‘Globe’ Shows, based on Bereshit, happened to be his Bar Mitzvah passage. Anthony, as alluded to above, continues to serve as our man at the Jewish Cemetery at Ponsharden, where he is caretaker, tour guide and planner. Anthony does not only look wise: he is wise and I for one have benefited from his wisdom on the Council.   As for Bonnie, she founded and ran the Cheder and helped the first group of youngsters on their journey to their B’nei Mitzvoth. She hosted many events and festivals and represented the community at national Reform meetings. She engaged in a myriad of activities which helped build good relations with other faith groups and with the wider community. Not least of Bonnie’s achievements was finding burial sites in Cornwall, another example of high mitzvah spirit. Indeed all three – Anne, Anthony and Bonnie – have demonstrated a dedication to the community, its life and values, which are but a microcosm of the life and values of British and world Jewry.   Finally, finally, I cannot end without thanking my dear wife, a very present help in times of both trouble and joy.   Finally, really, and to sum up the year: we have been constricted, but not crushed, creative, not comatose. As for the future, HaShem only knows what it holds, but we can be sure that it holds some great challenges. Let us rise to them as individuals and as a community. We can do no less   Secretary-Rachel Chatfield   Rachel reported being secretary for 10 years and will continue for another 10. Her name has changed from Brown and needs to be changed on the website and all mailings.                 Treasurers Report- Leslie Lipert Bank Statement –        16.10.20        HSBC                      £2.573.68                    Deposit Account    £70,000.00   Restricted   £24,106.89                               ————–     Total                      £72,573.68    Restricted £24,106.89  Cash Book Balance – 15.11.20     HSBC                     £8.143.72     Restricted    £5,000.00     Deposit Account   £70,000.00     Restricted  £24,106.89                              —————     Total                    £ 78.143.72     Restricted  £29,106.89 £5,000 Received from Pilgrim Trust for Ponsharden Cemeteries on 12.11.20 £5,000 Promised by Garfield Weston Trust in next 10 days for Ponharden Cemeteries.  NB Credit Interest received from United Trust Bank 31.10.20  £973.60 31.10.19  £923.22 Interest  rate reduced on 26.05.20 to 1.30% from 1.50% New Members since last AGM –      Rachel Hallowel – Joined –  01.03.20 Left  Members since last AGM–     Babs Colman –     Died –  28.03.20   Security Officer-Roger Chatfield   Please report any instances of Anti-Semitism to Roger who will then liaise with he diversity officers.   Events and Education Officer-Carolyn Shapiro     Librarian-Pat Lipert Forty-three new additions to our Kehillat Kernow, Arnold and Leatrice Levine Library have been added to our collection in the past year bringing the total of our library resources at 1310.   Several reference volumes, histories and commentaries were donated by Keith Pearce. New volumes given to the library include three very special books, of local community interest. One, was by Kathryn Berman of Israel, ‘Stepping Back in Time’, which recorded her family’s history and included chapters on the Falmouth Jewish Cemetery at Ponsharden, where members of her family are buried and was the focal point of a second Open Day at Ponsharden where we and the greater community says prayers for her ancestors. The second is an extraordinary account of life in the early days of Israel’s statehood, a diary by Paul Kleiman’s mother which he produced, ‘A Month in the New Old Country, Israeli Diary 1950.’ The third is a beautifully researched, charming and informative collection of folk tales, written by our own Liz Berg, ‘Folk Tales in Britain and Ireland.’   Two recent commentaries by our own RJ Rabbis, Tony Bayfield’s ‘Being Jewish Today,’ and R. Jonathan Romain and David Mitchell’s, ‘Inclusive Judaism,’ are well worth a read.     Adam thanked Jeremy for his report and all his hard work as Chairman of Kehillat Kernow. Agreed by all. 
Proposal to confirm all Electronic Meetings   Leslie wants to confirm the change of using electronic meetings and do we accept them as a group as not in our constitution.    Proposed by Jeremy, seconded by Leslie. Unanimously accepted. 
Election of Members of the Council Anne, Bonnie and Anthony standing down. All the council agreed to remain Gay Jewell to be added to the council as ‘Events Officer.’   All voted in again and no one against. 
Proposed Constitutional Amendments Jeremy proposed the post of Honoray Life Vice President, Mai Seconded. Unanimously carried.   Jeremy proposed that Bonney Rockley be named as Honoray Life Vice President, seconded by Leslie, unanimously agreed.     
An open discussion on the needs of our community Cynthia Hillinsworth – raised if we could join with Bournemouth regarding the burial society. This had been previously discussed at length with committee meetings and other synagogues (Exeter, Totnes and Bournemouth). Invitations were put out to members of the community and the uptake was not enough to continue.  We have connections with a funeral director in Penzance, a Mr Mike Keary, 01736364062 (details on the website) and Liz Berg can give a further workshop and be part of the Kehillat Kernow Chevra Kaddisha team. We have several funeral sites in Cornwall, and we have conducted several funerals in Cornwall in the past.   Yaron Peled – mentioned uk.bookshop.org which use local bookshops and deliver, and you can set up as an affiliate; you get 10 percent.   David Hearle – Re Dor Kemyn and the cost of the structure. Wondering if Kehillat Kernow should help Dor Kemyn as we appear to have more money than the other communities. Education for peace section is up and running. Jeremy, the Building for Peace section is dormant with regards to a building due to funding constraints. Jeremy feels that the building is unlikely to proceed as no one has the business acumen to take it forwards and the vision of the building is not developed fully. We can contribute towards the faith forum but potentially, we would want our own building.   Activities going forwards – we have had successful activities on Zoom. In the future we would like to reintroduce walks and afternoon tea and beach day.  Melanie Feldman suggested that we have a Hanukah lighting every night but it was decided to light to the candles on the first night the 10th, 11th and 17th at 6:00pm.  We are all invited to join Bristol Liberal synagogue on the other evenings, Zoom light dinners where make the same recipe and showed everyone what we made and eat together.   Agreed to remove the Scrolls from the where we hold our services as we have not been in the building in some time and Rachel is not getting regular access and that we need to start looking for a new premises. Rachel to make contact to arrange a visit and remove the scrolls.   Carolyn Shapiro said she was delighted to be the Education Officer. Visits to Communities, Schools (including Cynthia’s mother’s story) and the University. Students at Falmouth University want to start a JSoc at the university.  In future we will need a report from the Events and Education officer.   Jacqueline Harris and Yaron Peled and- we have seen a lot more of them because of Zoom and find it difficult to attend the service due to distance. Can we consider where we find a new premise that it is more central. David mentioned that Truro is the central point. Yaron runs an event space and weddings and they are happy to offer their space when it is free. They are near Looe and Polperro.   Jeremy raised that we continue to do erev shabbat services on Zoom after pandemic. We also should try and set up a livestream of the services. David Jewell mentioned that setting up a streaming service in a borrowed premise could be difficult.                                                               
Any other business None   
Date and place of next AGM  21 November 2021 Venue TBC