All posts by Harvey Kurzfield

Responses to the attacks in France

When I was contacted by a West Country newspaper for a comment on the atrocities committed in France I said I was unable to make any comment at this stage. I felt unsure about what would be the correct approach and I did not wish to make a knee-jerk reaction to the incident at that stage. The next day, as the situation developed, we heard about the attack on a Jewish Supermarket and at that point it would have been appropriate, but by then the paper had gone to press. There have since been several well-prepared and thoughtful statements made and I have added the two which come from leading representatives of the Reform Movement. They seem to reflect what I hope we all believe:

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain

We have all read and seen the dreadful events over the last few days, and members have asked what is our response, so here are a few thoughts:

1st – to carry on as normal – not to suddenly become neurotic – not to turn from being carefree to suspicious – to keep our everyday lifestyle – because adopting a bunker mentality will destroy our lives and relationships much more than any isolated attack

2nd – not to blame Islam for the deranged members among it…nor hold all Muslims responsible for the disturbed Muslims that exist

3rd – not to blame religion in general as the source of all evil – of course there are those who do terrible things in its name – but there are plenty of murderous atheists, with Hitler, Stalin, Mao tse Tung and Poll Pot leading the way – while we also know that religion can lead to great good in society and many individuals acts of kindess. I like to think that Maidenhead Synagogue is source for good too.

4th – not to stop the ability of cartoonists and writers to satirise religion… because freedom of speech is one of our key values…and it is not just healthy to have that openness, but it is a vital safeguard and nothing should be immune from criticism, otherwise it would allow abuses to go unchecked

5th – carrying on as normal does not mean being complacent, and we have long had a trained security team made up of members who offer both practical security and a visual deterrent. If anyone would like to join the team or find out more, please do contact me.

6th – appreciating that we live in a different society from France and with different social trends; although we are not immune from terrible acts (witness the 7/7 London bombings), life in our particular area has been remarkably tolerant and trouble-free….long may it remain so.

Working hard at good inter-faith relations is part of that process

None of the above is new, but it’s precisely when one’s assumptions are challenged by a shocking event, that one needs to not go into panic mode but simply restate the values we hold and from which we will not be deflected.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner

Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism

Moments before this email was due to be sent out, disturbing news started to come in from Paris; news of shootings and the taking of hostages who were preparing for Shabbat, buying food from a kosher supermarket. We stand firmly beside our Jewish brothers and sisters in France. Our response to this news must be to continue living our Jewish lives with pride, celebrating Shabbat, attending synagogues, lighting candles and joining together without fear.

Our siddur (prayerbook) includes this prayer for the release of captives:

God our redeemer, who set us free from the slavery of Egypt, we turn to You to release all hostages and captives, all who are enslaved to others. We pray now in particular for those taken hostage in Paris. May You be with them at this time of trial. Give wisdom and strength to those who work for their release and bring about a speedy end to this suffering. May You support the families and friends who can only watch and wait in fear and anxiety. Help us know what we too can do when prayers alone are not enough.
Blessed are You, our Living God, Sovereign of the universe, whose commandments make us holy and who commands us concerning the freeing of captives.

I pray for the friends, family and communities of the twelve victims of the dreadful Charlie Hebdo massacre. The attack on Wednesday morning, when those two fanatics murdered journalists and police in Paris, was a deeply chilling and profound tragedy.

What happened was also the result of fear – those who carried out this atrocity fear free speech and they fear the freedom to offend and be offended. No faith encourages isolation from other beliefs, however difficult they are to digest. That message was echoed immediately by Islamic scholars and Muslim organisations across France, Britain and the wider world. We see the same support for open and challenging debate in The Book of Proverbs, which insists that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. So our views are shaped and sharpened by others, however they may challenge us or particularly, ‘davka’ because they do challenge us.

When we avoid engaging with other people or recognising difference, our ideas become blunt, weakened. They become obsolete and disconnected from reality – and rely on claims of absolute truth and divine endorsement. Extremists isolate themselves from debate and when it threatens them, they eventually try to destroy it through violence.
Just as the Paris terrorists went on the run, all extremists are trying to escape the same thing: the power and potency of the free exchange of ideas. That is why this week, before soldiers or politicians or members of the public, they came after journalists. As a collective, the way to defeat extremism is by safeguarding the coexistence of different beliefs and voices in public spaces. As individuals, it is by engaging with the ‘other’ and exposing ourselves to debate, even when it is difficult.

The symbol the world saw on Thursday night was far from one of difference and division. Lights were turned off at the Eiffel Tower, and then mosques, to mark the pain and sorrow that the nation was

You will also find comments elsewhere on the internet by the Council for Christians and Jews as well as a moving statement by the Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue. They are all well worth viewing at this time and give us a chance to reflect on our own feelings.

Rosh Hashanna 5775

In a few days time members of Kehillat Kernow will be celebrating the beginning of another new year. For many of us involved in Jewish activities here in Cornwall it has been an eventful year, the culmination of which has been the amazing events surrounding the presentation of an ancient Torah Scroll to our community. This scroll will take pride of place at our High Holy Day services and will be present as, once again, we reflect on both the past and the future.

It is my hope that many of our members, both old and new, will help us celebrate the occasion in the exciting new venue at Roseliddon.

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone who visits this site a very Happy New Year and I also wish all of you well over the fast (if you are able) on Yom Kippur.

At this time we say farewell to Jacqueline Rickett who is hoping to move to Leamington Spa. We wish her well and send her thanks for her work as our social and communications representative. We are fortunate that Jeremy Jacobson has stepped into the breach and has agreed to take over these duties with immediate effect.

Dor Kemmyn outdoor service at Penmount

On 12th June, at Penmount, Dor Kemmyn held a special outdoor service from 3pm until 4.30pm in order for the faith groups within Dor Kemmyn, to personally thank the members of those groups which helped so many communities during the terrible winter storms that many areas (especially the coastal ones) had experienced. There were representatives from the police, coastguard, fire, ambulance, medical and the Faith Response team. Several people spoke about their personal experiences during those storms. The event, which was organised by Rev. Andrew Yates and Rita Stevens, was opened by Lady Mary Holborow who is the first patron of the Cornwall Faith Forum.

Each of the seven faith groups present gave a prayer or reading to honour those men and women who dedicate their lives to helping others during times of crisis.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon for the event and everyone present appreciated the occasion and I felt honoured to represent Kehillat Kernow at this event.

I have also recently completed my occasional piece for the West Briton which will appear in due course under the title of God in the 21st Century, although for some reason my work only seems to be published in the Truro edition.

Following our lovely Torah Scroll Ceremony (brilliantly organised by our treasurer – who celebrated his birthday this very week) we have had some excellent publicity in a number of newspapers (across the world even!!) though, rather disappointingly, the Jewish Chronicle did manage to get quite a number of facts wrong, which we hope may be corrected in due course if any attention is paid to the letter that a member of the community immediately sent to the Editor.

We have lots to look forward to in the coming months including a new and exciting venue for our Rosh Hashanna services.

The Scroll Comes Home!

Wow! What a day! The Torah Scroll which has lain unloved and unread for over 100 years has now been refurbished and returned to a Jewish Community. Ian Wall, Director of the Royal Cornwall Museum handed the scroll to His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester, who, after a brief but pertinent speech then handed it on to Harvey Kurzfield, Chairman of Kehillat Kernow who also made a brief speech of thanks. ‘Click’ went the camera shutters and hundreds of photographs were taken, many of which will appear shortly on this website. A BBC Spotlight cameraman with camera was also on hand to record the entire event for posterity and he remained with us throughout the day so I shall be intrigued to see which 45 seconds will be selected to appear on the BBC Spotlight news tonight!

The Duke of Gloucester, accompanied by the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, was then introduced to many people present and stayed chatting with people for some time. He seemed genuinely interested in everything that was discussed and made the ‘walk and talk’ session a real pleasure.

At last the moment arrived and the scroll was safely delivered to Kehillat Kernow (as described above) and after the Duke and his entourage moved on to their next appointment arrangements were quickly made to prepare for the parade from the Museum to City Hall for the Service of Dedication. David Hearle, Adam Feldman, Murray Brown and Ze’ev Cohen were the canopy bearers and they escorted Harvey, still carrying the precious scroll, through the streets of Truro, preceded by Robin Holmes who played Klezmer and other tunes on his Cornish Pipes. The unsuspecting crowds looked on in amazement as this strange parade took place on this relatively quiet, half-term holiday Wednesday. Our excellent police escorts kept traffic at bay and we had a most splendid and exhilarating walk to City Hall.

We boldly marched up the grand, granite staircase into one of the large chambers where chairs had been laid out, each with the name of whoever had been appointed to sit in a particular chair! As we walked in we saw the Ark waiting on a table ready to house the scroll, and as people trooped in they took their places and waited for the service to begin. This service had been prepared by Elkan Levy, who had flown in from Israel to be with us. Also taking part was David Jacobs of the MRJ who had travelled from London.  Members of Kehillat Kernow contributed readings, Elkan gave an appropriate sermon and Harvey a similarly appropriate speech. Leslie Lipert presented Hilary Bracegirdle, former Director of the RCM and Angela Broome, Librarian at the RCM, with a Kehillat Kernow Kiddush cup each and to Elkan Levy, David Jacobs and Bernard Bennaroch (the scribe who had re-instated the scroll) he presented a copy of Keith Pearce’s recently published ‘The Jews of Cornwall’.

After the service there was a very tasty lunch served, everyone remarking on the taste, flavour and quality of the food and much opportunity for getting together and having a relaxing chat in very comfortable surroundings.

Many congratulations to Leslie Lipert who masterminded the entire proceedings; everything worked really well. Even the weather was excellent. Thanks to Pat Lipert who also shared the task of preparing  much of the groundwork. This was a great day for Kehillat Kernow and we should all feel justifiably proud to be members of this growing Jewish Community.

Nissan Update

We hope that all our members had a good Pesach. It was heartening to see so many people turn up for our first seder night  where, incidentally, there is a fine display of Spring Flowers so well worth another visit.

At our last Shabbat service, hosted by Julian Berg, we were pleased to welcome another visitor from the Liberal Community of Cologne. The last occasion when we met a whole family from Cologne was some years ago at a Pesach seder which was celebrated at rooms in Trevano. That facility has now been purchased by a private individual and the gardens are no longer open to the public.

There are many events to look forward to in the coming months not least of all our Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur services which will be held in an exciting new venue.