All posts by Jeremy

Ceremonies to Mark Restoration of Penzance Jewish Cemetery

The restoration was completed in August 2105. For more details of this and of the cemetery in general go to Penzance Cemetery on this site and to Friends of Penzance Jewish Cemetery.  A great deal of credit for the restoration rests with Leslie Lipert, Treasurer of both Kehillat Kernow and the Friends of the Cemetery, in raising the funds, and with Jon Pender, former Planning Officer and Chairman of the Friends, in processing the listed building applications and overseeing the restoration itself.

Two ceremonies are scheduled to mark the restoration. The first of these will be a re-sanctification, which will take place on 13 March, to be attended by the Jewish community in Cornwall and to be led by David Jacobs.

The second ceremony will take place on 18 May and will be attended by the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, Colonel Bolitho OBE, Colin Spanjar, of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, local dignitaries, significant donors and friends of the cemetery. Please note that attendance at the civic ceremony is strictly by invitation.

Liz Berg’s Bat Mitzvah

Saturday 13 February saw a very special event for Kehillat Kernow, that is the Bat Mitzvah of Liz Berg. Liz is an accomplished shaliach tzibbur (prayer leader), so one might have asked why has she decided to be Bat Mitzvah as an adult. Before the service began, she gave a moving account of what had led her to this moment. Liz has spent her life fighting with determination, but also with tact and respect for the elders of the congregations she has belonged to, for the right of women to take a full part in the Jewish service. She feels she has achieved this right here in Cornwall and so decided to mark her sixtieth birthday with the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony. The parsha (Torah portion) for the week was Terumah, from the Book of Exodus. Terumah means offering, or lifting-up, and tells how the Israelites freely offered up gifts to God to enable the building of the desert sanctuary which they were to carry around with them for forty years. They were wanderers but God dwelt amongst them.

Liz certainly lifted up her voice as she intoned the Hebrew text with great skill and melody. There to offer her gentle support was Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, who travelled down to Cornwall to lead the service. The congregation were treated to a great Shabbat gift, as Rabbi Laura offered up her own voice and wisdom to everyone there and we all followed, recited and sung the songs and prayers of the service with renewed understanding and feeling.

After the service, Liz put on a tasty lunch for the congregation which was enlivened with much conversation. Is there anything new under the sun? It seems so each time.


If a person strikes his male or female slave in the eye and blinds it, he shall set the slave free in compensation for the eye. What on earth is anyone doing with slaves? you might ask. Well, this was a new law given in a place and a time when slavery was the order of the day. Remember, too, that, not much more than a century ago, slaves were treated with little or no justice at all in the south of the United States. Nor would it would have been very different in the British colonies of the Caribbean some time before. What we have in Mishpatim is the beginning of a code of personal and social justice which, when it was given, was breathtaking in its humanity (or divinity). When you lend money to My people, to the poor man among you, do not press him for repayment… If you take your neighbour’s garment as security [for a loan], you must return it to him before sunset… with what shall he sleep?… Do not follow the majority to do evil… If you see the donkey of someone you hate lying under its load, you might want to refrain from helping him, but you must make every effort to help him. Now that’s a hard one, but in one sentence it teaches us compassion for both man and beast.

The mishpatim of Mishpatim are accompanied by the sealing of the Covenant, which, in one of their moments of greatness, the people promise to keep “with a single voice”. We also witness Moses ascending the mountain and entering the presence of God. What an awesome scene this is!

When it comes to this week’s parsha of Terumah, the writer is keeping schtum. You can find out about it, however, by coming this Saturday at 10.30 to hear Liz Berg, whose Bat Mitzvah it is, and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, who will be leading the service. After kiddush Rabbi Laura will be leading a discussion, as already announced, on ‘Strangers in the Land’.

Strangers in the land

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.


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 this Saturday at 10.30. Liz Berg of the lyrical voice will be leading us.