Our community grows stronger – and bigger!

We sing together for the first time in 18 months and welcome many new members to our community

On the morning of Saturday 24th July 2021, we held a very special Shabbat service to welcome many of the new members who have joined our community since the start of the pandemic.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, we have been streaming all of our Shabbat services on our social media channels, making them publicly available.  Our online presence has attracted viewers from as far afield as Australia – and also led to many new people joining the community – either to reconnect with their Jewish identities or to begin the process of conversion to Judaism.

Learning a new song

This was the first Shabbat morning service held since the releasing of Covid-related restrictions. For our community, this meant that we were able to sing together as a congregation for the first time in nearly 18 months – one of the many things that made the morning so special. To mark the occasion, the congregration learnt a new song – a setting of Judy Chicago’s Merger Poem with music written by our Deputy Chair and pianist, Rebecca Singerman-Knight.

A special blessing for Jacob, our newest – and youngest – member

The morning also included a service of thanksgiving for the birth of baby Jacob – the newest and youngest member of the community. It was attendend by Jacob’s great grandmother who had travelled from the US – and quarantined – for the occasion; and said that she fully intends to also attend Jacob’s Bar Mitzvah!

Kiddush in our Kehillah garden

Following the service, Kiddush was held in our Kehillah garden. The new members joined together for a photo in front of the new mural which had been produced by members of our garden group earlier this Summer:

The search for meaning

According to Rabbi René Pfertzel, the challenges of the past 17 months have led to many people seeking more meaning in their lives:

“During the unprecedented times we have all been living through, it is understandable that so many people are seeking to find spiritual meaning: to reconnect with a faith that they may have left behind, to discover more about their Jewish heritage or to begin the process of conversion into a new faith. When people have been searching for a community online, they have found us, joined us virtually for services and other events – and many have made the decision to become members of our community”.

Not all of the new members are local to the area – new members have joined from Bradford, Wiltshire, Devon and Southampton.  Going forward the members who live further afield plan to attend in person periodically, but to join online weekly. We will continue to livestream all of our Shabbat services so that members who live further away can still participate – and many of our classes and some social events will also continue online.

“I’ve definitely made the right decision in joining the community”

Speaking after the service, new member Barbara said “it’s so nice to be here in person at last.  I’ve been attending the services online and when I spoke to Rabbi René on the phone, I was sure that I had found the right community – but being here in person today has confirmed that I’ve definitely made the right decision in joining”

Rabbi René continued “It has been really special having so many existing and new members back in the Sanctuary today – and seeing all the new members together is profoundly moving – our community has grown much stronger over the difficult period we have all lived through – and it’s also grown much bigger!”