Reflections from Rabbi René – Darkness and Light

“It’s going to be alright…”

What a moving experience we had on Shabbat morning. Jonny Benjamin MBE came and talked very openly about his mental health issues, and his father was with him. It is true that mental health has an impact not only on the individual, but also on the family. But there is hope. As the stranger on the bridge said to Jonny, “it’s going to be alright”. Just speak openly to the right person and seek help. There is no shame in going through hardship. It is life, with its ups and downs, and that’s part of being human. As a community, we want to offer a safe haven for everyone, and if help is needed, we can always find a way.

Humans can create marvels, but……

I’ve been thinking of that, as I was reflecting on Holocaust Memorial Day. The magnitude of this trauma is enormous, and it takes years to overcome it. One way is to be alert to the voices that promote hatred and division, and to fight against the beast. It is also by promoting a caring and compassionate society that we can make sure that the conditions that led to the Shoah are not met. Human beings can create marvels, but they are also capable of the worst. It starts here and now, within our community, towards the outside world, and in our daily encounters with our fellow human beings. There is indeed a fight between darkness and light, as we mediated on last Friday during the choral service.

I wanted to thank Sandra Webber and her team for her wonderful work organising the Holocaust Memorial Day workshops with local schools, in partnership with Kingston and Surbiton District Synagogue. And a warm thank you too to Jo Humphreys and Andree Frieze who organised workshops in the borough of Richmond, where they serve as councillors. Their work is holy, and essential to remember the past, so it is not repeated.