Yom Kippur 5780

This week we came together as a community to mark Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

Kol Nidre

The evening service opened with three renditions of the Kol Nidre declaration – first Bruch’s setting for the cello, followed by a solo from our Rabbi, and then a choral rendition from our choir.

We have a choice

Rabbi René Pfertzel. Photo: About Thames Ditton

Our Rabbi’s sermon focused on three contemporary sources of anxiety: Brexit, global warming and social media.  Despite these difficult times, he had a positive message, saying that we have the “choice to make the correct choices, the ones that facilitate proper social interactions with our fellow human beings, to enhance the quality of our communal and social life, to ensure that no one is left out or forgotten, and to make sure that our planet and our humanity have a future”. 

A society that excels in freedom and justice

He concluded his sermon by reflecting on the meaning of Yom Kippur: 

“Yom Kippur is a deep, profound and powerful call to resist the negative forces at work in our world, and to bring about – in the words of Rabbi John Rayner in our siddur – “a society that excels in freedom and justice, tolerance and compassion, so that it may be a force for righteousness in the life of humanity” “.

You can read his full sermon here.

Family Service

On the morning of Yom Kippur, in parallel with the main services, we held a family service for our Beiteinu children and their parents.  A shorter version of the traditional service, the children were invited to consider promises they could make to themselves, to their friends and to their community for the coming year.  In different activities the children made bracelets, artwork and planted wildflower seeds in our garden to mark these promises.  The service included lots of music – accompanied on the piano and guitar – as well as concluding with the traditional blowing of the Shofar!

What does it mean for you to be Jewish?

For his morning sermon, our Rabbi continued the theme about the challenges being faced at the current time.  He described how human societies are fragile, and depend on trust in institutions and shared narratives.  Referring to the work of Yuval Hariri he described how there have been several revolutions in the course of human history including the development of language and common myths.  Framing these ideas into a Jewish context, he asked the congregation to consider what it means to be Jewish, and reflected on the fact that many Jews no longer feel connection to the people.

We do not want this message to be lost

He went on to encourage the congregation to reach out to those who may be estranged from any community:

We do not want this message to be lost. We do not want the voices of our prophets, our sages, our foremothers and forefathers to disappear in the vacuum of time and forgetfulness. We have a message for the world. Our voice is unique, and yet universal. We say to the world, our common destiny is stronger than anything else. We have a mission, that is to correct the world, to amend our ways to make our planet a safe place for us all.”

A community that radiates towards the outside world

He concluded by reflecting on the value that community brings in difficult times:

When clouds are building up over our heads, when our time is but gloom and doom, we need more than ever a strong community, a laboratory of human relationships, a place of love and solace, a place where it feels good to be Jewish, and a community that radiates towards the outside world a strong message that the future is in our hands, that we have a choice to build a better world for all people”

You can read his full sermon here.

A Symphony of Shofarot!

The day ended with the traditional blowing of the Shofarot.  Members of the congregation, including students from our Beiteinu school, joined the Rabbi for the final, long blast of the day – the ‘Tekiah Gedolah’.  A true ‘Sympony of Shofarot’!