Thursday, 3 May 2018

Words From The Chair

The first provocative Palestinian demonstration on the Israeli Gaza border brought to bear the hypocrisy of the UN, who immediately condemned Israel without mentioning the part played by Hamas, and convened a meeting of the Security Council. Following on from this was the usual hysterical virulent reaction of the world’s press, and hostile Muslim countries whose human rights records are amongst the worst in the world. It is always sad to see people dying in circumstances like this, but every country in the world would have acted in the same way if their borders were in danger of being breached by thousands of people.

Two days after the incident I was listening to the BBC news on the radio, when an item caught my attentionIn Kashmir twenty people were killed by Indian security forces during a mass demonstration. Did the UN Security Council convene, no, was there universal condemnation in the press, no, did politicians around the world chastise India like they did Israel, no. If ever there was a case of Israel being treated differently from any other country in the world, these two particular incidents show how disingenuous and bigoted Israel’s detractors are. Sadly it appears this provocation will continue every Friday until the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Israel in May, leading to continued vilification of the Jewish state.

On a happier note it was a month or so ago when we celebrated the Synagogue’s second night Seder.  Nearly sixty members and non-members wined and dined in a lovely warm hearted atmosphere.  Kol hacavod to Rabbi Yuval who led the Seder beautifully, and sang the songs with great gusto and humour.  As ever, gratitude to the wonderful ladies of the House Committee who worked tirelessly before and during the Seder night.  They are priceless (including my wife Freda) - how would we function without them?
On 25th May a new Data Protection Policy will come into force. At SPS we are very aware that we must protect our members’ interests. The law regulates how we communicate with our members and is changing. This means that, whilst we will be able to send you postal communications, we need the verbal or written consent of each individual to communicate with them by e-mail. It is an opt-in choice only. Please send back to the synagogue office any documentation we send you. If we do not receive a response, that member will be deemed to have opted out. Sounds a little confusing but it is an important element in keeping your data protected.
A year ago after a Rock Service I said that one of my aims in the coming year was to have a plaque in the Schindler Hall in memory of the wonderful Simon Cooper. It was a long time coming but eventually, before the Rock service on 4th May, the unveiling will take place. In future when people come in to the lobby they will see the plaque, and even if they do not know who Simon was, they will realise he was someone very special.         
Robert Dulin

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Israel Group

Members of the Israel Group took part in the Israel Lobby Day jointly organised by the Zionist Federation and the Christian Friends of Israel, which this year placed particular emphasis on celebrating the most important seventy contributions to the world since the declaration of Israel’s independence seventy years ago. In the morning there was a briefing session, which included an address by video link from Israel by an IDF Intelligence Officer. He gave a report on the current threats to Israel, including 120,000 Hezbollah rockets and the corrosive influence of Iran throughout the Middle East. He also focused on the ongoing medical help Israel was offering to Syrians, and how this had helped 4,000 Syrians over the last 3-4 years and was ongoing. The treatment was not just offered close to the border, but Syrians were taken to hospitals within Israel, sometimes for long-term treatment. When they returned to Syria, they were assisted with ongoing medication and supplies.

In the afternoon we moved to the House of Commons where we lobbied our respective MP's. Barry Kafka and Peter Leslie lobbied Theresa Villiers MP. She is an active supporter of Israel and we thanked her for the work she had done in bringing to the Government's attention the fact that Hezbollah, a terrorist organisation, had been allowed to fly its flag at demonstrations. We also reminded her that, today, Israel is all too often thought of in terms of conflict with the Palestinians. Whilst it was, of course, a conflict which we all hoped would be resolved peacefully in the future, we should also recognise all that Israel and its citizens - Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, Bedouin and other religions - had achieved in such a relatively short period of time in the fields of agriculture, medicine, science, technology and culture, not forgetting peace agreements with two former enemies, Egypt and Jordan.

Barry Kafka and Eric Bradman, SPS’s Board of Deputies Delegates, also met with Enfield, Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous, after making an initial contact at the recent Holocaust Memorial Ceremony at Dugdale Centre, in Enfield. Our representatives presented Mr Charalambous with a booklet highlighting 70 achievements of the Israeli State in its 70 years. Perhaps the most interesting points were that Israel had taken in by far the largest amount of Immigrants of all the world’s countries, percentage wise, and was the only country where trees had increased in numbers since World War 2. Mr Charalambous, whilst being evenhanded, expressed strong support for Israel being able to exist without constant threat. He also supported the Jewish Community in the U.K. and vowed to speak out against AntiSemitism wherever he came across it. He listened keenly to the points which were made and also volunteered to attend any meeting we requested and to be available for any Community Events to which he was invited. He would shortly be attending a Saturday morning service at SPS.

During the afternoon we listened to a number of speeches from sympathetic MPs and members of the House of Lords from all political parties, including our local MP Theresia Villiers. 

Peter Leslie (Chair of Israel Group)

Thursday, 19 April 2018

A Story From Long Ago

Long ago and far away (well 1928 to be precise), we moved as a family, from the East End to a country village in the "provinces", further out even than the Tram Yard turn round, to where, it was said, they drove pigs down the High Street. Nothing could be considered more rural than Tottenham or more goyish, further out even than Stamford Hill. It was rumoured that there was an outpost of yidden hidden there but this idea was greeted with derision. "Schon fertig", nothing more to add. It was accepted that Judaism ended at Stamford Hill, to where the New Synagogue had been transferred from the East End, to cater for the nouveau riche Schneider Masters who clustered around the East Bank and West Bank near the railway station. 

I have written about this period in my young life many times in the past so I won't go into it again, except to say that one incident comes back to me every so often, particularly around autumn, actually a few weeks before Yom Tov 1940. The Blitz had stated in earnest and there was talk of an invasion, although none of us seemed very concerned - life went on. Hitler was cursed on every occasion, my mother was more worried about making Shobbas and her twice weekly schlepp to Ridley Road in search of a chicken from Mrs Marks. When the war started, my father's business,( he was an expert furrier), had collapsed and he had got himself a job as an accounts supervisor at Woolwich Arsenal , something to do with the Iron &Steel Federation. All I know is that he used to get a train very early in the morning direct from South Tottenham to Woolwich. I had come back from evacuation to March (not a wise choice, the largest railway marshalling yards in the country) and had started an apprenticeship as a toolmaker at Littons in the Caledonian Road, to which I cycled every morning to start work at eight o'clock.

With the prospect of bombs falling anywhere in the London area, a public shelter had been dug in the Lordship Lane recreation ground near Downhills Park for the local residents. We lived a five minute walk away so every evening after supper my father and I would take my mother and younger sister, with sandwiches and blankets and a flask of tea, to the shelter whilst we returned to the house to sleep under the stairs, as suggested by the Government as the safest part of a house. Morrison and Anderson shelters came later.

It became quite a communal centre, people chatting, playing cards, others trying to sleep, whilst we could hear the noise of the air raid all around. I recall other people whom we would sometimes see there, nuns from a local convent who sang hymns and offered comfort, neighbours who lived nearby, and one old man who led off music hall songs. Next morning very early we would return to take my mother and sister home, then off to work.

September 19th 1940 1 was 14, my sister Barbara was all of 4, and our elder brother, Leslie, 20, was called up and in the Army. We had heard guns and banging during the night but nothing to prepare us for what we found at the shelter next morning. The whole area was full of ambulances, police, rescue workers and firemen - the full panoply of a major incident. It seemed a landmine had fallen directly onto the shelter; there were many casualties, we were told, some still buried, a few survivors but no names or details or where they had been taken. We spent the day rushing from one rescue centre to another, and finally late that evening we found my mother, screaming hysterically, in the old Prince of Wales hospital and my sister in the Children’s Fever Hospital in St Ann’s Road.

How many were killed that night is still something of a mystery, anything from thirty to a hundred and there were hints that the whole incident had been covered up to allay public disquiet. There were also dark whispers circulating that the bombsite had been completely bulldozed over with bodies still buried there to this day.

We never found out how my mother and sister were rescued. There were reports at the time that when the rescue teams got into the shelter they found people still sitting there, seemingly untouched but covered in dust. They were of course dead, killed by the blast. Two bombs were dropped, possibly aimed at the shelter or at random, the other hitting houses in Walpole Road two hundred yards away where a family was wiped out. At the time there were anti-aircraft batteries nearby in the allotments, so maybe these were the target. In 2003 there were preparations for a centenary festival of the park and a local historian became involved researching the incident. He was at the time in contact with my sister and others (my mother had died some years earlier); subsequently there was an appeal, by way of the local Friends Association, to erect a memorial at the site, which is now in place. 

Looking back at those reports and others written then and since, including one from my sister, who also has since died, it is a sobering thought that I may be one of the very few, perhaps the only one left, who can still remember that night over seventy seven years ago. I wonder sometimes what happened to the nuns and the old boy with his music hall songs.

Eddy Summers

Thursday, 12 April 2018

A Message From The Chair

For some time members have been telling me that on occasions they cannot hear clearly some of the readers on the bimah, even though the mikes are working. With that in mind I discussed the situation with Rabbi Yuval and the Executive, and it was agreed to explore the possibility of installing a new modern sound system, as was the case in the Schindler Hall. As I write this report the new system has just been installed, hopefully to everyone’s satisfaction, even though I am sure someone will say, “it’s too loud, turn it down”. Over the years, not only at SPS but at other venues, I have heard people shout out to the person talking “can’t hear you, speak up”. I find that response insensitive It puts the speaker off and is embarrassing for them. If there is a problem, a “sorry I am finding it difficult to hear you, would you mind speaking up” is a softer response, and does not make the speaker feel so demeaned. 

Southover, the organisation who use our site five days a week teaching children on a one to one basis, have extended their association with SPS. All the old portacabins by the side of the Schindler Hall are being replaced by brand new buildings, allowing Southover to gain more pupils and comply with Ofsted standards. Financially it also means that, importantly, we continue to have a steady stream of income from them. Inevitably, whilst the work goes on, there might be some inconvenience for people using the site, but it should not last too long until normal service is resumed. 

At the end of February and into early March, the “Beast from the East” engulfed most of the UK in a blanket of snow and biting easterly winds. There were a number of amber and red warnings, urging people not to make unnecessary journeys, and to stay at home. SPS was not immune from the problems that the snowy weather and minus temperatures brought to bear. So much so that Purim celebrations had to be cancelled, and Shabbat services were put at risk because the site was covered with snow and ice. On the Friday morning, with the best of intentions, it was decided to close the site. It was not something we wanted to do, but after consultation between Rabbi Yuval, two members of the executive and the site maintenance/ security officer, health and safety concerns were deemed to be a major problem. An e-mail was sent out to the membership explaining the dire situation we faced. Subsequently I received a number of emails and telephone calls questioning the decision. Most understood the dilemma we were in, but two expressed righteous indignation; amusingly, both hardly ever set foot in the Synagogue from one month to the next. Even though it was still snowing quite heavily, I checked the weather for Saturday which appeared to be slightly better. After conversations with Rabbis Jacobi and Keren, I took the decision to send another e-mail informing members we would do our utmost to be open for business in the morning. Twelve people attended and we had a very fulfilling service in the round. Thank you to those who braved the elements, but where were the other members who, surprise, surprise did not venture out. As the saying goes “there’s nowt so queer as folk”.

For the first time in the last few years we held a new members event. After the service on Shabbat morning 10th March we had an extended kiddush allowing council members and presidents to chat with the new members. It went very well and everyone seemed to be at ease with each other. Thanks to everyone, especially the lovely ladies of the House Committee who supported the exercise in communal engagement. Hopefully, if we get a steady stream of new members we can repeat the occasion next year. The first event in the 75th anniversary programme is nearly upon us, as at the end of the month a celebratory quiz is taking place. I am sure it will be well supported and a good and enjoyable time will be had by all. 

Robert Dulin 

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Words From The Rabbi

This month we will be celebrating Israel’s 70th birthday. Those who went out with ecstasy onto the streets of Tel Aviv to celebrate her birth in 1948 were unsure whether they would be dancing at her first birthday. Yet, seventy years later, and Israel is an island of economic, social and military stability in the very volatile region of the Middle East. I was born in Israel and there I spent half my life. I am proud of my Israeli identity and I keep close connection with my family and friends there. It amazes me how at almost every visit I see how Israel is growing and changing before my eyes.

I also consider myself lucky to be a proper Ashkefaradi. I am 50% Ashkenazi from my father’s side, and I am 50% Sepharadi from my mother’s side. 

The story of my parents and their (somewhat unlikely) marriage encompasses in many ways the story of the birth of the State of Israel. My father was born in Alsójára, a small village in Transylvania. He was wise enough to leave before the war and after some wandering in Europe, he made his home in Haifa. Like many men in the yishuv (the Jewish population in Mandatory Palestine) He served in the British army during WWII. After the establishment of Israel he became a pioneer in Hatzor, in the Upper Galilee. His entire immediate family perished in the Holocaust together with the majority of Jews who were left in the area. My father, the only remnant of his family, lost his faith in the Almighty and led a secular life. 

My mother was born in the town of Demnate at the foot of the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains. The family moved to the Moroccan capital Rabbat before setting off for Israel in the late 1940s and early 50s. The vast majority of new immigrants from Arab countries to Israel at the time were sent to abandon Arab villages or newly-formed settlements in remote places in the Negev and Galilee. My family was no exception. Most of them were sent to the abandoned Arab village of Beit Dagan (Bayt Dajan in Arabic). I remember as a child playing among the ruins of the Arab village. The state of my grandparents’ house and the houses of their neighbours were just a little better than the state of these ruins. 

On arrival in Israel, and at her request, my mother was separated from the rest of her family and was sent to Hatzor. There she tasted the life of a pioneer in a variety of outdoor jobs in the harsh winter and scorching summer days of the Upper Galilee. She met my father shortly after arrival, and the rest is history. I am fortunate to be Ashkefaradi because it gives me the opportunity to understand both worlds. These worlds were parallel in the young state of Israel. I recall that in my childhood Ashkefaradi children were a rare and strange phenomenon. There were times where I had to cling to one of my identities and hide the other. Hardly anyone in my predominantly Sepharadi primary school knew that I had an Ashkenazi father. The same happened at my predominantly Ashkenazi High School. I recall a few incidents where hiding my ‘other’ identity literally saved my skin. 

Seventy years after the establishment of the State, social undercurrents in Israeli society create a situation where there are many more Ashkefaradi children and adults. In my childhood there two types of music. There was the ‘mainstream’ Israeli and Western music that you could hear on the radio and purchase in record shops. Then there was the ‘alternative’ Mizrachi (oriental) music you could only purchase in dodgy cassette tape stalls in the marketplace in Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station. Nowadays many of Israel’s top singers use Mizrachi music or combine it with Western and ‘classic’ Israeli music. Omer Adam, one of the top Mizrachi singers in Israel, a Yiddisher mama, of Polish descent. 

Seventy years after the establishment of Israel, the boundaries between people, denominations and places of origin are gradually disappearing. The Zionist project was remarkably successful on many levels. However, there was a heavy price to pay for this success. Some of the heavy price was paid by those Jews who came from Arab and oriental countries, who sometimes were treated like primitive and ignorant second-class citizens, as if they were ‘the enemy’. Many of the problems faced by those who were coerced into settling in remote places with no job security, no future and no hope are now faced by their second and third generations. This perhaps could explain the overwhelming support of right-wing political parties form those who live in Israel’s ‘development towns’. It will take a great deal of change to convince them to vote for left-wing parties, historically associated with the Ashkenazi domination and oppression of the 1950s and 60s. I believe that these deep social wounds at the time of Israel’s early years could be healed over time, and with a great deal of effort and willingness. 

Happy 70th birthday Israel, may you go from strength to strength, and may you continue to be a beacon of light, hope and stability in the quick sands of the Middle East. 

Rabbi Yuval Keren

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Book Club News

Our Book Club this year has been very successful and we have read a number of different books all suggested by the Group. This encourages us to read different authors that we have not read before and discuss them at our friendly meetings. So if you have read a good book recently and would like to share it please come along and let us know. 

Refreshments. Cost £1. (See details below) Our next meeting will be on: 
17 March at 11 a.m. off site.

Please contact me for more details and the venue Marion Smith

MARCH Choice
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton 

The Age of Innocence is set in New York at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20 Century. The story is set in the upper middle class society of the day and describes the unrequited love between Newland Archer and the exotic divorcee Ellen Olenska. The story follows the twists and turns of a besotted Newland, who is already engaged to the beautiful May Welland, a woman who fulfils the requirements of this status conscious society in which they both live. By contrast Ellen does not fit in, she is her own woman, who intrigues the men but is feared or disliked by the women, who feel she is ‘beneath them.’ The power of the book lies in the reality of the characters, who form a wealthy, and self righteous group of insiders. The relationships, the parties and social life, are all part of the exclusivity, and kept me involved throughout. For me the story encompasses far more than the individuals concerned, it is about the closed society in which there is a moralistic atmosphere which the families and friends value beyond all else, the importance of ‘marrying well’ and not bringing shame upon the family. On the surface it represents High Society, but simmering beneath the surface are their secrets, shame and desires. The book describes a world which the author, Edith Wharton was part of. She creates an atmosphere that is believable and compelling. Her writing is incisive and she makes wonderful asides and comments about her characters, which could apply to life today, as well as over 100 years ago, when the book was written.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Words From The Chair

Despite the rainy cold weather, I am pleased to report that the olive tree planting for Hilda Schindler went very well. The choice of an olive tree was appropriate as, in the story of Noah’s Ark, the second time the dove was sent out, it returned with an olive tree leaf. Noah associated the leaf with hope for the future, as it proved there was still dry land. During her many years of teaching, Hilda’s educational skills gave hope to countless children. It was a poignant moment when youngest Ruach pupil, Alice Dack, and the oldest, Ilana Keren, helped with the planting. I am sure Hilda would have approved. 

In 1969 when Freda and I joined the Synagogue, the prayer book in use was the much loved “Service of the Heart”. Through the late eighties and into the nineties the leaders of the UPLS (as it was known by in those far off days) decided it was time to look at the possibility of a new prayer book to embrace modern Jewish liturgy. Under the auspices of Rabbis Andrew Goldstein, Chaim Stern, Charles Middleburgh, John Rayner, and other luminaries, the far reaching task ahead began. Their many years of earnest labour culminated in 1995 by the introduction of “Siddur Lev Chadash”. At this moment in time a group of LJ Rabbis are in the process of formulating a new prayer book, entitled “Siddur Shirah Chadashah”. We are in the process of acquiring forty draft copies, and will be using them over a period of time in selected Shabbat morning services. Whether the councils of LJ Synagogues and their members embrace this costly exercise as necessary and meaningful, is yet to be determined. Hopefully there will be common consent; however, in my humble opinion, even if there is no consensus, in all probability sometime in the future the powers that be will publish a new prayer book. Only time will tell if they made the right decision. 

It’s hard to believe that at the end of the month we will be celebrating Pesach; it has come round so quickly. Even though most of us will have celebrated the previous evening, the Synagogue Seder which takes place on the following day Saturday 31st is always a congenial experience. This year, to encourage young families to attend, there will be no charge for children under the age of twelve. I look forward to greeting many members and hopefully their family and friends. Last year we had a very successful coach outing to Waddesdon Manor. To keep the momentum going, I have provisionally booked a trip to Beth Shalom Holocaust Education Centre near Nottingham. It is about a two and a half hour journey, but well worth the effort, because it is not a Holocaust Museum, but a learning centre, with presentations about combating anti-Semitism, guest speakers, and other educational programmes. If anyone is interested in going please let me know asap, otherwise regretfully I will have to cancel. Middle March is the cut-off point. 

Chag Sameach Pesach

 Robert Dulin

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Religion School News

In January, all teaching staff a6ended a fantastic training session, organised jointly by Liberal Judaism and the Reform Movement, returning to SPS re-invigorated by training with and exchanging ideas with colleagues from so many other communities. January also saw the Bar Mitzvah of Ben Jeckel. Congratulations to Ben and to all his family! 

In February, Ruach celebrated the New Year for Trees with a lovely Tu B’Shevat Seder. Many thanks to Rachelle Ellenby for helping to prepare everything so beautifully. 

We always plant a tree on Tu B’Shevat, but this year was very special, in spite of the rain, because we planted a tree in the Memorial Garden in memory of Hilda Schindler, who died in 2017, and who for many years was the Head Teacher of the religion school. Our Bnei Mitzvah students helped to lead the brief service. Alice Dack and Ilana Keren planted the tree on behalf of the students at Ruach, and one of our teachers, Stuart Finesilver, who is also a former student of Hilda’s, put down the memorial plaque. 

Looking forward to March, there will be lots of celebrations, with another Family Service, as well as celebrating Purim and Pesach. We are always delighted to welcome young families to join us for our Pesach Seder, which will be on 24th March. Please contact our administrator, Shelley Samuels, if you would like to come along. 

Meanwhile, we are still looking for volunteers to get involved with our programme of activities for our youngest members and their friends. Even if you cannot make a regular commitment, please let me know if you might be available occasionally to fill in, for example, when one of the regular volunteers is ill. 

Gwendolen Burton

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Holocaust Memorial Day

As we do every year, my husband and I attended Barnet’s Holocaust Memorial Day annual event, held at the fabulous surroundings of the Quadrangle at Middlesex University in Hendon. 

Two of the strongest lessons that we brought away from this year's event, for which the theme was The Power of Words were: 

1. Words are powerful and can mend, raise awareness, show that we have the guts to stand up and be counted - as well as hurt and destroy. As can silence. Fascism didn't start with actions - it started with the words of the fascists, and the silence of the rest. This was a timely reminder to ALWAYS speak out. Even if we make one person think again, it is worth it. At the very least, we are speaking up on behalf of those who can’t or won’t. We are showing that WE are not complicit. 

2. There is no point calling the Nazis monsters. They were normal people doing monstrous things. If we forget that, we are in danger of thinking it can't happen again. This was the point of view put forward by one of the school girls who had been part of the organised trips to Auschwitz. Hope for the future lies with this fantastic programme and these young people who will keep the message going long after the last survivors have left us. 

On a final note, Jethro and I were again disappointed at how few people who were not of the war generation attend this memorial event. It lasts less than 90 minutes, it is moving and varied, we hear wonderful speeches and hear spine-chilling words and music. As we leave, small children hand out snowdrop bulbs to commemorate the thousands of children who died in the Holocaust – so that we can come home and plant them as an ongoing memory. 

Please think about going next year – you will not be sorry, and the many older people present will not have to feel that they are alone. 

Marilyn Rowland 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

The Power Of Words - From The Rabbi

In the spring of 2004 I made a lifetime dream come true. I was accepted at Rabbinic School. I received a list of fourteen books to read before I started the course in the autumn of that year. I started a frantic reading of all fourteen volumes that included the entire Tanakh, the Jewish Bible and a few other thick books. I missed one little detail as I concluded a long and intense reading period. The small print stated that it was a recommended list, rather than a mandatory one. Words are very powerful indeed, no matter how small they might be! 

Still, there was one book that I started reading but could not get to complete. The bookmark is still on page 362 where I left it 14 years ago. The book is titled ‘The Holocaust’ by the historian Sir Martin Gilbert. In his book Sir Gilbert describes in dry academic language the history of the Holocaust. 
Gilbert begins his book in 1933 with the rise of Hitler and his Nazi party to power.

What was apparent for me from the book was the gradual nature of the Nazi genocide of the Jews. Nobody in Nazi Germany of 1933 was talking about the elimination of Jews. By the time I reached page 362, in the spring of 1942, killing of Jews and other ‘undesirable elements’ or ‘enemies of the German People’ was common. 

Sir Gilbert did not include in his book the early years of Nazism. It all started with ideas. These ideas were developed into words, and words were eventually translated into actions. actions took the form of discrimination, boycotts, burning of books, shops and synagogues, deportations, imprisonment, sporadic killings, and eventually genocide. There is an old joke about two Jews sitting on a bench in Berlin in 1935 and reading the papers. "Herr Altmann," said one of them. " I can't understand why you are reading Der Stürmer, a Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda sheet! Have you gone mad? "Not at all, Herr Baum. I used to read the Jewish papers and all I learned about were pogroms in Russia, riots in Palestine, and new anti-Jewish laws in Germany. Now that I read Der Stürmer, I see so much more: that the Jews control all the banks, that we dominate in the arts, and that we are on the verge of taking over the entire world. You know – it makes me feel a whole lot better!" 

Beyond the joke, Der Stürmer was a part of the Nazi propaganda machine that was a vehicle in translating Nazi anti-Semitism into actions. They objectified the Jews, depicted them as vermin, mice and snakes, to be excluded and eradicated. The words spoken then were perhaps crude, yet they were an effective method of selling the myth of unity, national pride and greatness to Germans who desired a break from the painful past. This was achieved by the creation of a myth of an alien race that feeds on the host nation, and poisons its culture and blood - the hated Jew. It was easy for the Nazis to exercise control over the German People by making a minority people the ultimate enemy within. 

We have a responsibility to ensure that the words of community leaders and politicians are not directed at uniting ‘us’ by separating ‘them’ from ‘us’, accepting the ‘similar’ by rejecting the ‘different’, loving ‘my neighbour’ by hating ‘the stranger’. 

The Torah, the holiest Jewish text, begins with creation of the world. “And God said, “let there be light”, and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) The world was created with words. Human civilisation was created and formed with the words of philosophers, scientists and religious leaders. And it is the ability to form words and find meaning in words that distinguished us from the rest of creation. The book of Proverbs (18:21) describes all too well the power of speech: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Just as the tongue can bring life, prosperity, and growth, it can bring death and destruction. 

In Nazi Germany crude, yet powerful words and ideas brought misery, death and destruction upon millions of victims, and millions of their perpetrators. Let us resolve to use words wisely to the benefit of the individual, the community, our country, humanity and Planet Earth, this Garden of Eden entrusted into our care. Let us take phrases such as ‘us and them’ out of our vocabulary. Let every person, regardless of their skin colour, race, religion, sexual orientation, or place of origin, be a part of our family, one of ‘us’. 

Rabbi Yuval Keren.