“Don’t be content in your life just to do no wrong, be prepared every day to try and do some good.” Sir Nicholas Winton
January can be a hard month to navigate. Dark mornings and early nights, cold starts to the day and the harsh winter landscapes drain the spirit. And this past month has seen a lot of rain too. Plenty of reasons then for us to feel sorry for ourselves.
Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January throws this all into sharp perspective as we stand together in remembrance. Our 21st century anxieties bear little comparison to the unimaginable suﬀering of the millions murdered by the Nazis, and the countless subsequent victims of genocides in Darfur, Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia.
This year’s HMD service was held in Norwich’s St Peter Mancroft church and was led sensitively and solemnly by Rabbi Roddy Young and Revd Dr Fiona Haworth. There was a large congregation and it was particularly pleasing to see many children from a variety of schools.
Hannah Possener from NHC read movingly from the Book of Ruth; Marian Prinsley read a survivor testimony from Auschwitz Birkenau, and my daughter Freddie, with great composure and dignity, read the harrowing account of a Bosnian woman whose two sons and husband were murdered by Ratko Mladić’s paramilitaries in Srebrenica. Thank you to all involved in organising, leading and contributing to the service.
At our Kabbalat Shabbat evening on 14 January, we were delighted to welcome Ruth Seager, acting Chair of Liberal Judaism and her husband Andrew. Ruth spoke about LJ’s priorities and shared her thoughts on how the organisation can support smaller communities like ours.
A week or so later, we heard the news that Rabbi Danny Rich had decided to step down as Chief Executive and Senior Rabbi of LJ at the end of March. Danny leaves a huge legacy and has been a wonderful friend to and supporter of NLJC over the years. We will miss his humour and his wisdom, and above all his embodiment of the great Liberal Jewish values of tolerance and compassion.
Ruth Seager wrote, “Danny has devoted his life to the service of our movement. For the last 15 years Danny has been our chief executive and senior rabbi. He has been a charismatic and inspirational leader that so many of us have followed. Danny’s commitment to his congregational work is truly impressive. He encourages and provides practical support to new communities and makes a point of visiting all communities on a regular basis.”
I was hoping to end this letter on a more positive note,and relate how successful our first Tu B’Shevat seder had been. As you will know by now, the atrocious weather and Storm Ciara put paid to that! Tu B’Shevat is the day that marks the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. We hoped to celebrate this in our own way by planting apple trees. Nevertheless, our thanks to Kim for preparing to lead the service and to Venetia and her family for oﬀering their hospitality. And roll on spring!
Finally, don’t forget our AGM on Wednesday 18 March at 7pm in the Peill Room.