Dear Rabbi Anna, Members and Friends,
Following our 31st AGM on 24 March you have a new Council. It is new in the sense that it is newly elected, but many of the faces round the virtual table are the same as last year. You do, however, have a new occupant of the hot seat, so I’d better introduce myself, for those of you who don’t know me.
I was a founder member of the then Progressive Jewish Community of East Anglia in January 1990. Our first Chair was the wonderful Liz Allan from 1990-1996. I took over from her until 1999. Seven others have occupied the position between then and last month. I thought once was enough for me – dayenu –and did not expect to be here again. I guess it’s just the way the matzah crumbles.
I have been on Council for most of the community’s 31 years. It’s a sense of duty and looking after ‘my baby’, not a desire to hog (sorry, unkosher word), centre stage. For those who have seen me, but not known who I was, I usually have a white beard of rabbinic length, although it does get drastically trimmed on rare occasions. It makes up for the lack of hair on top. I generally sit at the back of the Old Meeting House – partly shyness and partly to add marginally to security. Our American members would know this as riding shotgun.
Many years ago I was involved as co-author of our Constitution. For a short period I was membership secretary. I started the burial group and drew up guidance for members of the group and I have been involved with the Rites and Practices Committee and with the Finance Committee. Generally I pick up the odd jobs like researching a topic or drawing up some document or other. For three years I have written the Yiddish column in our newsletter and I proof-read the newsletter, so any residual errors are entirely down to me.
There have been a few occasions when we’ve had no rabbi to take a Shabbat service and two years when there was no rabbi for the High Holydays. For the latter we were blessed with a nes gadol – a great miracle – in the form of Kim Greenacre, who arranged and led the services with sensitivity and precise organisation, with me as her second in command, and Lily Whear, whose singing was outstanding. Kim, Alan Joseph, Steven Haire and I read from the scroll, which is an indescribably moving experience.
I hope that in the coming months we shall be able to meet in person and that the newer Members and Friends will be able to see us all in 3-D. For the moment I’ve taken up enough of your time and I have to save something for next month and the month after………… Philip Lawrence