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I came from Hackney Wick in London’s East End where my parents belonged to the Federation Synagogue. The only time they went to shul was for a wedding or a Bar Mitzvah. Although they weren’t religious, they insisted I went to Hebrew classes to become Bar Mitzvah.
The good thing about having my Bar Mitzvah was that I had enough money to buy my first guitar. My other interest in life at this time was meeting girls so I would go to shul on the High Holidays stand outside just to talk to them not really caring for what was going on inside.
Growing up I didn’t know much about the religion. At the age of 16 I joined Habonim. Joining Habonim opened up a whole new world for me, it was also where I met my first wife, Ruth. Through her and her family I was introduced to S.D.R.S.
Thanks to S.D.R.S and the Reform Movement I discovered my Judaism. It was here that I was able to enjoy taking part and understanding the services and meet lots of lovely people. I was encouraged to take an active role within my newly found Jewish community mostly by our late President, Arthur Bergner. Initially I took over the running of Security then went on to train as a Religion School teacher. My guitar came in handy - I wrote songs for every festival which was a good way of teaching the children about the festivals.
When S.D.R.S moved to its current home and became known as Sha’arei Tsedek, I joined Louise (Katin) and the gang to be a part of Koleinu, the band that plays once a month on Erev Shabbat.
With the encouragement and support of Rabbi Shulamit I am now playing guitar at non Koleinu Erev Shabbat services. I believe that music is such an important part of our tradition and a great way to become involved with the community.
I love our shul and its members and am so pleased I joined all those years ago. It has, and continues to be, a wonderful experience.
The birth of SDRS (now known as Sha’arei Tsedek) in the early sixties was also a kind of re-birth for me.
I was raised in more traditional Judaism, so it was a relief to finally find myself where I always wanted to be but didn’t know it. Our community and the shul has been part of my family life, from the early Jewish education of my children through to Bar Mitzvah, Aufruf, wedding, illnesses and sad losses. Throughout it all I have been surrounded by a caring community, quick to offer comfort and congratulations.
I have served on various committees throughout the years – notably the Israel Committee, Lunch & Chat and finally Chesed all of which has provided me with a deeper understanding of people and it has been a privilege to reach out to those in their time of difficulty and loss.
Fifty years have flown by, taking with them many changes of venue, from church halls, to Queens Avenue, then 45 High Street, Southgate, High Holy Days at Pickett’s Lock and now to our beautiful shul here in Oakleigh Road North, all leading me to believe that “kavanah” does not depend on bricks and mortar.
Over the years I have seen quite a few rabbis come and go, each with their own style, bringing something new to the religious life of our community. Change for many of us is not always welcome as it is all too easy to sink back into the comfort of usage, but it should be viewed as stimulating, reflecting changing times.
Sha’arei Tsedek has always been a constant for me and my family. May it continue to be so for generations to come.
- Emma and JamesEmma and James
We chose Sha’arei Tsedek because of its welcoming, friendly and family orientated community. From the initial meetings with various members of the community we felt at ease and accepted with open arms. We knew this was the right choice for our family. Having two small children that can actively participate in festivals and Mishpacha services is something that is really important to us. Glad we have chosen such an inclusive shul which acts as an extended family.