The London Klezmer Quartet, a wonderful group of performers, performed in our historic Cheltenham Synagogue to play the celebratory and soulful music of the East European Jews. Their deep understanding of Klezmer was reflected in exuberant, passionate and accomplished performances that captivated the audience.
"It was brilliant"
"What a successful evening, a beautiful event"
"A wonderful night with young musicians with extraordinary talent"
"Vibrant music interlaced with humour and dry wit"
They played both traditional old arrangements and new material they have composed themselves.
We were delighted to invite guests to join us for a very special afternoon at the beautiful Highnam Court Gardens. We explored the magnificent gardens and grounds, extending to over 100 acres and mixing formal gardens with more extensive vistas of meadows, woods, lakes, parkland and specimen trees.
Originally landscaped in the 18th century, the Gardens were thoughtfully developed and have now been lovingly restored and added to by their present owners.
Reverend Malcolm Weisman was honoured for his dedication and long service to Cheltenham Hebrew Congregation on this occasion of the 175th anniversary of the consecration of Cheltenham Synagogue in 1839. He was given a basket of wines and fruit together with a certificate of appreciation. First mention of Reverend Weisman as a visiting minister goes back to 1963 and he has continued in that role to the present day. Highlights have included leading a special service to re-consecrate the Synagogue in 1985 and then, four years later, presiding over the celebrations associated with the sesquiquintennial anniversary of the Synagogue.
The anniversary cake, decorated with an image of the Synagogue, was cut by Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood who had brought his family to join us for the celebration.
A poem, written especially for the occasion, “A Leap of Faith” was read moving by the Gloucestershire poet Helen Hail. The poem so fittingly starts;
“It’s time to celebrate the survival, the Synagogue, recall the struggles, always moving against the odds,
remembering the impermanence.”
And that is what we did.
Our itinerary for the day included a guided tour, pot decoration and seed planting for children and a special opening of the Grade 1 listed Highnam Church. Homemade refreshments were enjoyed in the Orangery throughout the day.
Our flyer for the day can be downloaded here [433kb].
Most computers will open the flyer automatically, but you may need Adobe reader.
We are grateful to the owners of Highnam Court, Mr and Mrs Roger Head, for their kind permission to make use of the gardens.
Recent Members' Events
A traditional Seder (Service) was shared by the Community on the second night of Passover. The story of the Exodus was told and how the Jewish people were able to leave slavery in Egypt.
National Holocaust Memorial Day January 2014
The impact of the Holocaust on our local Jewish communities during the Act of Remembrance was made very clear. Readers read out the names of loved ones and how they were related as the words flashed onto a screen. “My Grandfather, my Grandmother, my Uncle …” brought the personal nature of loss not just close to home but inside the front door and sitting next to us.
Personal reflections by Reverend Canon Roger Symon linked the presentations. The Mayor of Cheltenham Councillor Wendy Flynn reminded us that the first step to genocide is not to respect the differences of others and this was expressed in a modern context by Martyn Horwood MP. The chosen and choices featured in the Lord Lieutenant Dame Janet Trotter’s reading, also selected to encourage reflection and thought.
An exhibition featuring original relevant artefacts and documents was focus for further discussion after the Act of Remembrance. The theme of “Journeys” was illustrated through the stories of our families and friends, stories of discrimination and persecution, of exile and genocide.
It is hoped that an exhibition will be staged again next year.
Reverend Malcolm Weisman led a pre Yom Tov session on the prayers of Rosh Hashanah. He drew special attention to the "we" in the prayer Avinu Malkenu and commented on how social responsibility contributes to the well being of us all.
Reverend Weisman also joined the community earlier in the year to give an enlightening talk: “Some Aspects of the Jewish Experience as seen through the First Paragraph of the Shema”. The prayer reflects the history of the Jewish people and is the core of Jewish heritage. Rev Weisman led a study session on the meaning that can be derived from the text and how it has influenced Jewish practice. We discussed the prayer's significance for the survival of Judaism as a separate community and the importance of education.
Malcolm Weisman with Lea Elliott (left) and Abigail Fisher (right)
Questions led to further stimulating discussion over tea and cake.
We gathered together at a community member's home to remember Hamen's defeated plot to exterminate the Jews in Persia. As is traditional, we read the Book of Esther, blocking out Hamen's name with gragers, whistles and shakers.
Wine, tea and hamentaschen were enjoyed by all.
We held our Chanukah celebration this year in Hatherley Village Hall, enjoying traditional latkas and viennas. Miss Abigail Fisher told the young, and the not so young, the story of Chanukah, how the Jewish people survived a very difficult time and why we celebrate by lighting candles and eating foods cooked in oil.
The children lit the candles of five menorahs to celebrate Chanukah's second night. Mr Allan Sanis then gave a reading which talked about what the significance of each each of the Chanukah candles might be.
The communities charitable act for Chanukah was collecting foods, especially festive ones, for the County Community Project. We thought it especially appropriate to support people through hard times.
In February, the now annual tradition of a quiz was closely fought and narrowly won by The Six Smarties, with a particularly impressive knowledge of sport and finely attuned taste buds. Naturally, there was a Challenge Cup to be won and the winners' names have been engraved for posterity..
Clear blue sky and hot sunshine completed the Summer Lunch's Mediterranean theme perfectly in June when guests relaxed and ate al fresco. Funds were raised by a raffle with many prizes and a book and video stall on the day.
Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks visits Cheltenham
Lord Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth held us spellbound when he addressed the Community and guests in the Synagogue in spring 2011. He spoke powerfully and enthusiastically about small communities and how they can and do play a role disproportionate to their size. This was illustrated with biblical as well as modern examples.
A report in the Jewish Chronicle quoted Lord Sacks as saying "It was wonderful to discover this gem of a Synagogue. It is a miniature treasure to be cherished and it was wonderful to see how the small but enthusiastic congregation are keeping it, and Jewish life, alive in this lovely part of Britain. I came away surprised, inspired and enthused."
And so did we.
Left: Martin Horwood MP, Anne Regan Mayor of Cheltenham, Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, Rev Malcolm Wiseman, Michael Webber Chairman of Cheltenham Hebrew Community; Middle: Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks speaking with Abigail Fisher: Right James Silverston and David Silverston
The Cheltenham Hebrew Community is actively involved with local Inter Faith Activity and has participated in a number of recent events.
For information about Cheltenham Inter Faith and its events, past and future, do visit cheltenhaminterfaith.org.uk.
Highlights of our calendar include both the religious - a communal Seder at Pesach, a Purim party and a Chanukah tea - and the purely social - such as quizzes, brunches and garden parties. Where appropriate, we read in both Hebrew and English to allow everyone to participate.
Our annual quiz attracts fierce competition, often leading to a nail-biting conclusion to win the coveted CHC Challenge Cup. In May of each year, we celebrate the inauguration of the Synagogue with a brunch.
Further opportunities for members to come together are provided by members who informally arrange groups to attend concerts and lunches. We welcome good ideas for new events and volunteers to help organise them!
Women’s Association of Cheltenham Synagogue (WACS)
The Women's Association has been running for over 50 years. It is a warm social network that plays an important part in organising many of the Synagogue's events and has raised funds for a range of good causes. The monthly meetings provide a good place for making and renewing friendships.
Jewish Film Group
We show a range of films, generally with a Jewish theme. Naturally all members and their guests are welcome to attend and make suggestions for future screenings.
A recent showing was "Bee Season" which focuses on a gifted, dysfunctional, American Jewish family and is based on the novel by Myla Goldberg.