Events involving the Wider Community
Rededication of Cheltenham Synagogue
Cheltenham Hebrew Congregation members and its many friends in the local community came together on to celebrate the Rededication of the Synagogue following extensive repair to its Grade II* listed building. The service was led by Rev. Malcolm Weisman.
Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire Dame Janet Trotter had sent loyal greetings to the Queen in advance of her 90th birthday on behalf of Cheltenham Hebrew Congregation and had received a reply expressing Her Majestyís warm good wishes to us all for the Rededication.
Dr Elizabeth Jacobs spoke of growing up as a Jewish girl in Cheltenham and commented on how an influx of Jewish servicemen and evacuees from London brought new life to the Jewish Community in the 1940ís.
Rabbi Mark Daniels made a toast to the Community and the part it plays in the life of Cheltenham. This was particularly apt as also present were the Mayor of Cheltenham Councillor Duncan Smith and representatives of the University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham Borough Conservation office, local churches and Gloucestershire Constabulary.
A lasting memory was the wonderful poem ďA Leap of FaithĒ written by Helen Hail tracing how we arrived at the present time.
Holocaust Memorial Day Act of Remembrance
Through readings, poetry, film, art and music we explored the 2015 theme Keep the memory alive.
The Artwork, by Tobias Fisher, followed the artistís visit to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just outside Berlin. It made him think of those murdered as individuals.Seeing the gallows he said:
"Single posts with an arm that angles out and up to the sky made for just one person. The studies I produced after that visit are difficult for me to think about. This study is about finding a concentration camp a 10 minute walk from a train station on the edge of a capital city. Itís about this person walking out of the gates past you and you not seeing them. Itís about walking past this image and not understandingĒ.
Chilling facts were outlined, including those about Auschwitz-Birkenau, as we remembered the 70th Anniversary of its liberation. Over 90% of the victims were Jewish.
Organized in partnership with Gloucestershire Liberal Jewish Community and Cheltenham Borough Council.
Inter Faith Week - A Celebration of Caring
There was no English word for chesed when Myles Coverdale published the first ever translation of the Hebrew Bible in 1535, Abigail, our Associate Chaplain told participants at the Inter Faith event at Gloucestershire University and so he coined the word 'loving-kindness'. Abigail also spoke of its importance in Judaism, emphasising the event's theme of caring.
For information about Cheltenham Inter Faith and its events, past and future, do visit cheltenhaminterfaith.org.uk.
The London Klezmer Quartet
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"
If you would like to hear more about the London Klezmer Quartet, please click here
Highnam Celebration at Highnam Court Gardens
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 175 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].
We are grateful to the owners of Highnam Court, Mr and Mrs Roger Head, for their kind permission to make use of the gardens.
The Jewish Festivals and Holidays are commemorated in appropriate ways - for example:
High Holy Days
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services were led this year by Thomas Ambuehl from Oxford. His musical skills were much appreciated during these Days of Awe.
Our Succah was decorated with figs, pomegranites, grapes and berries and a very English and fragrant addition - lavender. Simchat Torah was marked with a traditional service led by Allan Sanis, Chief Warden, with the Torahs being processed around the Synagogue. Alan Silverston was chasan Torah and Allan Sanis chasan Bereishis.
The survival of the Jewish people, over 2,000 years ago, from persecution, is celebrated each year, usually with a tea party. The children light the candles of the menorahs together.
We read the Megilla Esther together, in Hebrew and English; the story of how Esther saved the Jewish people in the 4th Century BCE, and celebrate our freedom from persecution. Hamantashen, traditional three cornered pastries representing the villain Hamanís ears, typically feature.
A traditional Seder (Passover service) is shared by the Community, usually on the second night of Passover. The story of the Exodus is told and how the Jewish people were able to leave slavery.
Members also enjoy meeting for purely social events. These include garden parties, brunches, lunches and teas. A Pudding Evening drew Members and friends together to enjoy a wide selection of desserts. No competition, they were all winners!
We were delighted to have Rev Malcolm and Mrs Weisman with us for the occasion.
Other events include lectures, discussions and films.
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
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.