Songs, gongs and social-action projects
A REWARDING week for author and JC columnist Melanie Phillips, who on Monday became the recipient of this year’s Jewish Care Woman of Distinction Award. Ms Phillips, who joins female luminaries such as Baroness Deech, Maureen Lipman and Professor Lisa Jardine, was presented with her award at a lunch at the Institute of Directors by TV producer Dan Patterson. He described her as “a courageous voice of sanity in a world of increasing madness” and said that her book Londonistan and daily blog should be “compulsory reading for all journalists and politicians”.
A far less happy week for Liverpool’s Greenbank Drive Hebrew Congregation, whose members heard that the shul will definitely close its doors on January 5 after 70 years. Although not the city’s most historic and august synagogue — that honour belongs to the Grade II listed 270-year-old Princes Road — Greenbank was the shul where Golda Meir once spoke, and where many Liverpool Jews went to cheder and married.
Better synagogue news from Manchester, where the Federation plans to expand in the regions begin with the affiliation of the Ohr Yerushalayim congregation.
At the other end of the country, congratulations to Mill Hill Synagogue in the flourishing heart of North-West London, which has been given the goahead for a new building described as “bold and iconic”. The £3 million redevelopment scheme will provide youth and education facilities and a multi-function auditorium and hall. Also included is the refurbishment of the 30-year-old shul itself, where membership currently stands at 1,000 families and is growing at a rate of 15 to 20 families a month, says chairman Jerome Reback. Plans are by Mill Hill-based Jewish architects Farrow Silverton and building is expected to start next summer. There is likely to be a big push on the fundraising front, which had been put on hold while the community, led by dynamic Rabbi Yitzchok Schochet, awaited planning permission.
There is just time for the JC’s female readers to buy tickets for this Sunday’s all-women J Factor, the Orthodox community’s answer to The X Factor. Taking place at London’s Logan Hall, the event organisers are Louise Leach, a finalist in Popstars which launched Hearsay, Liberty X and Darius, and her sister Caroline Pakter, who appeared in the West End as a singer and actress. The two, who left the world of showbiz for an Orthodox lifestyle, set up Sister Act Theatre Company, which encourages women to perform for women to raise money for charity. Sunday night’s J Factor will feature 15 acts who will perform before an audience of almost a 1,000 women and will be judged by celebrities Rachel Grimshaw, ex of Mamma Mia, and Eva Katzler, whose first single Angel was released last week. Singer Lucie Silvas will also perform.
Well done Emunah for finding a timely way to raise funds. The women’s organisation is running a Doughnut Day to coincide with Chanucah. Supporters are asked to arrange coffee mornings and hand out doughnuts in exchange for donations. Good for Emunah’s welfare work in Israel, if not so good for the waistline.
A feminine theme seems to be emerging this week: Community Life also learns of £18,000 raised by women supporters of the Israel’s art museums. The British Friends of the Art Museums of Israel held a Jeans & Jewels lunch at the St John’s Wood home of Marion Naggar. Among the 60 guests hearing from a Christie’s specialist previewing their jewellery sale next month was leading UK-based designer Ron Arad, who designed and donated a piece of jewellery which was auctioned for BFAMI.
Any moment now, members of 41 United Synagogue congregations, 11,000 Tribe members and pupils at JFS, King Solomon High and Yavneh College will be receiving a glossy leaf- let from the US and the London School of Jewish Studies as part of a joint programme called Project Chesed. The leaflet, designed to encourage “acts of charity and kindness” contains suggestions for such acts, including the donation of toys to World Jewish Relief for children living in poverty in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The project will operate throughout the year with particular focus on festivals and life-cycle events.
And talking of life-cycle events, the JC is delighted to congratulate Sadie and Jerry Cooper from East London, who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on the same day as the Queen and Prince Philip with a party at Jewish Care’s Stepney Community Centre. Unlike HM and Prince Philip, Mr Cooper, a vice-president of the London Taxi Drivers’ Benevolent Association, and his wife met in an air-raid shelter.
A good week, too, for social-action projects, with the Pears Foundation setting up a £10,000 Social Action Fund from which Jewish schools can apply for small grants to set up their own projects, and the launch of a network for Jewish schools involved in social action projects. The launch, held at Immanuel College Bushey, included training for social action.
And finally, an event with a deeply serious purpose was held this week at Edgware’s Yeshurun Synagogue. The Federation shul has had problems deciding which whisky it should serve at kiddush each Shabbat, so members and guests were invited to sample a number of single malts. The JC will not, of course, reveal which was selected; you will have to attend services at the Stonegrove shul to find out…
Melanie Phillips receives her award from Dan Patterson