Culture vultures cannot get enough of our heritage
CONGREGATIONS ALL over the country have opened their doors to the wider community as part of B’nai B’rith UK’s annual European Days of Jewish Culture programme.
Cheltenham Hebrew Congregation attracted more than 150 people to an open day and another 50 to a talk by Leonard Bazar on the Jewish diaspora in the UK. The vast majority of visitors were non-Jews.
The turnout was testament to the involvement of Cheltenham chair Jenny Silverton in heritage promotion in the area.
Plymouth Synagogue — the oldest Ashkenazi shul still in regular use in the English-speaking world — ran a tour for guests from a variety of religious backgrounds.
In Leicester, the 60 guests at the event at the Orthodox synagogue were all non-Jews. The attendance was double that of last year and included people whose curiosity was aroused by the bunting and balloons outside. Some said they had regularly passed the building without realising what it was.
At Reading Hebrew Congregation — where a major restoration of its century-old roof is nearing completion — the shul welcomed more than 80 visitors and gained additional exposure through a local radio piece.
A B’nai B’rith group went to Manchester to learn about the scientific achievements of Chaim Weizmann,
Dressed to thrill in Cheltenham; the Manchester tour party; Hebrew manuscripts at the British Library; a guided walk group outside the former Leeds Jewish Institute and a warm welcome in Reading
Israel’s first president, in his days in the chemistry department of Manchester University. Dr Weizmann was also a member of the Manchester B’nai B’rith lodge.
Among the capital’s most popu- lar events was a guided tour of the Hebrew manuscript display in the British Library. The Jewish Museum organised a family activity and at West London Synagogue, a multifaith panel from diaspora communities discussed their experiences of living in Britain.
Valerie Bello, B’nai B’rith’s culture days co-ordinator, said attendances reflected the increasingly significant role heritage plays in British life. The activities also served to “strengthen people’s connection with their locality.
“We’re always delighted when the potential for interfaith understanding is achieved, as well as providing a rare opportunity for our own community to explore our heritage.”