As the AGM has been postponed I thought it would be useful for you to have the report that would have been presented. We will hold an AGM at a later date this year.

The Board

The Board had 17 elected members and met ten times in the past year.  The Executive met by tele/video-conference on several occasions, as needed.

Lay leadership at Shabbat morning services

It has been five months since we have had a permanent rabbi. In her report below our Senior Warden, Stephanie Alberti, mentions and thanks all who have continued to provide leadership of such a consistently high quality, not least the choir and wardens who contribute so much to our services.  I add my thanks to hers.
Kol Nidre Appeal

As always, the Board selected three charities in addition to the shul for our Kol Nidre Appeal.  These were Summer Hype, The Sir Charles Clore Foundation, and Nightingale Hammerson. Our community can be congratulated on its generosity.

Board of Deputies

Joe Millis has been highly active as our Deputy and I thank him for his continued commitment to this important role.

Burial Plots

Proposals for the purchase of plots in a Kemnal Park cemetery were circulated just before the planned AGM date with the intention of holding a discussion about them on the day. As this has not been possible but action needs to be taken, a stand-alone article will appear in Highlight. Contact details will be supplied so that members can send responses on this important initiative to the Board.

REPORTS FROM COMMITTEES AND GROUPS

RELIGION AND RITUAL (led by Stephanie Alberti)

The year can be divided into the time we had a rabbi and the time that we did not. Throughout, we have continued to celebrate Shabbat on Saturday mornings, and we briefly re-established twice-monthly Friday evening services, including one successful musical evening service in June, thanks to Vicki Ashmore, Joe Parks and “Orot”, the shul singers.  This was followed by a meal arranged by Janvier Palmer.  Members of the Religion and Ritual Committee, wardens and a small cohort of other lay readers have led services and provided excellent Torah readings, with drashot, and these have been well attended. An appeal for more people to participate was not productive but we have continued to see Shabbat morning services well attended.  We have been supported by RJ and have had some inspiring services led by visiting rabbis invited by our Chair: thanks to Michelle and to our own student rabbi Anna Posner, to Rabbi Danny Newman, to student rabbi Mati Kirschenbaum and to senior rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner.  Friday services were recently suspended for the present, in part because of the workload for our lay reader panel, and recognising sometimes low attendance.  Despite this, we are celebrating a special Friday evening on average once a month, thanks to the Education Committee arranging onegim and our musical members creating musical events.

Other high days and holy days have been marked appropriately, with good attendance and even better spirit! For Purim [last year] there was a service in the evening, and a reading of the Megillah with special effects (who will forget Anne Fried’s reading only once?) and a very successful celebration in the Cheder, both in fancy dress and with abundant hamantaschen. Thanks to all our bakers! We also had a highly successful collection for the local food bank – and thank the community for its continued generosity. We repeated that collection this spring with even greater success.

Our communal seder was over-subscribed. Ninety-six people (67 adults and 29 children) attended and it was a very successful event, with thanks to Dianne Mathews for supervising the oven cleaning, Vicki Ashmore for inspired singing and Janvier Palmer for organising the excellent meal. There had been no service on the first day, and this will be rectified for the coming year.

Yom Hashoah was marked with a speaker arranged by the Education Committee and a meaningful ceremony with the Cheder. Tikkun Leyl was held on Shavuot and very well attended. Thanks to Ann Fried for “greening” the sanctuary. Following the discussion on the Book of Ruth after the service on the Saturday, there was cheesecake, and ice cream was enjoyed at the Cheder next day.

High Holydays started in the synagogue and were completed as usual in Crofton Halls. Judi Sheffrin did a magnificent job of organising mitzvot and the wardens kept things running. The children’s services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were well attended. We identified some issues in timing and in co-ordinating with the children’s services and we hope things will be even better this year.

Sukkot was successful, despite the rain. The decorated and illuminated sukkah was lovely and wine and cheese after both the evening and the morning services were much enjoyed by those who attended!  Simchat Torah saw the BRS kletzmer group incorporate live music and dancing as well as unrolling the scroll, and was again very well attended and was a very good celebration. Congratulations and thanks to Dianne Mathews and Marilyn McKeever as our Kallot Torah and Bereshit.

Our Chanukah Fair was enjoyed by all and raised much needed funds (thank you Amanda Penn and Sonia Hyams and team), although attendance at candle lightings was slightly lower than usual because of the proximity to other festivals.

We have had two excellent B’nei Mitzvah and a baby blessing with an extra celebration on the Sunday.

The Religion and Ritual Committee has worked incredibly hard to organise our services throughout the year. Stephanie is hugely grateful to its members who have been so very supportive and active; our choir; our lay service leaders and Torah readers; the security team; the greeters and all those who prepare kiddush for the work they do so that Bromley shul continues to provide services that run at such a very high standard. A special thanks to our Chair for continuing to produce rabbis out of hats for us and to David Zerihan for several last-minute Torah readings.  We can be really proud of our shul.   However, we are down on numbers and actively looking to the community to get more involved – having to provide lay leaders and readers is putting a strain on a small group of people and we lost Jon Woolf from the committee for some months during which he was much missed. The more wardens we have, the less frequent their duties become and anyone who might be willing to join them, even only very occasionally, or the service leaders and readers, will be very welcome. Being a warden is truly a rewarding experience that we would love to share more!

CARING COMMUNITY (led by Pauline Jeffree)

May I open by thanking members of the Caring Community Committee for their support and hard work and for gentle and practical ways of helping shul members. In addition I thank other members of our synagogue who help by visiting members, whether in person or by telephone; your support is welcome and invaluable.

Reaching Out:  TEA PARTIES
With the support of Jewish Care, we run tea parties for those known to our volunteers as being alone, serving sandwiches, fish and vegetarian, and homemade cakes made by our volunteers, and we chat over a cup of tea for about two hours.  Attendees include members not only from Bromley shul but also from other local Synagogues, residents and members of our local community.  The tea parties occur every month at Pauline’s home and all potential attendees receive written invitations plus follow-up telephone calls to ensure anyone wanting to attend can do so, and we arrange transport as necessary.  We also follow up anyone we were expecting but who didn’t attend, to ensure that all is well. If anyone reading or hearing this report would be interested in helping or attending, please do not hesitate to contact me for more information.

A small team of volunteers from our synagogue have all undergone police checks, GDPR training and study and training sessions with Jewish Care.  All details that as volunteers we have agreed may be held by Jewish Care are updated annually or more frequently should there be a change in circumstances.

KNIT, NATTER, SEWING and STITCHING
We continue to support the Intensive Care Baby Unit of King’s College Hospital. Two of our group sew specialised quilt covers for newly developed incubators.  In addition we make tiny baby cardigans, small and larger blankets and traffic-light pull-on hats, the colours helping the staff to track each baby’s development and the level of monitoring s/he requires. We provide beautifully knitted items for every baby entering the ICU, including teddy bears, and white sets, including a white Teddy, for parents whose little ones die.

In addition to supporting this unit at KCH, we also knit bunnies and chicks, which hold Cadbury’s Cream Eggs for sale by St Christopher’s Hospice at Easter time. At Christmas we knit small stockings and Christmas puddings, which are hung on Christmas trees within the hospice as part of their decorations.

Anyone wanting to join us please talk to me or any of the knitters.  We would love to have you and can provide wool, patterns, knitting needles and help with learning how to knit or a refresher course.

TALKING HIGHLiGHT
A small team of us meet at either my home or the Synagogue, and we record the monthly newsletter to be sent on discs or sticks to members who have  sight problems.  The service is absolutely free and we don’t need the discs returned.  Every member receiving Talking Highlight also receives the paper version.  This
service is wonderful because it keeps one in touch with the community.  Please let us know if you would like to receive Talking Highlight.

MACMILLAN

You all know what a happy occasion the MacMillan Coffee Morning is.  It is advertised to local synagogues and flyers and posters are distributed to schools, libraries, Shortlands Station and passers-by.  We have an array of beautifully made and delicious cakes all produced by Shul members served with hot and cold drinks.  This year, a synagogue member who works for MacMillan took the opportunity to join us and tell us of the wonderful projects being unwound to support individuals and families when Cancer has entered their lives.  The amazing prizes to be won in the raffle and various games helped with our overall success in raising the amazing amount of £750, all of which has gone to aid the work of MacMillan. We look forward to meeting again on Friday, 25 September 2020 at the Synagogue.

OTHERS

  • We are represented at the South London Forum and attend meetings at Nightingale House on a regular basis. Topics presented to representatives from Synagogues South of the river are informative and helpful.   Meeting together provides a wonderful opportunity for networking.
  • We attend meetings convened by Bromley Council, which keeps us updated of local happenings.
  • I am a committee member of Transport for London.  Recently, representatives from TfL and Dial-a-Ride came to my home, and we told them of the various difficulties experienced by a number of travellers seeking rides with DAR.
  • We attend meetings convened by Age UK.  I, or any committee member, would be happy to answer any questions and always want to hear from you if you need help or just a chat.

If you would like to join any of the activities in which we are involved do let me know.  If you have ideas for other ways of reaching out I would love to hear from you,

SOCIAL CENTRE (led by Dianne Mathews)

The Social Centre continues to meet regularly on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month with an attendance of 15 to 25.  We’ve welcomed new members and new helpers and continue to enjoy Andreas’s exercises as well as talks and musical entertainments. We had a very successful summer party when 31 people came along to enjoy the food and participate in a dancing entertainment. My thanks to everyone who comes along.

EDUCATION (led by Barbara Kurtz)

Our year started with new initiatives.  Some, like the “Bar discussions”, where young people met together outside the synagogue, were not too successful, but Shabbat Study Sessions on the theme of “Rereading the Rabbis of the Talmud” were very well received.  We have subsequently enjoyed Shabbat Study Sessions with student rabbis Anna Posner and Mati Kirschenbaum.

Prof Bernie Cohen arrived with a carload of fascinating examples of computers, game consoles etc from of his own large collection to illustrate his talk on “The History of Computation”.  He [was] due to give another talk at the end of March. Visiting speaker Gillian Walnes-Perry gave an absorbing talk on “The Surprising Legacy of Anne Frank” to a large audience.  We were fortunate to welcome Roosje Steenhart-Drucker on Yom  Ha’Shoah to give us an illuminating and very different view of her life in the Netherlands during the Second  World War.  Joanna Koenigsberg arranged a talk on “Estate Planning” to encourage members to make sure their financial affairs were in the best possible shape, and we were delighted to welcome back  Mohammed Fahili who  spoke to us so inspiringly about the work of his foundation in Akko, one of the synagogue’s chosen Kol Nidre charities last year.

Introduction to Judaism classes take place during cheder mornings and we are most grateful to John Posner who has taken over this ever-expanding class.

Well done to Vicki Ashmore who offered to investigate the possible interest in Hebrew lessons and now has a waiting list of pupils!

The committee lost Ruth Rolle and Lili Evans – our thanks to them for their invaluable contribution – but we have gained four new members, Mariella Russell, Ruth Dwight, Rachael Ashmore and Danielle Woodward, who are breathing new life into our meetings   My thanks to all members, old and new, for all their work and ideas over the year. Thanks are due once again to Marilyn Freeman who is ever busier showing groups of school children round the shul, giving them a lesson in basic Judaism to meet the requirements of their curriculum.  Marilyn is pleased to announce there have been 22 school visits to BRS, with 6 planned for March.  Many thanks to her for taking all of this on. She would dearly love some help as the number of requests from schools is on the increase.

Sam Barnett retired in July after many years as our representative on the SACRE committee.  Huge thanks to her and to Donna Gold who has succeeded her.

The Education Committee oversees the Cheder and I would like to thank its Head Teachers and all the teachers and helpers for their hard work.  Sue Bowyer and Heidi Small look after the youngest pupils in the Gan, while Lili Evans has been succeeded by Rachael Ashmore and Seb Farmar as they try to encourage the older ones to join in the events planned for the Youth Group.  “Head Teachers” was in the plural as July saw the retirement after many years of Vicki Ashmore and the arrival of Danielle Woodward.  Sincere thanks to Vicki for all she did for the cheder over those years, and welcome to Danielle who has made an excellent start in the post.  We now have both of them serving on the committee – a win-win situation!

CHEDER (led by Danielle Woodward)

The staff at present numbers 12, excluding the Head Teacher. Of these, six are working as a job share and two run the Gan Yeladim (kindergarten). We have 5 young helpers. 60 children are enrolled in our cheder, including the Gan and helpers.

The CHAI curriculum is used to teach Jewish Studies in all the Kitot. Danielle, Ruth Dwight and Mariella Russell are in the process of conducting research into other Cheders and their syllabuses in order to make changes to our own.

Danielle is planning a trip to the Jewish Museum on the last day of the Shavuot term in July.

To encourage our children to mix with the rest of the congregation, our cheder has held/will hold various shul-wide events, including a Rosh Hashanah bring-and-share dinner, the annual Chanukah party, a Purim Celebration Day, a Yom HaShoah service and hopefully a Youth Club table at the Communal Seder.

Last year, the children raised Tzedakah money for Jewish Child’s Day and this year they are raising money for Last Chance Animal Rescue and Roundabout Dramatherapy (the latter is where Cheder mum Judy Taylor volunteers).

“Hooray Cheder”, our Cheder parent group, is running under the leadership of Amanda Penn and Sonia Hyams. They have helped with many of the extra-curricular events which happen during Cheder hours, including the Chanukah Fair.  Amanda is stepping down so we are looking for more help with the PTA group.

The Youth Group is now under the leadership of Rachael Ashmore, who has run monthly events in the synagogue as well as a trip to Airjump trampoline park.

Each year our Cheder children in Kitah Zayin receive a siddur of their own from the Goldman Trust. We are so very grateful for the continued generosity of the Trust.

Currently Vicki is working with a dedicated music teacher to run classes during cheder and a shul klezmer band, and to create a musical curriculum.

The Cheder is able to run only because of the commitment and participation of our teachers, parents and helpers. Danielle is truly grateful for each and every one of them.

COMMS GROUP (led by Judi Sheffrin)

[Please see report in April 2020 Highlight].  Judi thanks all who have maintained lines of communication with our members and is urgently seeking help to keep all our media going at such a high standard, but possibly in different ways, in future.

COUNCIL OF CHRISTIANS AND JEWS SE LONDON (led by Stephen Weil)

CCJ SE London had several most interesting meetings over the past year.

In March 2019, we went on a guided tour of two historic places of worship in central London: we visited the Temple Church, consecrated in 1185, whose Round Church is modelled on Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre; and Bevis Marks Synagogue built in 1701, modelled on the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam, which in turn refers to a model of the Temple in Jerusalem.

To tie in with the religious festivals of late Spring, we had a discussion on “Celebrating, in the same week, Pentecost and Shavuot” led by Rev Jonathan Croucher, Vicar of Christ Church Gipsy Hill, and Carole Abrahams from Catford Synagogue, who talked about the significance of the Book of Ruth, read during Shavuot.

On the other side of the summer, as the Jewish calendar approached Yom Kippur, we looked at “Fasting and Feasting in Christianity and Judaism” with Rev’d Cecile Schnyder, vicar at St Clement w St Peter; and Matthew de Lange, a former Chair of our shul.

In November, Rabbi Chava Koster, who grew up in The Netherlands, gave a memorable talk on the extraordinarily rich story of Dutch Jewry. At the start of the Second World War, there were 155,000 Jews in the Netherlands.  We heard that the efficiency of the Dutch state apparatus and railways, in a small and densely populated country, enabled the Nazis to gather most of them for deportation to collection points and onward to the death camps.  As a teenager, Rabbi Koster contacted Miep Gies, who had protected Anne Frank’s family, to ask her about what had happened to the Dutch Jews and received a first-hand account in Miep’s own apartment.  Rabbi Koster also talked about two other Jews of the period, older than the teenage Anne, whose highly spiritual writings survived their deportation from the Netherlands and deaths in the camps: Etty Hillesum and Edith Stein.

Most recently, Christian and Jewish ministers in training led a discussion on “Sharing experiences as student clergy and expectations of ministry”.  Our student rabbi speaker in her fourth year at Leo Baeck College was the excellent and thoughtful Iris Ferreira.

Thanks to St Stephen’s, Dulwich and to Bromley Reform Synagogue for hosting our meetings, and especially to our Branch Chair, Rev Bernhard Schunemann.

HOUSING AND BUILDING (led by Graham Harris)

Work was carried out in 2019/20 as follows:

  • We have had lights upgraded to LED in all of the hallways, kitchen, library and lights under plaques, to meet fire regulations. This should save money as bulbs have a longer lifespan and lower wattage.
  • The cloakroom has been turned into an office for Cheder.
  • We can now stream services through YouTube via a camera fitted by Edwards Security
  • The audio system has been upgraded as the sound was poor.
  • We are just about to have the water heater replaced in the kitchen, thanks to Janet Posner’s hard work in finding a company to do the work.
  • The garden had been cut back by contractors to a level that our new head gardener (Matthew) can keep under control. Matthew has been doing lots of work to keep it well maintained and has introduced a compost bin.
  • We have had a new hand dryer fitted in the ladies toilet as a trial. If this proves successful we will fit them in all toilets, which will save on paper towels.

The boiler and heating system is serviced every year. The lift is serviced every 3 months. The fire extinguishers are serviced every year. The fire alarm and intruder alarm are serviced every 6 months. The emergency lights and pat testing are done annually. The CCTV is serviced once a year.

SECURITY AND SAFEGUARDING (led by Graham Harris)

I would first like to thank all the volunteers who give up their time to help protect our community, especially Tom, who looks after our Social Centre every month.

We had a very well attended level one CST training course at our shul last September and we intend to hold another one in October of this year.

Lizzie is doing a great job of security on Sundays with help from parents, and a special kiddush has been arranged for her as a thank you.

We have been offered funding by the CST for Security for the next few months, which should help our funds.

We have had new CCTV cameras installed all around the building and the picture quality is excellent.

A new fob entry system has been fitted to improve security.  It is logged on Janet’s PC so that we know who is in and out of the building, with a state of the art door bell system so you can see who’s at the door at any time day or night.

We have had bolts fitted to the garden room doors in case we need to go into lock down (recommended by the CST).

We have formed a Security and Safeguarding Committee, as suggested by the Board. This is chaired by Adrian Jackson and tries to meet once every 3 months.  However, a lot can be done by email.

The CST has supplied us with new stab vests free of charge.

SE10 AND BEYOND (led by Michelle Brooks Evans)

The group has continued to meet every four to six weeks, with evenings usually attended by between eight and twelve members and always with some sort of Jewish theme. The past year has included a poetry evening, a session talking about Jewish paintings and pictures, a Chanukah candle lighting, a summer picnic in Greenwich and a discussion about what we want from a Jewish community. The groups stays active and has had new members from outside the shul. On its behalf, Michelle invites all shul members to join the group, which has fostered personal friendships resulting in trips to the theatre, dinners, quick coffees and chats.

IN CONCLUSION

Finally I thank the Board, committees, sub committees and various groups for all their hard work.  A special thanks to Kieron for all the extra work he has put in this year and for supporting me as Chair and, actually, to Sonia too. I also thank the wardens and lay readers who have taken on a lot of extra work these past months, the committee chairs and members who have made things happen and also those who do things that are not necessarily visible but contribute so much to life at BRS.  In particular, I thank all the members who so generously give of their time to visit the sick and lonely and who carry out acts of chesed (loving kindness) to other people without seeking any recognition or thanks. This is what a Jewish community is all about. Thank you to our dedicated administrator Janet Burlem and, finally, I would like to thank Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Gilly Shulman and Amit Handelsman of the RJ for their support for our community.

Michelle Brooks Evans, 17 March 2020.

NB Most of the individual reports were submitted long before cancellations due to COVID-19 were contemplated.