BROMLEY AND DISTRICT REFORM SYNAGOGUE LIMITED – ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – 22 March 2023
The minutes can be downloaded here.
REPORT OF THE BOARD
The Board has 16 elected members and met ten times in the past year. The Executive also met via zoom on several occasions, as needed.
Kol Nidre Appeal
As always the Board selected three charities in addition to the shul for our Kol Nidre Appeal. These charities were World Jewish Relief (£4,408), British Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights ((£4,020), St Christopher’s Hospice ((£3,704) and our Shul (£6,073). Our community can be congratulated for its generosity.
REPORTS FROM THE COMMITTEES AND GROUPS
Religion and Ritual (Marilyn Freeman)
This has really been a year of change for the shul, the two most important features are of course welcoming Rabbi Laura on 1st April last year and being fully in the building after nearly 2 years of lockdown.
Pesach was once again celebrated in the building with Rabbi Laura leading the Communal Seder, many thanks to Janvier and her team – I’m sure she is looking for helpers for this year.
Since the last AGM we have had (by my count) 12 B’nai Mitzvah which must be a record for Bromley. Thanks must go to Rabbi D-Y who instituted BM breakfasts which are continuing, led now by Rabbi Laura and thanks especially to Judy Taylor as BM Coordinator and her successor Julia (Silk) Hodges. .
The High Holy Days were, can I say the Highlight of the year. For the first time since I can remember all the Services were held in Highland Road. This was possible because of technology – thank you Kieron. We were able to broadcast the Services to the Garden Room as well as on YouTube enabling everyone who wanted to participate. Thanks again to Judy T for organising the Community Choir for the HHD. Under the leadership of Ruth Beckman and the addition of a couple of professional singers to our augmented choir, our lay readers and of course Rabbi Laura we had very meaningful Services. Thanks also to the leaders of the Children’s Services.
The Community Choir has also sung at the B’nei Mitzvah with Ruth leading. We built a Succah which was decorated by the children and we honoured Tom and Sonia at Simchat Torah
Rabbi Laura was officially inducted in November, at her request by members of the Community. Invitees included local Mayors and several Rabbis. The induction was followed by tea, Havdalah and music.
Chanukah was ‘late this year’ but thanks are due to Judi for arranging lightings in members’ homes even over the Bank Holiday period.
Of course we have regular Shabbat morning Services led twice a month by Rabbi Laura and apart from B’nai Mitzvah there have been baby blessings and Giyur ceremonies. The other weeks the Services are conducted and Torah read by our wonderful pool of lay readers, thank you John for organising the rota.
Members who are unable to attend in person are now able through the wonders of YouTube technology to watch Services online , thank you Kieron and your team of streamers, we shall be having a lunchtime discussion on the future of online/ offline Services.
We shall be celebrating /have recently celebrated Purim with the Megilla reading and hopefully Hamentaschen.
Services don’t just happen, apart from the Service leaders and Torah readers the Wardens must be thanked for the running of the Service, allocating Mitzvoth and making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible, our new lighter Torah scroll enables more people to have the Mitzvah of Hagba. It would be lovely if we had some extra wardens to lighten the load.
Thanks must go to the ‘regular’ choir; sadly we have lost too many singers, most recently Nadia z’l. Please don’t be shy, come and sit with us and sing. A workshop has been arranged on March 19th.
Thanks to the R&R committee especially Judi who does the minutes and again everyone who helps in running the ritual side of the Shul.
Caring Community (Judy Taylor)
It was a great pleasure to join the CC as chair a couple of months ago, beginning by convening a meeting at the synagogue – the first time the committee had met in person since before the pandemic. Apart from me, there are a couple of new members of the committee and we are in the process of settling in and feeling our way around the various strands of activity that the CC undertakes.
Thanks to Barbara for reporting on (and running) the Social Centre activities, to Jacquie for the Tea Parties and to the numerous volunteers who help support those two important activities at BRS.
Alongside Social Centre, Tea Parties and Knit and Natter, the CC exists to support others in a variety of ways – from sending cards to making phone calls, visiting and in some cases offering regular support to community members where needed. Our members are in regular contact with a number of individuals and families, and we have a growing list of members who are happy to be asked to help with visits, phone calls, errands on an ad hoc basis. Please do get in touch if you’d be happy to get involved, even occasionally, in offering support to others in this way.
Following on from Rabbi Laura’s initiative of the January ‘phone around’ we will be working with her and Jennie in setting up area groups for social events and local support. We are also currently investigating training needs for volunteers, for those involved in social centre/tea parties and also across the community.
Thank you to all members of the Caring Community committee for being so welcoming to a new chair and I look forward to working with you over the coming months.
Social Centre (Barbara Kurtz)
The Social Centre has continued to meet regularly twice a month and we are delighted to report an increase in numbers of late, particularly among newly joined members of the synagogue. While everyone enjoys the usual socialising, card playing, exercises with Andreas and, of course the delicious lunch, talks and especially music are always very popular. Tom Shiels and David Coronel are very welcome regulars and Roland Perrin and his clarinetist friend wonderfully entertained this year’s Summer Party. Amelia Kyazze came to talk to us about her life and introduce us to her new book and Sue and Jon’s musical talk was so popular we have to invite them back! Bromley Healthwatch has also asked us for experiences and views on the state of health services fin Bromley, which members were only happy to supply!
I must thank all the helpers – Sue, Avril, Alona, Effie, Ashley, Trudi and Elka; Andreas for keeping us a bit fitter and of course Tom who looks after our security.
Knit, natter & Stitch (Barbara Kurtz)
Our small but select group continues to meet once a month at Barbara’s home, mostly to natter but also to bring along all the knitted and stitched goods made since the last meeting. Once again we were busy with hats, scarves, blankets etc. to go with the shoeboxes sent out each December in time for Christmas. They go to Eastern Europe where this year our efforts have been particularly welcome and much needed because of the war in Ukraine. Thanks to Karen Powell for collecting these. Throughout the year we keep the prem baby unit at the PRUH supplied with cannula mittens, blankets, incubator covers and knitted toys. The latter
have given particular pleasure to parents who are delighted to see a panda or a teddy in the corner of their tiny baby’s incubator. We were very pleased to receive a donation of large amounts of wool from Naomi Marston – her Mother was a very keen knitter. The Pauline Jeffree fund has funded some of the fabric used to make the incubator covers. We are a small group and would be happy to welcome new knitters!
Macmillan coffee morning (Elka Carr)
BRS hosted our annual Macmillan Cancer Support coffee morning from 10.00 on Sunday, 2ndOctober back in our shul in conjunction (for the 1st time) with the cheder and gan. It was a wonderful opportunity for cheder and gan parents, teachers and children to meet with other members of our community. Everyone was welcome, many people came to support the charity and the atmosphere on the morning was electric! Special thanks go to Sue and Frankie for letting us use the space.
This year we had hoped to raise around £500, but the final amount was £1447. It was a marvellous achievement and we thank everyone who supported the get-together and who donated.
Education including cheder (Amanda Penn)
A big todah raba – thank you- to all the class facilitators, helpers, parents, and community volunteers who made these events such a success. Supported by the Donor Trust, the cheder Head Teacher, Frankie Gruzd, has been developing a 3-year rotating curriculum. Second-year topics were completed and delivered, and third-year topic development is in progress. This will be completed at the end of this academic year, after which we will begin again in September with the existing year-1 topics. An online repository of resources is continuously curated to enable our team of 10 class facilitators to easily access materials to support their lesson plans, guide learning, and provide kehillah (community) experiences for our pupils.
In Hebrew, we are piloting the Eizeh Kef programme for our junior kittot (classes). This system of learning Hebrew was developed for Leo Baeck College and mimics how we learn language as children – through key sounds and vocabulary and building on this. For our senior kittot, we have invested in a professional teacher who is both delivering classes and, with funding from the Donor Trust, designing a curriculum based on the new Hebrew Strategy for ongoing use. Another exciting development is the introduction of parent representatives, coordinated by Hooray Cheder. Each class now has a parent representative and a WhatsApp group to help support communication with parents and coordinate parent volunteers for special events.
Challenges – Our cheder has been steadily growing, including several new families that have joined our Gan Yeladim (pre-school). The Head Teacher has assembled a working group to support kittot facilitator recruitment. We are exploring ways to encourage more members of our community to become facilitators; such as emphasising that being a Hebrew speaker or expert in Judaism is not required. Rather, we are looking for people who can use our plentiful bank of materials and blend this with their own interests and skills, using them to guide students in a learning journey that facilitators and students can take together. All BRS members are encouraged to consider whether they would be interested in helping the children in our community develop their sense of Jewish identity and community.
Looking forward – We are looking forward to another exciting spring term of Purim and Pesach celebrations. We have been working to further engage parents in supporting our events and will be building on this through our new parent representatives over the next year. Once the entire 3-year curriculum has been completed, we will look at other aspects of Cheder that can be further enhanced.
Adult Education (John Posner)
Highlights – Since November 2019 the shul has been providing adult Hebrew classes. These classes transitioned to Zoom during lockdown, and to make these classes widely accessible, continue to be delivered remotely. We are also supporting conversion students with a separate Biblical Hebrew class, and in September 2022 we began a trial Hebrew GCSE tutoring programme. If successful, we hope to be able to offer GCSE Hebrew tuition to future students. Rabbi Laura, who in addition to teaching a monthly “Tantalising Talmud,” class has been convening an Education Committee sub-group focused on following up
on the community Visioning Day recommendations for adult education. A direct result of this is “Women in Tenach and Talmud” with student rabbi Martina Loreggian. This study series of four sessions will begin in March 2023. Rabbi Laura is also planning a series of coffee morning sessions for parents during
The Board voted in favour of providing musical workshops to teach the entire community about the songs we sing in shul. The workshops will start in March 2023 and aim to teach the entire repertoire before the High Holidays.
Community Education Highlights – On the Cheder Parents WhatsApp group, a discussion emerged about the poor standard of RE tuition on Judaism in our children’s state schools. Examples of erroneous teaching, sometimes inadvertent anti-Semetic behaviour, and a focus on Orthodox traditions were flagged as key concerns. In response, the Education Committee invited Anna Silver from the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD) to speak to parents and others who were interested in how Judaism was taught in schools. Over 30 parents attended the session. She provided insightful information about how RE curriculums are
decided and provided a list of useful resources for parents. This included a template letter that parents can send to schools to express concern about they way Judaism is taught. A small email group is now established to send information about Judaism in schools.
Looking forward – The Education Committee is planning to host the BOD “The Jewish Living
Experience” next year. If successful, our shul may provide a venue where local schools, teachers, members of other religious organisations can join us to learn about Judaism by visiting 15 stalls on topics such as “Shabbat” and “Kashrut” amongst others. Do watch this space!
Youth Highlights – This year, youth activities focused on post-B’mitzvah students in order to keep
the most recent cohort engaged in shul activities now that they are no longer Cheder students. They will be having regular meet ups which have a lunch out, and pizza making/movie night.
Challenges and Looking forward – While Cheder classes continued over lockdown, unfortunately it was more
difficult to coordinate engagement with youth no longer in Cheder. We have been working hard to ensure we have a good connection with post-Cheder aged youth and have recruited a youth worker to coordinate regular social activities over the next year. A small youth subcommittee has been organised and will
meet for the first time in March 2023 to develop a long-term strategy for youth engagement at BRS. With this group and the onboarding of the youth worker, we look forward to building more community with the next generation of BRS members.
Comms Group (Judi Sheffrin)
Yet again, Comms has been busy almost every day, especially with all the new events and ideas generated since Rabbi Laura joined us. My thanks to Jo Biggin for keeping e-Light neat and accessible, Rhona Green for her help – mainly with HighLight but also with other ad hoc design issues – and practical advice and Bob Symonds, who still does so much more behind the scenes than just prepare the Social Page. Although the website is a communications tool, it is used for many other functions and now comes under the auspices of the rabbi’s “geek squad”, to whom we should all be grateful.
I’d also like to thank all who have provided ideas and items for HighLight and e-Light.
A plea: if you want to contribute to our publications, we’d love to hear from you. However, please do take note of the deadlines. There just aren’t enough hours in the day or pages in each issue for us to be as flexible with time or generous with space as we’d be in an ideal world, so we need good notice to prepare for and accommodate all that we receive.
Board of Deputies (Joe Millis)
Another year has passed, and here is my report as your Deputy to the synagogue’s AGM.
It’s been the usual fun and games this past year at the Board of Deputies, with it being very difficult to see how any kind of consensus can emerge on a range of issues.
These include first and foremost over Israel, where it is hard to see how the BoD can claim to represent the entirety of British Jewry on the issue.
I have been involved with others from the Progressive movement and many of the younger Deputies in trying to get the leadership to be a little more critical of the Netanyahu-Ben Gvir regime – or even just to be a little more circumspect. Alas, however, to little or no avail. Perhaps the next leadership, from July 2024, will take a more progressive view.
One good point in the political arena is the fact that there now seems to be closer relations with the Labour party. Board President Marie van der Zyl (now OBE) gave a very good speech when the party was taken out of “special measures”, imposed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission after the Corbyn years.
I have been trying to arrange a visit by Marie to Bromley, possibly in late June or July, to hear our views and answer our questions on whether the Board can say it represents British Jews when there are so many diverse views and clashes of language and ideology.
This is my penultimate report to the synagogue, as I intend to stand down in 2024 after almost 12 years as your Deputy. So, if someone is thinking of representing Bromley from July 2024 and would like to discuss what this entails, please do not hesitate to contact me via the office.
Council of Christians and Jews SE London (Stephen Weil)
CCJ SE London had two meetings in calendar 2022, the first physical meetings since COVID.
To celebrate our ability to re-start physical meetings, we focused on Isaiah – Prophet of Hope
In the first session, in May 2022, our subject was “Isaiah – the historical personality”. In the second session, in September 2022, we discussed why Isaiah is such an important figure for both religions. Outstanding speakers have led our discussions: Rabbi Larry Becker is Emeritus Rabbi Sukkat Shalom Synagogue, Fr. Steffan Matthias is Vicar, St Peter’s Streatham and Avigail Simmonds – Rosten is Program Manager, CCJ. Rabbi Larry talked about the strong archaeological and biblical evidence of the life of Isaiah
son of Amoz. We learnt that Isaiah was related to the royal family of David, which gave him
great influence in the Court. Avigail focused on the passage of Isaiah which is read on Yom Kippur (“You do not fast in keeping with the spirit of the day, to make your voice heard on high. Is this a fast that I will
choose?”). Avigail discussed why the Rabbis chose this text to illuminate and add depth to the
prescriptions within Torah regarding the “correct” legal observation of Yom Kippur. Fr Steffan talked about the experience of teaching Isaiah to trainee priests, and in particular the challenge that many faced, when studying the Book of Isaiah for the first time, that the Prophet’s words seemed not to be so clear and directly relevant when read fully in context.
Thanks to St Stephens Dulwich for hosting our 2022 meetings, and especially to our Branch
Chair, Rev Bernhard Schunemann.
Housing and Building (Graham Harris)
Work undertaken and planned in 2022/23 as follows:
- We are waiting for some good weather so we can get the front of the building painted and the gutters cleared.
- We are waiting for a quote to replace the old boilers and add a Hive control, so we are able to turn on /off the heating remotely.
- We are due a 5 year electrical testing in October.
- We have appointed a caretaker (Dom) who has already been very helpful letting in contractors, setting up social centre and keeping the outside paths and fire escapes clear.
- 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.
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.
I have been liaising with the CST regarding Security and training, and have managed to get a lot more
training done since it’s been online. They are working very hard to improve the service we get in
Lizzy is doing a great job of security on Sundays with help from parents, we have had some CST
funding for Security on Shabbat, so Lizzy has been doing some security shifts, which has helped John
with the rota and finding volunteers.
Safeguarding (Adrian Jackson)
The safeguarding group is made up of Adrian Jackson, Graham Harris, Victoria Hart and Moira Murray.
This past year all the safeguarding rules and regulations have been reviewed and updated.
We are particularly lucky that both Moira and Vicky have a lot of expertise in this field and over the coming months we will ensure that all the training is in place to comply with the regulations.
Moira Murray has agreed to take over as the new Head of Safeguarding.
It is nearly a year since our not so new Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner joined us. With Rabbi Laura’s energy and ideas, alongside our wonderful community BRS has gone from strength to strength. I would like to thank the Board, committees, sub committees and various groups and members; I am always in awe of the amount of time and hard work that you all give. With that in mind I would like to add a special thanks to Adrian Jackson, Vicki Ashmore and Joe Millis who are stepping down from the Board this year, and to Heidi who will be remaining on the Board but stepping down from the Vice Chair role. They all remain involved in their own particular areas. There is an immense amount of work that goes into ensure our community is cared for and continues to flourish. In particular I thank all the members who so generously give of their time to carry out acts of loving kindness to other people without seeking any recognition or thanks. This is what a Jewish community is all about, this is what BRS is about.