Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021!

There will be many who can’t wait to say goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021. However, despite all the difficulties and sad news that the past year has brought us, it has also given us a unique opportunity to connect to those around us in different parts of our country and the world. During our High Holyday services we had people watching from all around the UK, but also from Switzerland, Poland, South Africa, USA and even Australia!

Saturday services with the wonder of zoom and YouTube have meant that many people, young and old, and families have had the chance to take part when before they could not get to the synagogue building. I have had the honour of lighting the candles almost every Friday night since lockdown via zoom with a hard-core group including Marilyn, Judi and Bob, and we are often joined by others. With all the uncertainty we are surrounded by, this constant has kept me grounded, and a weekly check-in with this lot always puts a smile on my face.

Last month Professor Bernie Cohen gave us a wonderful talk; the Social Centre has continued to meet every second and fourth Wednesday; and members of the Knit and Natter group have reconvened to resume their important work for premature babies. Rabbi Mati has continued to deliver his study sessions and teach at cheder. With his well- attended Shabbat services and outreach to our community, he has established himself as our Rabbi. It is not only in Highlight that Rabbi Mati has been published, but once again he has headlined in the JC in an article about Rabbis joining new communities during the pandemic.

During Chanukah, Rabbi Mati lit the first candle and the last, followed by study sessions. Every night of Chanukah was celebrated with candle lightings from different homes, and I thank each and every one of those volunteers. We have had stories, singing, music and discussions. The darkness of winter was illuminated by the shared joy of this festival.

The children at cheder ended their learning by having a Chanukah party with Gilbert Giggles. It was wonderful to see 35 households zoom in to the party, and there was a lot of laughter and fun going on. The cheder PTA ran an online auction, which raised £776. Thank you for all the generous donations and bidding that took place.

Another success story is the BRS Klezmer band run by Joe Parks, which that played at the Caring Community Tea Party. Joe only had the opportunity to rehearse with Aimee and James Ashmore, Sophie and Sara Taylor and Lloyd Evans a few times over the lockdown. Everyone really enjoyed the music and the band has promised to play live when we are back in the building.

At the last Board meeting of 2020 the Board unanimously agreed to appoint Hadassah Britz as a Vice President in recognition of her many years of service to the community. We are honoured to have Hadassah and Lew as beloved members of BRS.

So we say goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021, and all the new opportunities and potential that the new year brings. The first festival we celebrate in January is

Tu B’Shvat, which has a long and varied history,

but the theme most commonly given to the holiday today is the environment. It is thought of as a festival of nature, and of the fruits native to Israel. During this festival, Jews recall the sacred obligation to care for the world, and the responsibility to share the fruits of the earth with all. I understand that we will be marking the festival with a “study seder” with fruit and wine, more details elsewhere in this Highlight.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and joyous 2021.

Michelle Brooks Evans