Open days bring heritage to the masses
Participants in the tour of Jewish Hampstead
B’nai B’rith UK’s 13th annual European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage programme got off to a festive start on Sunday with synagogues opening up their succahs to the wider public.
With “Judaism and the Natural World” as its theme, it was an apposite opportunity to explain the significance of the succah, the lulav and the etrog.
There was an impressive turnout in Cheltenham, with 250 people at an open day. At Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation, local historian and guide Gordon Franks reported an attendance of 170. “There was a real buzz all day and many visitors stayed on to ask questions,” he said.
Exeter Synagogue president Tony Reese was delighted with the crowd of 100. The event had been publicised on local radio and through the Devon Faith and Belief Forum and the Christian Friends of Israel.
Chatham Memorial Synagogue’s event also attracted a three-figure crowd, “including a wonderful group of 10 people from a nearby African church, who came dressed in fantastically colourful ceremonial robes”, said shul life president Gabriel Lancaster. “It was one of our most successful open days to date.”
There were three walking tours in Oxford, where a synagogue display included a schools-friendly explanation of Succot.
In London, Rachel Kolsky led a tour of Jewish Hampstead, incorporating B’nai B’rith history. Bevis Marks Synagogue hosted guests and it was a busy day at the London Jewish Cultural Centre in Golders Green with its Art House exhibition, showcasing artistic talent from the community.
Valerie Bello, B’nai B’rith’s joint UK co-ordinator for EDJCH, said “that heritage plays an increasingly significant role in our national life, strengthening people’s connection with their locality, making them conscious of their history and identity and forging bonds between individuals and their communities.
“We’re encouraged that many people enjoyed the events on Sunday and delighted when this potential for interfaith understanding is achieved. We’re looking forward to welcoming large crowds to events, open days and guided walks taking place across the next two weeks, when more Jewish heritage sites will be open in London and around the UK.”