Rabbi's window on a Swansea childhood

By Jay Grenby, May 27, 2010
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Rabbi Yisroel Fine and Joyce Ambrose admire the transferred windows

Rabbi Yisroel Fine and Joyce Ambrose admire the transferred windows

As a six-year-old in 1956, Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue rabbi Yisroel Fine was pictured with his mother at the opening of a new shul for Swansea Hebrew Congregation. Now 54 years later, the Welsh shul's stained glass windows, so familiar from his childhood, have been installed in the Cockfosters building.

When the Swansea shul closed last year, Rabbi Fine was alerted to the concern of the community's few remaining members for the future of the windows - a set of nine illustrating the festivals and a further set of 12 for the tribes of Israel.

He was contacted by former Swansea member Selwyn Franks, a cousin of his late father, Rabbi Meyer Fine, one of the rabbis who served the Swansea congregation during the 1950s.

"In no time at all, we here in Cockfosters had identified the perfect place for them," Rabbi Fine reported. "There were spots in the foyer and the landing of the stairway leading to our communal hall that would accommodate them perfectly."

There was just one problem - meeting the significant cost of removing the windows, transporting them to London and installing them at CNSS. But when he announced the project in a Shabbat sermon, "by the time kiddush was over, we had such a queue of people wishing to sponsor one or other of the windows that we had to disappoint quite a number of people."

The transfer was co-ordinated by Mr Franks, along with CNSS's Joyce Amb-rose, Jon Barron and Martin Alfreds.

Window sponsors, their families and former Swansea community members were among 100 guests at the consecration.

"It was a wonderful occasion, which turned out in part to be a bit of a reunion, with many people renewing old acquaintanceships," Rabbi Fine said. "But apart from that, it has given us great satisfaction to be able to form this permanent link with the Swansea community and to help keep its memory alive."

    Last updated: 11:09am, October 14 2010