Sir Trevor Chinn put it simply. “As a community, we have a decision to make. Do we accept decline as inevitable, or do we challenge it?”
There seemed no doubt that, on a cold but sunny morning in the grounds of JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre for London, the decision had been taken to take the challenge to the barricades.
At the conclusion of a three-month-long campaign on Jewish identity, jointly run by the Jewish Chronicle and JW3, it was time to bury a time capsule, inscribed with Theodor Herzl’s fierce dictum, “If you will it, it is no dream.” Inside the capsule, due to be opened in March 2113, are hundreds of testimonies of what being Jewish means in today’s Britain. Responses range from little children to nonagenarians, from the well-known and privileged to the low-key private person.
Three winning pieces of art, the work of London Jewish schoolchildren, have also gone in the capsule, together with Prince Charles’s speech to the 250th anniversary of the Board of Deputies, a copy of The Boys by Sir Martin Gilbert, signed by Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott, and copies of the JC. The JC’s round table debate from Rosh Hashana 2011 is included, and a piece of parchment, inscribed with the Hebrew word “Shalom”, and signed by rabbis from across the religious spectrum — Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, Sephardi leader Rabbi Abraham Levy, Masorti’s Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Reform rabbis Laura Janner-Klausner and Julia Neuberger, and the Liberal movement’s Rabbi Danny Rich. Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub also signed the parchment.
Sir Trevor, a board member of JW3, buried the capsule with Nick Viner, outgoing chief executive of the charity.
His successor, Ray Simonson, who will be in place when the centre opens in September, said: “We are building something unique, transforming the physical landscape of the London Jewish community, and a catalyst for revitalising it.”
In a century’s time, it is hoped, our descendants will open the time capsule and understand something of the forces driving Anglo-Jewry, on a cold sunny morning in March 2013.