British Jewry’s celebrations of Israel’s 60th anniversary entered a second week with a service of thanksgiving in London on Sunday hosted by five Reform, Liberal and Masorti congregations.
The venue was the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John’s Wood, whose walls of Jerusalem stone were a concrete sign of the links that have grown between the once anti-Zionist Liberals and the Jewish state.
LJS came together with the West London, Belsize Square, Westminster and New London synagogues to sponsor the event, along with the Reform and Liberal movements.
Eleven rabbis officiated and interfaith prayers for peace were recited by Imam Dr Adbuljalil Sajid of the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony, and the Reverend Elizabeth Griffiths of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.
The guest speaker was Rabbi Michael Boyden, formerly of Cheshire Reform Congregation who made aliyah in 1985.
Discussing Israel’s achievements and challenges, he said he had fallen in love with the country as a volunteer in 1967, but it was Judaism that led him to make it his home.
“How long could I say Lekabetz galuyoteinu me’arba canfot haaretz, ‘Gather in our exiles from the four corners of the earth’, or how often could I repeat those words Leshana habaah b’Yerushalayim, ‘Next year may I be in Jerusalem’, and live somewhere else?”
Israel, he reflected, “is the only state in the world whose policies and actions are obsessively condemned by the international community, and whose very right to exist is constantly debated and challenged not only by the Arab enemies of Israel but also by large segments of so-called advanced opinion in the Western world.”
Rabbi Boyden dedicated his address to his son Yonatan, who was killed on active service in Lebanon 15 years ago.
Children as young as three from the LJS nursery, other participating synagogues and the Akiva school in Finchley performed Hebrew songs.
Talya Lador-Fresher, Israel Embassy deputy head of mission, offered an idiosyncratic list of Israel’s top 10 achievements — from Amos Oz’s autobiography and eight Nobel laureates to the Bamba snack and ping-pong on Tel Aviv beach — a sign of its desire to be “a normal country”.