The twelth annual European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage got off to a flying start on Sunday with a wide range of events.
The East London Central Synagogue launched a campaign to erect a statue to Jewish war poet and artist Isaac Rosenberg. Almost 30 people attended the event, which was introduced by Clive Bettington of the Jewish East End Celebration Society, assisted by Mr Rosenberg’s nephew Bernard Wynick.
Mr Rosenberg’s biographer Dr Jean Moorcroft Wilson gave a talk about the poet and actor Ben Caplan — from the BBC series Call the Midwife — read some of the moving poems written by the soldier, who was killed in the First World War at the age of 27.
Mr Bettington also led two guided walks through the East End during the day — one looking at the neighbourhood in which Isaac Rosenberg grew up and the other entitled Pickles, Pimps and the Palais, which covered the Jewish heritage of Commercial Road. On Sunday he will be leading a walk looking at Jewish connections in Maida Vale and St John’s Wood.
More than 40 people gathered at Finchley Road tube station to participate in the Jewish West Hampstead walk, led by guides Rachel Kolsky and Diane Burstein, to learn about the émigrés escaping from 1930s Europe, who settled in the area. Ms Kolsky painted an enchanting picture illustrated by readings from authors who had used the setting in their books and poems. For Jean Etherton, president of B’nai B’rith UK, “it was a trip down memory lane recalling family and friends I had known who were part of this milieu”.
The Congregation of Jacob attracted over 150 people to its open day at its folk-art style synagogue building, 80 per cent of whom were not Jewish and who asked a range of questions. To reflect this year’s theme of The Joys of Jewish Humour Reverend David Brandes put on a fez and a wig!
At Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue in Whitechapel, more than half of the visitors were, again, not Jewish, including a group from the Salvation Army.
The Jewish Museum’s Hidden Treasures exploration event and Rosh Hashanah activities were well-attended and the New West End Synagogue received over 80 visitors to its open day.
Around the UK, in Cornwall, a 50-strong mixed faith audience turned out for Kehillat Kernow’s storytelling evening, including music and communal singing. At the event, there was a display by the Interfaith Forum, including a model of Dor Kemmyn, the Cornish word for a ‘common ground’ building for all faiths to use.
Portsmouth and Southsea Hebrew Congregation showed a group of 20 people, including a church group, around the shul. Committee members Richard Cooper and Warren Freeman answered visitors’ questions.
Godfrey Fischer reported that the Thanet and District Reform Synagogue had almost 20 visitors to an exhibition on the history of Jewish humour. They created display boards reproducing cartoons from Neil Kerver’s The Great Jewish Cartoon Book.
Following an extensive Heritage restoration programme, Deane Road Cemetery in Liverpool held a reconsecration ceremony on Sunday celebrating its 175th anniversary. Around 120 people gathered for the ceremony and watched Saul Marks cut the ribbon to mark the reconsecration of the cemetery.
Barbara Nathan, joint B’nai B’rith UK co-ordinator for EDJCH with Valerie Bello for the past 12 years, said of the week-long heritage event: “We’re encouraged that many people enjoyed the events last Sunday. Some events received non-Jewish visitors of all ages and we’re always delighted when this potential for interfaith understanding is achieved, while providing a rare opportunity for our own community to explore our heritage.”
For further information about Jewish Heritage Days, both here and on the Continent, see www.bbuk.org.