Lincolnshire Jewish Community filled its historic synagogue for what is believed to be the first Jewish coming of age ceremony in the locality for more than 700 years — the batmitzvah of Jodie Renaud.
The service at Jews’ Court was conducted by Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, chair of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors, who has played a significant role in the congregation’s development.
Jodie, 18, spoke movingly about the inspiration of her late grandfather Allan Levene — “a big figure in shaping who I am today”— who was the community’s secretary and newsletter editor.
There was a kiddush for the 50 guests, among them Board of Deputies chief executive Gillian Merron, the former Lincoln MP.
Shul chair Richard Dale said the celebration had been “a real milestone” for the 35-member community, founded in 1992 with the support of Nottingham Liberal Synagogue.
“We had a service to mark the community’s barmitzvah but this was the real thing.
“Jodie has been coming to services since she was a little girl and her family has been the heart and soul of the community so it was very emotional.”
Such was the excitement generated by the simchah that the community’s Facebook page was flooded with messages, many from people who wished they could have been there.
Jodie had initially planned to coincide her batmitzvah with a second barmitzvah for her grandfather.
“It was quite an honour,” she said of her big day. It was nice to complete something I wanted to do.
“I wasn’t aware until a couple of weeks before about the 700-year gap. The pressure was on.” It was important to her to maintain the tradition.”We don’t want to lose that Jewish link.”
Her mother Gillian added: “Watching Jodie stand up there I thought: ‘This is the next generation’.”
Although not Jewish, Mrs Renaud’s husband Patrick had been “very supportive of us”.
Mr Dale, a local solicitor, can walk to shul for the twice monthly services, which attract attendances of up to two dozen. But membership is drawn from a wide area - the Renauds live in East Ferry, some 25 miles away.
Although the community is primarily elderly, it regularly welcomes students from the local university, whose Professor Brian Winston conducts some of the services.
“We all know each other and have exceptionally good relations with the Muslim and Christian communities. We do our bit for community relations.”
There was a thriving Jewish community in Lincoln in the Middle Ages, which held services at Jews’ Court until the expulsion of the Jews from Britain in 1290.
Rabbi Goldstein said it was heartening to “see how this growing community is bringing Judaism back to a place where it hadn’t existed for centuries.
“Everyone at Liberal Judaism is so incredibly proud of Jodie and I am delighted that I could help her tell her own Jewish story.”
Ms Merron, a longstanding Lincolnshire member, “felt privileged to witness such an historic occasion. Jodie was outstanding. She impressed us with her composure and touched us all with her poignant tribute to her late grandfather, who served the community so well for many years.”
It is unlikely that Lincoln will have to wait 700 years for its next bar/batmitzvah as Jodie has two younger brothers, Matthew and Samuel, who are both keen to follow in her footsteps.