Q: How can shuls best engage with their local communities on HMD?
Joanna Sigalov says…
Edgware & District Reform Synagogue (EDRS) held its HMD event on 19 January, welcoming 180 students from Canons Secondary School, many visiting a shul for the first time.
The event was led by our Youth and Education departments, with Rabbi Daniel Smith and MP Andrew Dismore welcoming the students. MP Dr Matthew Offord and the mayor of Harrow were also among the distinguished guests.
We are overwhelmed by the support from community members who volunteered to help. Six memorial (yarzheit) candles were lit for the six million, with another candle lit for other world genocides.
Mala Tribuch, a child of the Holocaust (who writes in this issue of the newspaper), addressed the students, having dedicated her life to sharing her story with the world.
As always, we are grateful for the efforts of all our staff and volunteers but in particular to Linda Baginsky, Marian Cohen and Sheldon Mordsley and to the training provided by Finchley Reform Synagogue.
As every responsible community should strive for a better future, we see no option but to engage our communities in raising Holocaust awareness and denouncing racial and religious hatred which have no place in any community.
• Joanna G Sigalov is honorary secretary of Edgware & District Reform Synagogue
Louise Heilbron says…
National Holocaust Memorial Day is not really aimed at the Jewish community.
For such commemoration we have Yom Ha’Shoah. It is, however, an opportunity to make outreach to the members of the local community. For the past 10 years a group within the synagogue have run free events for local secondary school pupils (aged 13 and upwards) and teacher training students attending Middlesex University.
This year we expect more than 900 to attend. The session could easily be run at the schools or in the university but how much better to welcome people into the synagogue, show them round, show them a Torah and break down the barriers, real or imagined. This might be the only time they enter a synagogue or meet Jewish people, so we have a big responsibility.
Our ultimate aim is education about the Holocaust and how it is relevant to all today. While at the session, participants hear a survivor speaker, participate in a workshop and have time for reflection.
As we light yahrzeit candles at the end of the session, to see Muslim, Christian and Jew, black and white, sitting together in a Jewish space, we hope for a better future.
• Louise Heilbron is the National Holocaust Memorial Day co-coordinator of Finchley Reform Synagogue