This week’s Two Voices asks.. how we make the High Holy Days more meaningful..

Two Voices

34 Simon Benscher

Simon Benscher

Simon Benscher says… 

I wonder if, during our hours of communal spiritual refreshment, we could give some consideration to the chairs of our congregations.

They will have spent days preparing a heartfelt and passionate appeal, not just for money to be donated to worthy and deserving charities, but also for everyone to give more of themselves.

For the vast majority of our communities, the day to day functions and maintenance falls on the shoulders of a small number of willing helpers. In my experience, all of these volunteers are busy, hardworking people with either full time commitments to their work or their families, or possibly even both. None the less, they still find the capacity in their busy lives to work for their extended family.

Ask any of these unsung heroes why they give themself this extra burden and I’m reasonably sure you won’t get a definitive answer.

Our commitment to our communal Jewish homes is, for many of us, part of our DNA. It can’t be defined or labelled, but for some reason it makes us who we are.

Its gives the individual as much in the way of fulfilment, as they hope it gives to their congregation and its members. So, this year, when you hear the annual appeal from the bimah, maybe – just maybe – make the commitment to play your part in the future of Judaism in the UK.

• Simon Benscher is chair of Liberal Judaism

Alice Alphandary

Alice Alphandary

Alice Alphandary says…

The Torah commands us: “Do not separate yourself from your community.”

Playing a fuller role in synagogue life helps to break down any barriers separating us from a meaningful Jewish experience.

One of my friends speaks about the importance of being an active participant in synagogue life, rather than just a consumer of it and I have to agree. When we help out in the running of our community, we are fulfilling an important mitzvah, which benefits both our community and ourselves.

For example, through chatting to another member of my synagogue, I recently found out that she shares a common interest in sewing – which we wouldn’t have discovered if we had not been engaged in community life. The way we treat others in synagogue is a reflection of how we behave at our best in wider society.

So if we want to lead better, more meaningful lives, we should use synagogue as a good place to start. Speaking to newcomers and people who might consider themselves outsiders really matters.

As you attend services for the High Holy Days, why not challenge yourself to speak to someone new and surprise yourself with what you have in common.

• Alice Alphandary is chair of South London Liberal Synagogue