Friday, 26 June 2015

On Jews, Muslims, Enemies and Friends

Several weeks ago we were approached by a number of Muslim students at Westminster College who wanted to meet a Jew. They never had before. We arranged for a group to come and join us at New London on Sunday. They learnt and engaged with our own children. It was profoundly moving. One of the exercises they engaged in together was based on our study of the Cairo Geniza. It turns out that a Synagogue outside of Cairo contained not only an extraordinary collection of scraps of religious significance, but also an extraordinary array of materials that paint a picture of life in Cairo in the first centuries of the last millenium, and particularly the relationship between the Muslims and Jews.
We invited our students, and those from Westminster College to create documents to go into a mythical Geniza that would document the life of Jews and Muslims in London, today. It was, perhaps, a little idealistic, naive, perhaps, but hopeful. They were more excited to meet the other than afraid, more committed to exploring the similarities than pouncing on the differences and all committed to speaking of a commitment to peaceable co-existence. So there is hope. That's good.

Members will also, I am sure, be aware of this announced Nazi-sympathetic march in Golders Green planned for next Shabbat. That's not good. The Campaign Against Antisemitism (with members of New London prominent among them) are working to have the march banned, and planning a rally at which Jews and non-Jews will be able to stand in dignified defiance, unity and pride in opposition to the language of hatred of the Nazi-sympathisers. There is information about the CAA protest on their [Facebook page]. There is an alliance of organisations, including the Board of Deputies and Hope Not Hate, leading a campaign 'Golders Green Together' seeking to show that we are, as a society at every level enriched by our diversity and plurality.

Not enough members will be aware of the Council for Christians and Jews new campaign to encourage Jews to 'engage in reflection' on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. It's a terrifying tale of bullying, and worse, right across the region with the awfulness of ISIS being particularly striking. The campaign is titled with reference to a Mishnaic teaching, 'If not Now When?' But the part of the teaching that most strikes me is the preceding line, 'If I am only for myself, what am I?' With the question left hanging, suggesting that to be a true member of the human race we have to do so much more than stand only for our own self-interest. For more information on this campaign click [here -]

There are possibilities for harmonious peaceful co-operation between different races, creeds and peoples. And when such harmonies are created it's deeply moving, and better for us all. And then there those who would wish to oppose such harmony, and they must be opposed. Despite our relative cosy lives there is still much more to do.
Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Jeremy

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