Synagogue visit – a personal view
I have always been impressed by the contribution made by Jewish people to our Western culture – thinking particularly of their writers, humour and how much duller our lives would have been were it not for the energy and drive of the Hollywood movie moguls. My knowledge of Jewish religious practices was pretty superficial however and I was pleased that the Men’s Fellowship had the opportunity to visit the Croydon and District Synagogue in October.
The Croydon Orthodox Jewish community has been around for over a century based at various locations. They are currently located in Shirley in what, from the outside, appears to be a modest building although one with a simple beauty inside. The three guides who gave us an introduction to their faith alluded to the significant origins which we share in common before going on to describe some of the precise rules which they are expected to fulfil on holy days and also aspects of their dietary requirements. While to us these may have sounded quite onerous, it was clear that they experienced a certain joyful togetherness when the sharing of food was particularly significant. I was impressed by their open sincerity which went so far as to their admission that they found it harder to attract young people prepared to adopt the same level of commitment. The afternoon was rounded off by the provision of afternoon tea in a pleasant and friendly atmosphere.
Thanks to the generosity of attendees I was able, on behalf of the Fellowship, to make a modest donation to their funds. The response which I received from one of the ladies who had acted as a guide expressed advance good wishes for Christmas and the New Year with the message that, should any one from Emmanuel wish to make a return visit – perhaps to attend a Saturday morning service, they would be entirely welcome.
My lasting impression was one of a community of people valiantly maintaining their traditional values and observations in an environment not totally supportive of such dedication.