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Chairman’s Blog

Looking Backwards, Moving Forwards!

I am sure that I am not the first, nor will be I be the last, to borrow the above title from the LJ Biennial Conference.  It was a very apt tagline for the biennial conference, where in plenary sessions delegates looked back to learn how the history of Judaism was rescued from Jerusalem at the start of the Babylonian exile and how the Torah (as we now know it) was first written down during the period of exile. The conference also continued the process of moving forward (an essential element of progress) in various workshops exploring all aspects of Liberal Judaism.

This was the first time that I have attended a LJ Biennial and, although I was told it would be enjoyable, I did wonder if it would be fully engaging for the best part of three days. I am pleased to report that it was a very enjoyable conference – the hotel was excellent, the company very convivial, and the food was exemplary. I look forward to the next biennial conference and let’s hope that once again WLS will be one of the largest delegations in attendance.

At WLS we recently held our Annual General Meeting – another example of looking back & moving forward! This was my first AGM as chair – and lessons have been learnt to take forward for the AGM next year. In my report to the AGM I said that I had hoped my first year as chair would have been a quiet year. However, major changes were required and with support of the wider WLS community, Council has met the challenge. Having a stable and effective Council helped us to meet those challenges – much of what were able to do was done because of the foundations created my predecessors Dan Janoff and Simon Benscher.

They have both stepped from Council to take well earned sabbaticals; WLS owes them both our gratitude and I am sure you will join me is wishing them for the future. Going onwards, I am pleased to note that we have four new members of Council, elected at the AGM, and I am looking forward to working with each of them as WLS continues to grow and develop.

Things are still changing at WLS, the AGM included a key milestone in our plans for refurbishing Marlborough Road – the decision to seek outline planning permission for the proposed building works. You will be hearing more about these plans in the weeks and months ahead – as we start in earnest with fund ranging activities to finance this exciting development.

This is of course the summer of the Jubilee and the Olympic & Paralympic Games. There will much to celebrate, most of it close by or neighbouring our spiritual home in Woodford. These celebratory events will involve a lot of “Looking Backwards, Moving Forwards”. When WLS celebrated its fiftieth anniversary a few years ago we had good cause to reminisce – to look backwards. The recent challenges, the response to those challenges, and the plans now being put into fruition suggest that we have a good reason to look to the future – to moving forward.

Wishing you all an enjoyable, sunny, healthy summer and I hope to see many of year at the WLS Summer Fayre on Sunday 15 July!


July 2012 


To Tweet Or Not To Tweet

There has been, in recent years, a massive increase in what is now often referred to as ‘Social Media’ – the use of networking and information sharing services via the Internet. Many people and organisations now have their own pages on Facebook, share their latest news via Twitter, or uploading photos etc … (More


Your Synagogue Needs You

Whilst walking round the South Woodford and Woodford Green areas, I have noticed that several shops are displaying posters of Lord Kitchener under the banner – Your Local Shops Need You. This appears to be a locally organised campaign to try and persuade Woodford residents to shop locally – perhaps to counter the real or perceived threat of the new Westfield shopping centre … (More)


Leap of Faith

By the time you read this issue of Bimah, you should have received a letter explaining the decision of Council to make a ‘leap of faith’ in seeking to appoint a full time rabbi.  In doing so Council has recognised that while the current arrangements at Woodford are not broken, they are no longer fit for purpose … (More)


Kol Nidre Appeal

One of the pleasures of being Chair of Council is that it falls to me to talk about the Kol Nidre appeal.  I say it is a pleasure to do so because I believe that the three charities, chosen by Council, are all worthy causes, which deserve your support and your generosity.  As is normal at Woodford, we have chosen three charities – one from Israel, one from the United Kingdom, and one closer to our own community … (More)


Tempus Fugit

I am writing this in late July – the temperature is starting to climb and it looks like summer is finally arriving – but I know you will not read this until September.

It seems to me that we spend more and more of our time looking ahead to the next ‘event’. School holidays are about to start – so naturally the shops are full of school wear and the essentials necessary for the day when kids will go back to school. Two of our biggest department stores have already opened their Christmas shops! So it seems that ‘time flies’ ever faster as the years pass, when do we ever get the chance to stop to enjoy the now … (More)


The Essential Mystery – Price or Value

According to the American investment guru, Warren Buffett:

“Price is what you pay, value is what you get”

I think he makes a valid differentiation between the two terms.  As an illustration of the difference consider the price and value of being a member of WLS.  The price is easy to know – it has a monetary worth measured in pounds and pence.  Measuring the value is more difficult; it varies from person to person and will often vary according to time or circumstance … (More)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Simon Benscher permalink
    July 28, 2011 06:17

    What a well written and meaningful piece. Your sentiments, intellect and principals are a credit to you, WLS and Liberal Judaism.

  2. Leslie Kostick permalink
    August 10, 2011 16:30

    Being an ardent supporter of our Rabbi, Richard, and sadly a non believer, I am a Jew born of a jewish mother and she, as far as I am aware also born of a jewish mother, I nevertheless find that much of our jewishness is not relevant in today’s world. Rabbi Richard knows my feelings and we have had quite a few discussions on this subject without coming to any conclusions. Nevertheless, I am about to move from the district, to Buckinghamshire, but I feel a need to stay a member of WLS, mostly because of the influence of Rabbi Richard. To me he is the epitome of a religious leader who seeks to lead rather than coax, or threaten, and while I cannot bring myself to believe in the mores of 7,000 years ago, I will nevertheless wish to be buried a jew and have Rabi Richard officiate.
    In this he wins!!!
    Leslie Kostick

    • Dennis Darwin permalink
      October 17, 2011 22:49

      Some good points from my “learned” Uncle Les, more true now than when I was growing up, sadly the religion is not “youth friendly”from what I can remember of my teaching !!

      PS there are 2b`s in Rabbi !!!

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