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.
At the same time as this local campaign; the Government has launched an initiative to help save local High Streets. It would seem that, after years of decline local High Street shops are now in terminal decline.
This leads to me to wonder what else found on a typical High Street or town is also under threat; what is the future role of the local Post Office, Library, or Synagogue?
Synagogues were invented to replace the Temple in Jerusalem; rather than going to the Temple on set occasions (Holy Days) Jews started to attend the Synagogue – an example of how Judaism has adapted, modernised, and survived. Further adaptations were explored 100 years ago, as Europe became more enlightened, the accepted ‘orthodoxy’ of the Synagogue service was challenged by a new generation of modernisers – leading to what is now known as progressive Judaism (Liberal & Reform Jews are both examples of progressive Judaism).
The forthcoming LJ Biennial conference with its theme of Looking Backwards Moving Forward will no doubt explore Liberal Judaism past history while reflecting on the future. It is a future that has to cope with rapidly changing environment – we are, according to some commentators, living in a world where changes are occurring at a faster rate than at any other time in recorded history.
The decline of out High Streets is one symptom of our changing world and reflects the fact that for many people our communities are no longer place based. Liberal Jews do not have to live in ghettos nor within walking distance of our Synagogues. We are not defined by our attendance (or not) at weekly services and at WLS, in common with other Liberal Synagogues, we try to stay in touch with members of our community who are less able to attend services or other Synagogue events.
WLS is still a warm, vibrant, and friendly place! We do have services every Friday evening and Saturday morning – even if our Rabbi is on Sabbatical. Our Cheder is thriving and the children actually enjoy their lessons. Our community hosts various events from weekly bridge sessions, through adult study buddies, Chavurah Suppers, quizzes , etc. We are also a generous community – you have within a few short weeks:
Donated £2,855 to the High Holy Days Appeal
£889 to MyIsrael
£859 to London Centre for Cerebral Palsy
£1,107 to go towards the restoration of our Czech Scroll
Brought in 350 items of food to donate to the Redbridge Shelter for the Homeless
Scoffed way through enough cakes to raise over £179 for Children in Need
And yet …
We rely on (it could be argued that we are too reliant on) too few volunteers – the same people who time and time again always help out when something needs to be done. So like the High Street that needs more local customers, or Kitchener who needed more soldiers, WLS really could do with more volunteers.
If we are too avoid becoming another victim of the declining High Street; now more than ever Your Synagogue Needs You – will you rise to challenge and offer to help out?