Wessex Liberal Jewish Community
We are a very friendly group, and our services are open to all Jews, partners of Jews, prospective converts, and other visitors. If you wish to follow up this enquiry, please, contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
HISTORY & DEVELOPMENT
Our community was established in July 2010. We are run by a committee of elected trustees, known as the Council. Liberal Judaism supplied us with a visiting Rabbi once a month, and the variety and perspectives these Rabbis and student rabbis brought to our small community gave us the vision and support to mature as a community.
We have developed very much as a consequence of the combination of our own efforts plus support from Liberal Judaism. We have adopted a constitution, become a registered charity, hold regular (usually fortnightly) Shabbat services, High Holy Day services, are members of a Jewish burial society (JJBS) to pay towards burial or cremation, and have our own burial plot area at Kinson, Bournemouth. We are quite a ‘DIY’ community:
- members prepare and lead services and ensure the smooth running and development of the community;
- we have a hard-working catering team and washing-up volunteers;
- a professional teacher gives educational support for children, and a university lecturer encourages Jewish knowledge for adults;
- newsletter/website editor;
- security team volunteers;
- we collect food for the local food bank on a regular basis, and contribute to Mitzvah Day projects;
- …and much more!
Friday evening services are once a month when we have our Rabbi visit. They are followed by an informal shared supper, where everyone brings something (not meat) to share. These are relaxed evenings, and inclusive of people who have not been before.
Our Saturday morning services are usually held fortnightly in Bournemouth. A feature of our Saturday morning services is the enjoyable food and chat afterwards for Kiddush. Services are led by experienced lay leaders (Nat Roseman and other volunteers) except when we have Rabbi René. Services include both Hebrew and English prayers and can be followed without knowledge of Hebrew by using our transliterated prayer book. Flora Azulay is in charge of the choir, and has organised an occasional and enjoyable ‘singing shabbat’ with a choir from another synagogue.
PARENTS AND TODDLERS GROUP
We have a group for locally based Jewish parents who wish to socialise, along with their children. It’s always noisy, energetic, and fun! We tend to meet to celebrate Jewish holidays together, involving craft activities, singing, playing, and eating. Liberals, Reform, and Orthodox, all are welcome. Many have partners who are not Jewish and they are equally part of the group. We meet in Bournemouth, Poole, and Southampton, mainly around the Jewish holidays. We also occasionally meet for ‘cuddle up shabbat’. It’s nice for us and our kids to have a Jewish community and foster a sense of Jewish identity.
We are fortunate in that our Education team includes a wide range of both professional and lay educators which includes Rabbi René Pfertzel, an experienced University Lecturer, and a recently retired Secondary School Teacher. Between them they provide:
- Study Sessions – for Adults
- Cheder-and Bar/Bat mitzvah classes for older children and
- Cuddle up Shabbat –for toddlers and younger children
- Adult Study Sessions usually take place before the Erev Shabbat service and at other prearranged times.
Cheder/Bar/Bat Mitzvah classes take place when required on a fortnightly or monthly basis depending on need. These sessions follow a curriculum developed by Liberal Judaism which includes: Torah People, Post Torah People, Festivals, Jewish Ethics and Morality, and The Jewish Life Cycle. All of our Cheder materials are accessible and activity based to ensure lessons are informative and fun. In the recent past, we have made mezuzahs, puppets, charity tins, and posters, as well as sung songs and acted out mini dramas. The reading of biblical Hebrew is included for students preparing for Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
Cuddle up Shabbat sessions take place at various locations in the WLJC catchment, usually hosted by a member who is the parent of one of the children. The idea behind these sessions is to introduce some of our ideas, heritage and traditions of Shabbat to them.
Regular updates about activities and service times are included in our fortnightly Newsletter which is available to members and supporters. In addition to our website, the parents and toddlers group have their own independent Facebook page which includes non-members as well.
Social interaction is heavily centred on the post-service Kiddush chat, food and general catch-up every fortnight. Other events occur sporadically whenever member(s) are prepared to organise them – so far we have had quizzes, tea-parties, and ping-pong.
CELEBRATIONS AND SIMCHAS
Any excuse for a celebration and we take it! The community celebrates events in the lives of our members with gusto: baby namings, bar & bat mitzvahs, weddings, special birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and any other reason for celebrating life in the community.
PASTORAL CARE AND PROBLEM TIMES
Rabbi René is available when needed on the telephone and in person during his monthly visits. We are a caring community, and members provide support for each other. For practical welfare help, we can call on Bournemouth Jewish Social Services (where some of our members provide help on a voluntary basis). At times of death and bereavement, the community members provide care and support, and we have appointed a firm of local funeral directors.
We welcome as a member anyone who is accepted as Jewish by Liberal Judaism and who wants to adhere to Liberal Jewish principles and practices, which are open and inclusive (click here for further details). The children of a Jewish mother or father are regarded as Jewish if they are brought up Jewish (see here and here). We welcome non-Jewish spouses or civil partners into the life of our community, and they can be associate members in their own right (which includes funeral and burial rights).
Membership fees are currently £205.00 per annum per person (dependent children up to age 21 are free). Membership covers a number of items, including: Payment for a Rabbi at monthly services and HHDs, Jewish Joint Burial Society, the cost of belonging to Liberal Judaism, Hall Hire, Food at our Kiddushes, Bournemouth Jewish Representative Council, maintaining the website, accountancy services, and other miscellaneous costs.
Members think we have: “A warm and welcoming community”; “good food and friendliness”; “genuine people”; “caring and compassionate members”; “humour”; “a human and approachable rabbi”; “many members who get involved and contribute help”.
Members and supporters are asked to buy their own books to participate in services because we do not have space to store books for the whole community. The current costs are listed below. The easiest way to obtain these books is from the Liberal Judaism website, and there may be a charge to cover postage.
- Liberal Judaism Siddur – £22.70
- Liberal Judaism Machzor – £19.00
- Liberal Judaism Haggadah – £8.50
People who are considering conversion are guided through a process by joining in the community and having a discussion with the Rabbi about what it means to convert. If they decide to go forward, they follow Liberal Judaism’s course currently overseen by Rabbi Sandra Kviat (further information available here).
WESSEX LIBERAL JEWISH COMMUNITY IN THE LOCAL JEWISH CONTEXT
There are many forms of Jewish identity in Bournemouth, and we participate in the local ‘Rep Council’ which covers all of them. There are friendly relationships between people in different Jewish communities in Bournemouth, and it is common for our members to visit other synagogues or for members of other communities to visit us.