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St John's Wood
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St John's Wood Synagogue Women's Shabbat

Last Shabbat St John's Wood Synagogue held their first Women's Shabbat to honour Gillian Burr, Barbara Nathan, Beverley Mainz and Linda Sharpe, who have been involved in working in the St John's Wood community for many years. The synagogue invited Maureen Kendler, Head of Education at LSJS, to address the community which she did from the Bimah at the end of the service.

Maureen spoke dramatically and gave a powerful address entitled “When Killing is the Answer, what is the question?” . She discussed the excerpt from the Book of Samuel which is read on Shabbat Zachor, which she told us is in one of the bible stories which gives her nightmares. In that story, Saul was anointed by the prophet Samuel and told to kill King Agag and all his people, cows and sheep. Instead Saul captured King Agag but saved him and only killed some of the people. Saul also saved the best of the flocks and herds in order to make sacrifices to Hashem. When Samuel heard that Saul had not completed the task but had preserved some lives, he condemned Saul, explaining that Hashem wants obedience not random sacrifices. Maureen explained the apparent contradiction between a religion that appears to value life on the one hand and the criticism of a king who failed to kill, by stating that Hashem could see the bigger picture. Failure to obliterate King Agag and his people enabled the Amalekite line to survive so that Haman, a few generations later, was able to attempt to obliterate the Jewish people instead. Sometimes in order to root at out real evil and inhumanity, killing is the answer.

Following the address, Lady Sacks (commenting on how good it felt to be the one doing the talking for a change) addressed Gillian Burr, Beverley Mainz, Barbara Nathan and Linda Sharpe congratulating the honourees and made a presentation to each of a siddur, embossed with their names. She told the community what each of them had done over the years both within and outside the community and spoke about each ones connection with St John’s Wood Synagogue. It was a most impressive list of voluntary service, some of which was unknown to many members, who remarked on how lovely it was to hear Lady Sacks speak and how gracious she had been.

The format of the event was organised by Vice Chairman Anne Godfrey, who acknowledged that there were other women who deserved to be recipients of such an honour and expressed the hope that this would become an annual event in the Synagogue calendar.

The proceedings were followed by a Kiddush-Lunch, St John’s Wood style! There was a great buzz in the Kiddush with everyone agreeing that Women’s Shabbat had been a very successful event. Mazel Tov to the women honoured and our thanks and congratulations to our guest speakers. We look forward to a repeat of Women’s Shabbat next year.

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