It seems impossible to believe that May is already upon us and that we will soon be celebrating the Festival of Shavuoth. With our Synagogues and homes decorated with flowers and our tables laden with cheesecakes, blintzes and other goodies to share with family and friends, this is a time to celebrate. Not only the festival of Shavuoth and the giving of the Torah, but also the fact that we are living in a country that allows us to follow our traditions and worship openly within our communities.
Talking about families, many of us living here will have family members who originated from foreign lands, either by choice or as refugees (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins etc) so that it's no small wonder we are known as a nation of ‘wandering Jews’. Perhaps you know a great deal about your family origins and want to visit the towns where your ancestors lived, or perhaps you thirst for knowledge and revelations regarding your forebears and have no idea how to begin your research. Either way, we believe our first two articles will be of interest to all our readers.
Our first feature, 'Blessed Is He Who Did Not Give Us As Prey To Their Teeth', written by Esme Daniels, describes her travels through Estonia and Latvia visiting old shuls and rebuilt communities along the way. Reaching Vilna (Vilnius) she movingly describes praying in the same shul in which her grandparents prayed all those years ago, perhaps even sitting in the same seat her grandmother once used, grateful that her grandparents had the foresight to leave their homeland when they did.
Following on this theme, read ‘Finding Your Roots in Poland and Eastern Europe’, Reva Hill’s enlightening article on how to trace your family roots in Poland. A founder member of The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, Reva gives an array of useful websites for researching our ancestry and an indication of how to go about gaining more knowledge about long lost (and often unknown) members of our families.
For a little light fun we include a poem by Judy Karbritz, co-founder of the Jewish Poetry Society. Called ‘MUM’S TREE IN BLUME’, Judy’s poem warns us to beware, for as anyone who has studied can tell you, once you become engrossed in a subject it can take over your life.
If we must be wanderers, and nowadays it is most often by choice, then why not take a leaf out of Tiffany de Kare - Silver’s book as she visits Thailand and raises money for charity at the same time. Signing on for the ride on a whim, in ‘I Ride My Bike – in Thailand’ Tiffany describes her training schedule (or lack of it) and the sense of achievement she felt whilst riding through the countryside accompanied by riders with varying levels of learning difficulties: knowing she was helping Norwood and its disadvantaged dependents, whilst at the same time seeing a new vista in a land previously unknown to her.
Our final feature returns us to Shavuoth last year. Although the Tikkun Leil on Shavuot is traditionally a male reserve, in ‘Treading New Paths – A Shavuot Walk for Women’ the women of Radlett United Synagogue describe how they have created their own way of celebrating and learning with their 6.5 mile midnight walk (calling at Shenley United Synagogue on the way), then joining with the men of Radlett for the Tikkun Leil. As with Ruth, whose story we read on Shavuot, these women found that they gained in their spirituality by combining physical effort with their Judaism.
This month our Top Tips section looks forward to holidays and the not-so-easy facet of travelling with children. Our expert travel agent gives tips for the different stages of travel – before, during and at the resort - so make sure you read his ‘Top Tips for Travelling with Children’ before starting out.
As well as Shavuoth, May is also the month when Wizo members carry out their traditional door-to-door collection for Jewish Women’s Week. Please look at our letters page for more details, and our Future Events section for dates to put in your diary now (such as the World Jewish Relief ‘Knit-a-Thon’ on 14th June).
As you can see, we at Women’s View attempt to publish features that are varied and interesting; articles that are absorbing and informative, serious or light-hearted. If you know of an individual or item that you think would interest our community please contact us with a view to publishing in our pages. Letters and items for our Events Diary pages are also welcome for our monthly update.
Finally, we hope you enjoy this issue as well as your flowers and cheesecake.
We wish you a beautiful and happy Yom Tov.