Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Graeme in Walthamstow and the future of Europe - UPDATED

The Liberal Jewish Synagogue's website tells us that Rabbi Rene Pfertzel "is currently sharing his time between the Liberal community in Lyon, Keren Or, and The Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London". He was born in Strasbourg but he has other links with the UK: He was assistant Rabbi at the Finchley Progressive Synagogue and visiting Rabbi at Wessex Liberal Synagogue in 2014/15, and he has an MA from King's College, London. He lives with his partner Graeme in Walthamstow.

The Evening Standard has a rather more colourful take on Rabbi Pfertzel's move to London: "London is now the most popular destination after Israel for French Jews — and French children make up more than half the intake in some Jewish primary schools in the capital." It quotes Rabbi Pfertzel as saying that “thousands” of people had come to London in the past two years because of anti-Semitism on the Continent and that about 100 French people had joined the synagogue recently. It refers to this story about an unpleasant attack in Marseille and adds that the number of anti-Semitic acts doubled in France in 2014 (from what base, I don't know). Apparently, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldsmith, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, has called France “the main battleground between hope and fear for the future of Europe, especially for the Jewish community”.

Well, there you have it. On one side of the Channel, a battleground between abstract nouns; on the other side, Walthamstow. Wikipedia tells me that Walthamstow is recorded c. 1075 as Wilcumestowe, "the Place of Welcome". Long may it deserve its name.

UPDATE: And here is a report on Rabbi Pfertzel's service: "I thought their rendition of Lecha Dodi was especially bitchin'".

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