We dance on a narrow stretch of land, between the sea of Jewish living and loosing ourselves in the forest of multi-cultural modern living.
As an outsider looking in on this sacred community, I see a footpath so narrow and precarious that there is fear the groves in the dirt will be erased as future generations step onto surer ground. From my reading of the history of the Settlement Synagogue, it was partially an attempt to make the Yiddish British.
When the community first moved to South West Essex, I hear that people looked for a shul because it was still in the flowing nature of Jewish life. Today, Epping and Hainault and the surrounding areas are forests of great diversity and Jewish people have become more diverse.
The American Reform movement sought to make Jews part of modern society and sought to remove the kashrut laws which kept Jews from participating in meals with their neighbours. In the UK - a lack of Kosher observance has often been linked to assimilation, and not conscious choice - yet our local bagel bakeries don’t worry about a hechsher, not from an assimilationist perspective- I assume- but rather because there is more than one way to be consciously Jewish.
It is easy to focus on the ritual laws of Kashrut in this week’s Torah portion, but as a Jew concerned with keeping generations ahead on the precarious path of Jewish living, I encourage us to read this as ‘fit’ - to be a Jew means asking what food is fit for consumption. Be they questions of health, or fair-trade or ritual kashrut, asking about food makes it more special- more holy- to consume. This is just another way we can keep our toes wet in the sea of Torah and of course - food is better in community.
Come and join us on Saturday mornings and at Passover as we make food more delicious through good company.