BB Young Professionals – Historic Events
BB YP & SJW YJN’s Valentine’s Dinner
Report by Valerie Tesler
B’nai B’rith’s new Young Professionals group joined forces with St John’s Wood’s Young Jewish Network for a ‘Wine & Dine’ event (Pre-Valentine’s Dinner) in SoYo’s private room on Thursday 11th February.
Around 25 youngsters gathered in the restaurant’s upstairs room, in Golders Green, for a three-course sit down meal and champagne.
The tables were decked out with red tablecloths, a variety of red heart-shaped helium Valentine’s Day balloons, heart-motif napkins and fabric white and red rose petals, which were strewn across the tables.
As the guests arrived, they chatted and mingled over a glass of champagne before taking their seats along a large horseshoe-shaped table.
Participants enjoyed a selection of mezze with SoYo’s home-made dips to start, followed by a choice of sweet potato or French onion soup. For main course, they had grilled salmon with honey-roasted vegetables or a roast vegetable lasagna.
They finished with the house-speciality Froyo (Soyo frozen yogurt) with a selection of toppings followed by a mint tea or americano coffee.
The informal dinner was an ideal way for young professionals to celebrate Valentine’s Day, together with friends and new faces, in a relaxed and casual setting.
Professional matchmaker Suzie Parkus answered a number of questions from the group, who had submitted questions earlier. She also shared some of her top tips, advising people to ‘try and be different’ and play to their strengths when using dating apps and websites.
“When you speak to people, always be positive; no one who has just met you, wants hear about how awful your job is or that your cat just died”, said Suzie. “Listening is more important than talking, when you’re getting to know someone. Take an interest in the other person and throw it back – play ping pong with the conversation.”
She advised people to “be memorable and be kind. The Jewish community is very small and Jews talk,” she warned. “Word will get around very fast, that a friend of a friend went out with you and reputation is key.”
The evening ended with a raffle which raised around £50, with prizes including a bottle of liqueur, a free personal training session, a £20 SoYo voucher and a free telephone coaching session with Suzie.
All proceeds will go towards supporting B’nai B’rith’s Children’s Food and Medical Aid programme in the Ukraine.
“It was lovely – I had a fantastic time” said Abigail Sayagh. “It was a great evening with delicious food.”
“It was so nice to have such an exclusive dinner and be at what felt like a private event”, said Adele Gold. “People were lovely and the room was beautifully decorated.”
BB Young Professionals Moroccan Bazaar-Style Tea Party at Klezmer in the Park
Report by Valerie Tesler
Sunday, 6th September 2015
Young Klezmer in the Park festival goers at this year’s annual JMI (Jewish Music Institute) event had the added bonus of attending a free B’nai B’rith Moroccan Bazaar-style picnic for Young Professionals, as they chilled to the tunes and feel good vibes in the sun.
As well as the regular B’nai B’rith stand in the community hub, youngsters were invited to hang out at the Middle Eastern
-themed picnic area from 3pm to 6pm, as The Turbans took to the bandstand.
Young families, who had made their way from the Kids’ Zone in the main tent, as
well as singles stopped by to socialise and have a bite.
In total, approximately over 70 youngsters were coming and going to the BB-branded picnic area, with those who had not pre-registered, signing in and providing their contact details.
Several guests expressed their interest in B’nai B’rith, asked about its work and enquired as to what future events are coming up.
The picnic area was set up near the main hub, close to Regents Park’s boating lake, and had gold, claret and turquoise shimmering fabrics laid out on the ground. Large oversized cushions in orange, turquoise, coral, royal blue, green and beige were strewn around to complete the Moroccan ‘look’.
Posts with large blue and white B’nai B’rith logos were stationed around to denote the area.
The picnic-ers tucked into a variety of Middle-Eastern dishes, (provided by Hendon Bagel Bakery), including mini vegetarian cigars, falafel and spicy samosas with chickpeas; all eaten on ‘gold’ (plastic) plates, with multicoloured napkins.
There were Mediterranean platters, with homemade hummus, drizzled with olive oil, surrounded with traditional pickles, baby eggplants, cucumbers, olives and mini peppers, and Sabich platters made up of boiled eggs, hummus, baked aubergines, spicy tuna and sliced tomatoes.
The band She’koyokh got everyone in high spirits as the picnic area filled out and everyone chatted and sampled the variety of food.
For desert there were a variety of freshly baked handmade pastries, made from chocolate and almonds, rogolech and traditional baklava.
In lieu of traditional hot, sweet tea, there was lemon and peach-flavoured ice tea served in miniature plastic ‘tea’ glasses, in a variety of bright hues; green, yellow, orange and pink.
The afternoon finished on a high note as the band, Tantz closed the show, while the sun was still shining.
B’nai B’rith Summer Boat Party for Young Professionals (2545)
Report by Valerie Tesler
Tuesday, 7th July 2015
Around 75 young people attended the Launch Event for B’nai B’rith UK’s new ‘Young Professionals’ (2545) group, which was a Summer Boat party on the Thames.
Guests arrived at Tower Pier, to board the Erasmus, a fully-staffed Thames Luxury Charters boat, between 7 and 8pm, on a bright summer’s evening.
The guests entered on the lower deck, where they ‘signed in’ and completed a short survey about themselves and what type of B’nai B’rith events they would like to attend in the future.
Each guest received a complimentary Pimms on arrival and made their way upstairs to the main deck.
At 8pm the boat departed the dock, and Valerie Tesler, B’nai B’rith Events Director welcomed everyone on board, including Valerie Achache from B’nai B’rith Europe (one of the BB Europe’s Vice Presidents and President of the Lodge in Brussels), who had come from Brussels, and thanked people for coming to celebrate the launch of BBUK’s new initiative for Young Professionals.
The party goers enjoyed a buffet dinner of salmon skewers, fish goujons, Asian noodle salad, an assortment of mini wraps, mini quiches and chocolate dessert from Jasmine catering, part of Carmellis bakery.
The party goers chatted and mingled while taking in the sights of the Thames, from either the top deck, where they could chill out and relax in the rattan furniture, or on the boat’s main deck.
The boat’s bar staff were on hand for additional drinks, while the DJ played the latest tracks. Some guests ventured onto the dance floor to strut their stuff, while others took photos of eachother, against the backdrop of the Thames’ landmarks views as the sun set.
Many guests expressed their interest in B’nai B’rith and its work and asked if future events were planned.
“I had a lovely evening; good food, great music and it was very pleasant to cruise along the Thames, enjoying all that London has to offer”, said Natalie. “I look forward to coming to more B’nai B’rith events for Young Professionals in the future.”
“I would very much like to get involved in B’nai B’rith and help plan more events for this age group”, said Louisa.
The evening finished on a high as the boat returned to the spectacular view of Tower Bridge illuminated in pink against the dark.
Breakfast Meeting with the Polish Ambassador H.E. Witold Sobkow
Report by Helene Briskman
The B’nai B’rith London Bureau of International Affairs (BBLBIA) recently held a Breakfast Meeting with the kind permission of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) at its Embankment premises.
The Polish Ambassador H.E. Witold Sobkow was the guest speaker. He gave a talk on Modern Poland and the Jewish People, which was followed by questions.
The Ambassador gave a brief history of Poland after the Second World War and how after communism Poland was particularly proud to join NATO in 1999 and later the EU in 2004. Poland is also a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Relations between Poland and Israel are excellent. Israel is a strategic partner and Poland supports Israel whenever it can. In fact there are regular consultations between the two governments.
As to history, it is an undeniable fact that the Holocaust happened, while Poland was Nazi controlled and the Polish Government was in exile in London. Poland holds great store by education and it is important for young people to learn what happened and that the Holocaust was different from other tragedies round the world. Young people of about 16/17 years old have to visit Auschwitz as part of the school curriculum. Young Israelis who visit Poland are being encouraged to meet with young Poles and visit sites, other than Auschwitz, such as Krakow.
There is a new museum in Warsaw the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews and there is the Schindler Museum in Krakow.
Cases of Anti-Semitism still happen in Poland, just as anti-Semitism is prevalent everywhere, but this is different from saying Poland is anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is deplorable.
Shechita had posed a difficulty as there were contradictory laws dealing with animal welfare and freedom of religion but this had been solved by the Constitutional Court.
Restitution is also a complex difficult problem as compensation for Jewish people would also open up claims from many other nationalities that had lost property. At the moment the Government cannot get a majority to pass the law needed to deal with this and there have been many ideas including giving shares/bonds in companies instead of restitution.
Rabbi Gluck ended the meeting, which was very constructive, by giving an excellent vote of thanks.
BB 2545 visited the National Portrait Gallery
Report by Gabriel Herman
On Sunday 1 February, members of BB 2545 visited the National Portrait Gallery. Armed with an artificial flower held aloft to stop anyone getting lost, tour guide Rachel Kolsky skilfully shepherded the group through the busy galleries. Corralled at a picture or sculpture, Rachel regaled her captivated charge with interesting Jewish facts about the subject or artist – sometimes both! She skilfully made connections between the different people featured and ended her tour with everyone wanting more. Some continued their visit to the Portrait Gallery while others had an amenable lunch. A good time was had by all.
Barbecue Social Event
On a warm sunny day in July, members of BB 2545 and their friends enjoyed a delicious fish and vegetarian lunch cooked outdoors by a professional chef, all washed down with a glass of ice-cold Pimm’s! It proved to be a wonderful relaxing and congenial occasion.
BBLBIA & BB 2545 had a Breakfast Meeting with Her Excellency Asta Skaisgiryté-Liauškiené
Report by Gabriel Herman, Member BB 2545
The Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania, Her Excellency Asta Skaisgiryté-Liauškiené spoke to a breakfast meeting of 30 people from our London Bureau of International Affairs and BB2545 on Wednesday 9th April. Her talk was very well-received and revealed a deep personal knowledge and love of Jewish history and culture.
By way of introduction she told guests that she was often amazed to get a flavour of home in the most surprising places. On visits to the US, UK, South Africa (most Jews there came from Lithuania) and as a former Ambassador to Israel she met many Litvaks who were delighted at the opportunity to share their family memories with her.
The talk was entitled ‘Modern Lithuania and the Jewish People’ and was a whistle-stop tour of the incredible historic heritage of the Jews of Lithuania.
The first wave of Jewish emigration to Lithuania is likely to have been in medieval times from Babylonia, the Byzantine Empire and Palestine followed by a bigger wave from Germany much later. The Yiddish they spoke was based on medieval German.
Yeshivot were mainly introduced in to the shtetls and cities by Polish Jews from the 16th century and had the support of Jews who had originated from Germany. Vilnius as the most prestigious centre of Jewish knowledge became known as the Northern Jerusalem. The Vilna Gaon was a leading personality and famous for his opposition to the emerging Chasidic movement.
By the end of the 18th century Lithuania became a part of the Russian Empire and Lithuanian Jews were subject to draconian laws that required them to live in the Pale of Settlement. As a result, many Lithuanian (and Russian) Jews fled to America. A large number went to South Africa and the Zionists went to Palestine
The Republic of Lithuania was established after World War I. Many Jews fought in the ‘freedom wars’ and there were many Jewish heroes. Jews were in the Lithuanian government and there was also a Minister of Jewish Affairs. The ‘joke’ in the 1920s was that when Lithuanian and Russian officials had to determine the border they drew the line by determining if inhabitants of shtetls on the border spoke Lithuanian or Russian Yiddish.
The darkest era for the country was during World War II. The Germans invaded in 1941 after a previous invasion by the Russians. About 90% of Lithuanian Jews were killed by the Nazis and collaborators. The Vilnius Ghetto was ‘liquidated’ on 23rd September 1943 and this date remains the national Holocaust Commemoration Day.
The only yeshivah in Lithuania to survive the Holocaust was the Mir Yeshivah which found refuge in the Japanese Ghetto of Shanghai until the end of the war. Their rescue was facilitated by the Japanese Consul Sempo Sugihara who acted unofficially and stamped thousands of visas. Of the other pre-war institutions only YIVO which moved to America before the war is still operating today.
The Soviet era began after the war. From 1972-75 there was a window of opportunity for Jews to leave and 20,000 left for Israel and elsewhere. Today there is a small and thriving community of about 5,000. There is a Jewish school, kindergarten, Jewish museum and Yiddish is being taught in Vilnius University.
The Lithuanian Embassy in London hosts an annual Litvak Day and this year it will take place on 1st December.
After her talk the Ambassador graciously agreed to take questions which ranged from the recent annexation of the Crimea, the rise of the Far Right and accessibility to the state archives by Jewish genealogists. The event was chaired by Richard Sotnick. A vote of thanks was proposed by Jeremy Havardi and the event was kindly hosted by Nabarro LLP.
‘Court and Chief: Communications for the Chief Rabbi and the Royal Household’
Meeting held January 2014
An enthusiastic audience of nearly 30 people turned out for an excellent presentation by communications professional Zaki Cooper, and they also enjoyed a pleasant social gathering over supper. Zaki gave us a
fascinating insight into his work in the press office at Buckingham Palace, particularly during the year of the Diamond Jubilee, as well as his time in the Chief Rabbi’s office. His theme was ‘leadership’ and having worked for both a Jewish leader and a Royal leader, he made some very interesting connections between the two. His talk was wonderfully illustrated with a myriad of photos and some very special props, which included a Royal Standard flag and a piece of cake from the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.