Cheshire Unity Lodge – Historical Events
Cheshire Unity Lodge’s UK Jewish Heritage Trip June 2015
Report by Alan Miller
On Sunday 21st June 2015 eighteen members of Cheshire Unity set out on their first UK based Jewish Heritage trip. The previous four trips having been to continental Europe. This time we were eager to discover the history of medieval communities up to the expulsions of 1290 and their subsequent revival.
Our leader was once again Past President Prof. Alan Silman and we set off by coach to the magnificent City of Norwich. Our Guide was Marcus Roberts who is a leading Anglo Jewish historian.
We got off to a great start having the privilege in the evening of joining a packed Norwich Synagogue to hear a concert by the excellent London Jewish Male Voice Choir.
The following morning we set off through the streets of Norwich to the Cathedral (built with money from Jewish financiers) where we learnt the Thirteenth century story of William, a young boy found dead, resulting in the accusation of him being killed by the Jews for his blood. Anti -Semitic atrocities were then visited on the community. The Blood Libel became a much repeated theme of this trip. On a misericord we were shown a carving of an owl (representing Jews as it was bird of the night, shunned by other birds and reputedly living in its own filth) being attacked by Christian birds. The Jews were the property of the Crown and lived adjacent to the castle in which they could quickly find refuge and the protection of the constable in times of persecution – of which there were many. We walked, in pouring rain, to the Jewish cemetery of the 1750s, except that it is now a car park and quite unrecognisable to anyone who is not a research student in the subject.
The following day we commenced our education about the Jewish community in Northampton. We saw the only surviving medieval Jewish tombstone in Britain from 1259 which was discovered in 1840 during development of the town. A visit to the old Synagogue meant a viewing of the foundations under a kebab shop and through the cellars of the Bear Inn, plus a trip to the new bus station to see the commemorative plaque. Another car park, this time next to a drug rehabilitation centre in the back end of Northampton was visited as the site of another former Jewish cemetery.
Needless to say the Jews were falsely accused in 1277 of the crucifixion and attempted murder of a Christian boy in a churchyard. This resulted in the torture and execution of fifty Jews and many more being sent to the Tower of London.
We continued our journey up to the beautiful City of Lincoln. Up early the next morning in sunshine and off to Lincoln Cathedral, rebuilt following an earthquake in 1185 using money loaned by Aaron of Lincoln (at an APR of 23%). Jewish historical interest abounds at this site. The Shrine of Little Hugh of Lincoln, who was found in a well in 1255 – yet another Blood Libel story- resulting in the hanging of eighteen Jews. More night owl sculptures close by and stained glass depictions of the anti-Semitic legend of the Jewish boy of Bourges who was thrown in a furnace by his father but rescued by the Virgin Mary.
Having by this time developed a thorough feeling of persecution and victimisation it came as a delight to visit Jews House, one of the oldest and most important domestic dwellings in England. The twelfth century street façade is largely intact and houses a wonderful restaurant where we enjoyed a great lunch. Next door, in Jews’ Court, the community was re-established in 1992 and it was refreshing to visit the Synagogue on the first floor which now has regular services again.
We rounded off our trip by viewing the Magna Carta in Lincoln Castle – a suitably illuminating end to a fascinating few days.
Cheshire Lodge holds a very successful 40th Anniversary Celebration
Report by Alan Miller
On Sunday 13th July Cheshire Unity Lodge celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a lunch and garden party at the
home of members Sonya and Rodger Bower in Hale. A marquee was hired in case the weather lived up to its reputation of raining in Manchester (!) but fortunately it held off and a great time was had by all. The event was totally sold out and the seventy guests, who were members and former members, were welcomed by the President, Jonathan Berg, who reminded everyone of the origins of the Lodge its development using the the amazing strengths and talents of the members and the Lodge’s continuing commitment to the principles of B’nai B’rith. A superb buffet lunch was catered and served by Lodge members lead by Lynne Nathan. Music was provided by “Quinta” a local jazz band and after the lunch guests participated
in garden games – beat the goalie penalty shoot out, croquet, boule, archery, table tennis, garden draughts and a coconut shy to name but a few. A raffle raised almost £300 for B’nai B’rith charities. The Lodge continues to attract new members through its eventful, innovative and interesting programme.
THE B’NAI B’RITH UK TOUR TO SEE THE REAL ISRAEL.
20TH – 27TH October 2014.
Report by Amanda Kremnitzer
In October 2014, 21 Londoners, together with 3 Mancunians enjoyed a very interesting and informative trip to Israel learning about its health care, education, and defence whilst having the opportunity to visit various programmes which BBUK support financially. This well-rounded trip was organised by Malcolm Factor, assisted by Walter Breindel.
Our first 3 days were based in Jerusalem, during which time we had a tour around the Cardiology, Maternity and Emergency Units of Shaare Zedeck Hospital; had a very interesting talk by the Deputy Political Advisor for Internal Affairs at the Jerusalem Municipality concerning, in particular, the worrying way in which the demographics of the City are changing; a trip to the IDF at Ramla to visit the Unit for Disabled Soldiers; a visit to the Keren Malki Foundation and a meeting with Police Superintendent Michael Rosenfeld who discussed aspects of policing Jerusalem and its borders.
On our way to our hotel in Beer Sheva, where we were based for the last 4 days, we visited the Kerem Medical Centre in Qiryat Gat and saw the Trauma room which had been built and fully equipped by money raised by BBUK, and the Food Distribution Centre set up by some wonderful youngsters from Bnei Akiva, supported by BBUK. We also had a talk by a very charismatic and engaging Ethiopian Rabbi and saw the much-needed and valued work done with immigrant children by the Kadima Youth Centre. What a long day!
A fascinating trip to the new town of Yeruham, developed in the Negev, showed us what can be achieved with vision, determination and hard work to bring to fruition Ben Gurion’s dream for this region. It was followed by a visit to the great man’s dessert home at Sde Boker.
Our final full day in Israel started with a tour of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, followed by a talk by one of the Vice-Chancellors and ended with an emotional visit to Sderot for a meeting with the Chief Security Officer and Deputy Mayor, held in front of a collection of some of the rockets that have fallen on the town.
We were treated to music by a group of young men who had converted a traditional bomb shelter into a Youth Centre with its own recording studio and then were driven to the IDF Memorial built just a few hundred yards from the border where we saw a beautiful sunset looking out towards Gaza. The peace and tranquillity we found there made a quiet and reflective end to what had been a wonderful, if exhausting week.
First Lady of our Lodge now First Lady of Comedy!!
Report by Brian Greene
Marilyn Berg has been crowned “Queen of Stand-up” at a Comedy Competition in aid of the FED.
Performing at The Comedy Store in front of a sell-out audience of over 500, including a large, noisy contingent of Lodge members, Marilyn ‘Wowed’ the judges and the audience with a stunning comedy set. Her routine about trying to converse at the Dentist with a mouth full of machinery, delivered with a mixture of physical humour and wry observation, had the audience in fits of laughter.
She then followed this up with a routine about trying to buy a cinema ticket on the internet. Everyone could relate to her mixture of frustration and puzzlement as she related her experience, ending on a high that was both topical and clever.
Throughout, her delivery and timing was impeccable, and she rightly earned a standing ovation from an ecstatic audience. The judges was unanimous in their decision, such was Marilyn’s level of Mastery and superiority over a very strong line-up of eleven competitors.
In her acceptance speech, she also showed that she is the master (mistress?) of ad-lib, saying how much she would like to thank her Husband Jon – but just couldn’t think what for!
As well as giving us all such a fantastic night, Marilyn helped the FED to raise well in excess of £6,000.
I am sure that you all join with me in saying “Congratulations to our new Mistress of Mirth”
Cheshire Unity Discovers Jewish Italy. May 2014
Report by Alan Miller
Fourteen members of Cheshire Unity Lodge have returned from a six day voyage of Jewish discovery in Italy.
Our first stop was Padua where we walked the streets of the seventeenth century ghetto lying in the heart of the most historic district in the town. We also were able to learn of the huge power of the Church and visited the Cathedral and Basilica.
The following day took us to Ferrara with its famous Jewish cemetery and in the ghetto found a restaurant called “The Balabusta” !
Next stop was Florence with its fabulous Moorish style synagogue built in 1882. The shul survived attempts by the Nazis to blow it up and also a visit by our Lodge to attend its Friday night service. The Ponte Veccio, Duomo and Uffitzi Gallery were passed by as we walked the packed streets of this magnificent city on the way to another ghetto district.
We travelled by bus to our next stop Siena, a town full of history, character and even more tourists. The weather was magnificent but we nearly lost one of our party who accidentally fell into a thirty foot deep natural spring, used for baptisms, below the Basilica ! They did later dry out OK.
The highlight of the trip was our excursion to the hill top town of Pitigliano where the ghetto district has been renamed “ La Piccola Gerusalemme”. This sixteenth century complex contains a shul, mikvah, abattoir, bakery and winery, where Tuscan Jews who wished to live outside the ghettos of Florence and Siena could settle in freedom in this rural centre. The synagogue is built on the edge of a cliff which collapsed in the 1960s causing great damage but was rebuilt in 1995 and services are held when a Rabbi visits with the scrolls – and a minyan.
We had a wonderful, fascinating and mind expanding experience which follows on from previous Lodge visits to Hungary, Portugal and Germany.
We wonder where our leader, Past President Prof. Alan Silman, will take us next ?