Yitzchak Rabin Lodge Events – Historical


Report by Tony Etherton

Michael Leigh was the senior rabbi at Edgware Reform Synagogue for over 20 years and the founding president of Yitzchak Rabin Lodge.Leigh-960

This year’s lecture was given by Sir Terence Etherton on the subject ‘ Religion and Human Rights: Tensions in a Liberal Democracy’. Sir Terence is senior warden at West London Reform Synagogue. He is currently Chancellor of the High Court, Queen’s Council, Privy Counsellor, Visiting Professor at Kent University and Birkbeck College London University. Past positions have included: High Court Judge, Lord Justice of Appeal and Chairman – Law Commission. He was also chosen to represent Great Britain in fencing at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow but declined to participate because of Russia’s policy on Jews who wanted to emigrate to Israel.

The lecture with developments in humans rights legislation from the 17th century to the present day. Sir Terence’s talk included the European Court of Human Rights and its impact on areas concerning Jews in the UK such as circumcision and ritual slaughter.

Over 60 people attended the lecture including Michael Leigh’s widow Sonia. Rabbi Danny Smith reminded the audience of the life and work of Michael Leigh. The introduction was by Tony Etherton, President of Yitzchak Rabin Lodge and the vote of thanks was by Geoffrey Bernstein. The candle lighting ceremony was performed by Karol and Geoffrey Bernstein.

Women in Judaism – Special Panel Evening

Report by Jean Etherton

As a contribution to European Heritage Days, Yitzchak Rabin Lodge held a Panel Evening based on this year’s theme of ‘Women in Judaism’. Three women, two of them Lodge members, each gave

a talk on the lives of Jewish women who had made a difference to Jewish communities in various parts of the world.

Melna Charin chose Donna Gracia Nasi, 1510–1569, a member of the eminent international banking family – Mendes. Living in Spain at the time of the Inquisition, the family members were forcibly converted to Christianity and were living as Muranos. Donna Gracia’s enormous wealth gave her influence with kings and popes, which she used to protect her fellow Conversos and she also developed an escape network that saved hundreds from the Inquisition. The journey of her fascinating life took us from Spain to Portugal to Amsterdam, Venice, Ferrara and Turkey.

Shirley Josephs, brought us more up-to-date by choosing Emma Lazarus, born in New York in 1849, who wrote the famous poem ‘The New Colossus’ engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.  Emma was part of the late nineteenth century New York literary elite, writing bold, powerful poetry and essays protesting the rise of anti-Semitism and arguing for Russian immigrants’ rights. She was also an early Zionist advocating a homeland for Jews in Palestine.

Esme Daniels, who organised the whole event, spoke about Ruth Gruber who is 103 this week. She was a journalist, pioneering foreign correspondent, humanitarian and a former United States government official.In 1944, she was assigned a secret mission to Europe to bring one thousand Jewish refugees and wounded American soldiers from Italy to the US.To fulfil this mission she was made “a simulated general” in case the military aircraft she flew in was shot down and she was caught by the Nazis, she would be kept alive according to the Geneva Convention.

All three of these remarkable women, though not particularly well known, and living at different times, have worked and devoted their lives to achieving freedom for their fellow Jews as well as other oppressed people.


Yitzchak Rabin Lodge went to a talk and exhibition at the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit in Cambridge University Library.

Report by Tony Etherton

Members of Yitzchak Rabin Lodge went to a talk and exhibition at the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit in Cambridge University Library.
The talk discussed the thousands of religious tracts as well as letters, bills, cheques and ketubot that were discovered in the store room of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo. Some of these documents date from the 6th century CE and a  small selection were on display.

The exhibits include the original of the last letter from David ben Maimon to his brother Moshe Maimonides (Ram Bam) who was living in Cairo at the time. David ben Maimon perished at sea around 1169.

Music Soiree

Music Soiree raised £1100 for elderly Jews in Ukraine.


‘Can Israel Depend on the Support of the West?’

Report by Jean Etherton

‘Can Israel Depend on the Support of the West?’ was the title of the annual Rabbi Michael Leigh Memorial Lecture, a joint venture between the B’nai B’rith Yitzchak Rabin Lodge and Edgware Reform Synagogue (EDRS). Rabbi Leigh was Senior Minister at EDRS from 1963 until 1993. He was a founder member of the Yitzchak Rabin Lodge and its first President.

The speaker was Dr Toby Greene, Director of Research for British Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM). He is a political analyst, writer and lecturer specialising in Israel, the Middle East and UK-Israel relations.

Dr Toby Greene, Director of Research for British Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM)

Dr Greene said that although he had not known Rabbi Leigh, he had been inspired by his son, Jeremy, who had been his teacher of Jewish History. His talk, which was wide- ranging and comprehensive, focussed on the importance of the relationship between Europe/US/UK and Israel and the influences that drove those relationships. He also warned of the growing perception of Israel as a colonial occupier His very interesting and stimulating lecture gave rise to many questions from the 60-strong audience.


AGM Report

By Jean Etherton

The Yitzchak Rabin Lodge AGM took place on 12th March with Guest Speaker and Installing Officer Seymour Saideman, Honorary Life President of BBE and Member of BBI Board of Governors. Seymour is well known for his many communal activities and was a founder member of Yitzchak Rabin Lodge.

His talk entitled “B’nai B’rith – To be or not to be – that is the question” (with apologies to William Shakespeare!) struck a positive note despite some difficulties currently encountered with B’nai B’rith Europe. A full house witnessed the installation of Tony Etherton as the new President and the outgoing President, Carole Orchover, was presented with an engraved silver dish in appreciation of her work for the Lodge.