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Arriving At South West Essex And Settlement Reform Synagogue

It’s wonderful to finally be here at SWESRS, “in post” as your new rabbi, and great to have completed my first High Holy Day season here. As it is said, starting here a mere couple of weeks before Rosh Hashanah was definitely, (I apologize for the cliché), a bit like being “thrown in at the deep end.” One of the fantastic opportunities it provided, besides giving me deeper insight into how you at SWESRS go about doing things in worship services, was the chance to meet so many of you at a time of year when you make the effort to come and worship, socialize and spend time with your Jewish community. The extra benefit of that was an unparalleled chance to see how this community works and interacts, and to observe how much the members here seem to view themselves as one big family. If I have learned anything from these past few weeks it is a better understanding of the history and profound attachment that so many of you have to this synagogue. I have never been in a community where so many members have grown up here as children and remained members, and then watched their own children grow up and become bar and bat mitzvah in the same place.

The last year has brought many challenges here at SWESRS. So many of you have expressed to me your kind wishes of welcome, hope and happiness about a new beginning for this community and a wish to bring about a new era of commitment, learning, rejuvenation and dynamism. Well, I know I cannot do it without you. And I also now know that with the strong sense of history, purpose, warmth and community present here that anything is possible. Another midrash about the four species notes that the different qualities and faculties they represent cannot exist in isolation but must be taken together. As it says, “….The four species must be taken together as a unit. So too, to achieve happiness, one must use all of one's faculties in unison. You cannot say one thing and feel another. We must unify our feelings, our actions, our speech and our outlook. With all of these working together, we are well on the path to self-esteem, tranquillity and joy.” Working together with all of you, in unison of thought, feeling, action and outlook, I know that we can achieve great things here at SWESRS and become again a beacon of light, leadership and change in this historic Jewish community of east London.

Rabbi Nancy Morris

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