It might have been a frosty night outside, but it was certainly a warm one inside Ne’ve Shalom, the Hull Reform Synagogue, where over 160 people gathered for the annual Erev Shabbat Open Service on Friday evening 26 February 2016, as Ian Sugarman and Jackie Lukes explain.
What made this night different from all other nights was the congregation. There was Rabbi Danny Rich, the Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism in the UK, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, the Bishop of Hull Rt Revd Alison White, Imam Alamgeer Choudhury from Hull’s Pearson Park Mosque, Andrew Percy MP, groups from nearby East Riding and Hull Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Methodist churches, visitors from the local Hindu and Muslim communities, visitors from the Hull Orthodox Hebrew Community, Liberal congregations from Lincoln and York, BBC Radio Humberside, Hull University students and local RE teachers.
The Friday night service was held with a running commentary by Ian Sugarman and Professor John Friend explaining the nature and background of the prayers, the hymns, the psalms and the theology. There www.stayfitgethealthy.com/med/ were two sermons echoing each other’s themes of coming together and of simcha (joy): one by the Archbishop of York on Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 and one by Rabbi Rich on Exodus 30:11-35 during which he humorously greeted a ‘Jewish’ Archbishop of York.
Following the sermons, the congregation witnessed a rare affirmation of the Jewish Faith ceremony for Mark Huntington, who after many years of study, learning Hebrew and being part of the local Jewish community, had been accepted by the Reform Beit Din (court of Jewish Law) as a true convert to Judaism. His conversion certificate was, for the first time, witnessed by a non-Jew – the Archbishop of York!
At the end of the service, everyone joined in the kiddush. This was followed by a buffet containing a range of foods eaten during the different Jewish festivals and other Jewish-style foods.
The whole evening was educational, enlightening and entertaining and those who attended could not have failed to be impressed with the warmth, the wit and the welcome of Reform Judaism.