ShabbatUK 2016 at Stanmore & Canons Park
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Wednesday 16th November 2016

Stanmore & Canons Park US held a five day ShabbatUK extravaganza which culminated on Motzei Shabbat with a spectacular firework display. This rounded off a jam packed and incredibly inspiring programme that – despite unforeseen challenges like the shul heating breaking down – saw a total of almost 1200 attendees enjoying 11 different events.

The community began its ShabbatUK celebrations on Tuesday evening, when its ‘220 Challenge’ invited members to attend one of seven different shiurim in different people’s homes. This was followed on Wednesday evening by a special Challah make for the Under-10s and their parents, when the children were invited to create dinosaur and other shaped challahs alongside the more traditional plaits.

On Thursday evening it was time for the ‘grown up’ but no less fun Challah make. Over 150 people enjoyed entertainment provided by ‘The Two Jeremys’ comedy duo, and were delighted to give a warm Stanmore welcome to the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis when he made a surprise appearance while all the doughs were proving.  Stanmore’s Senior & Community Rabbonim, Mendel Lew and Daniel Fine, provided explanatory commentary throughout on the halacha of challah making and baking, with expert live demonstrations by their wives Rivky Lew and Janine Fine projected onto the big screen for all the bakers to follow.

L-R: Merrick Wolman (Chairman), Jeremy Harris (joint compere for the Challah Make) Rabbi Daniel Fine (Community Rabbi) Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Rabbi Mendel Lew (Senior Rabbi), Jeremy Saideman (joint compere), Samantha Jacobs & Juliette Harris (organisers).

Challahs taken home and baked, it was then time to set up for Shabbat. At 4pm the shul opened its doors for Ma’ariv, followed by a sushi Kiddush with vodka lycheenis and a selection of different whiskies. Three hundred and ten well warmed people then took their seats upstairs in the Freeman Susman Hall for a delicious traditional Friday night dinner. Our guest speaker was The Lord Polak CBE, veteran director of the Conservative Friends’ of Israel, who greatly entertained the diners with his tales of being appointed to the House of Lords to “speak up for Israel“ as well as the challenges of setting up an Tanzanian embassy in Israel. Many of the guests then stayed on for a late night candlelit kumzitz to enjoy singing led by the Shul’s esteemed Chazan, Jonny Turgel.

Shabbat morning was wet and windy but it didn’t stop over 600 people turning up for shul. The ‘normal’ service was augmented by an explanatory Musaf in the Beit Mordechai Beit Midrash, with an introduction given by our visiting scholar Rabbi Akiva Tatz. In fact Rabbi Tatz was kept incredibly busy all morning, giving separate shiurim to parents and youth  and then addressing the entire community back in the main shul while Kiddush was being cleared away and the hall set up for lunch.

Over 350 people sat down for a buffet lunch, with Rabbi Tatz delivering another shiur during dessert. Everyone then had the choice of wine or whisky tasting, attending another shiur, having a schluf or hanging out in the Games Room, with tea and cakes provided. Amazingly most people still had enough appetite to enjoy a seudah shlishit before returning to the main shul for Ma’ariv.

Shabbat drawing to a close, it was time for Havdalah.  The wonderful atmosphere created by over 100 Havdalah candles and spice bags was boosted by a special two-minute video featuring clips of some of Stanmore’s youngest members talking about Shabbat (video below). This set the tone for a rousing rendition of the Havdalah melody, led by Jonny Turgel, before everyone went out to the car park to enjoy a spectacular firework display orchestrated by Ashley Perez. Amazingly, the fun didn’t even stop there, as over 20 Youth members were then taken to the Sno-Dome in Milton Keynes to enjoy a post ShabbatUK romp in the snow.

Tributes for the programme have been pouring in since Saturday night, with members describing it as “the best ever Shabbat”, “truly inspirational” and “brilliantly organised”.  One family, who are members of the Federation shul but who grew up in Stanmore wrote “What a wonderful Shabbat. It was lovely to be part of the Stanmore community once again and we were made very welcome. The food was really tasty, the speakers extremely entertaining, the kiddushim, whisky and wine tastings an added bonus. The kids enjoyed themselves too and we all look forward to coming again on a regular Shabbat.”

All in all, a truly wonderful and unique programme of events spanning five days. Huge gratitude must go to the event organising committee, chaired by Samantha Jacobs and comprising of Laura Sint, Laurence Vogel, Juliette Harris, Gabrielle Perez, Caroline Smer, Jo Briggs, Susan Leigh, Nancy Moses, Rabbi Mendel Lew, Rabbi Daniel Fine, Rachel Hartog  and Merrick Wolman, as well as all the other countless people who helped with setting up or clearing up all the various events.

Roll on Shabbat UK 2017!