ShabbatUK at New West End US
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Thursday 7th March 2019

So, another Shabbat UK has come and gone, and where better to spend it than at one of the best kept secrets in London – the New West End Synagogue, in the heart of trendy Notting Hill/Bayswater.

It began with a packed Kabbalat Shabbat service in the intimate setting of the Beth Hamedrash tucked away in an upper storey of the historic Grade 1 listed building, where each Friday night the community is brought together in song and prayer. The service was followed by a feast of soup and Sushi followed by a talk by guest speaker, Joanne Greenaway, Executive Director of LSJS. Jo spoke on the connection between Shabbat and the building of the Mishkan, but more importantly, the idea of embracing Shabbat and taking time out to experience Hashem through the gift of this special day. More food and enlightenment followed at Rabbi and Rebbetzin Freedman’s house, in a beautiful Oneg filled with song, caramel vodka and inspirational stories reminding us of our humanity and ultimate connection to God and of allowing ourselves to embrace our imperfections as human beings.

On Shabbat morning we found ourselves in the main Synagogue - one of the most beautiful in Europe with a choral service to match led by Marc Joseph, singing together with Mosaic Voices, the NWES professional choir. We were lucky enough to be treated to a second performance of Benjamin Till’s superb modern piece, a setting of L’Dor Vador. The musical tradition at the New West End is a mainstay of the Shul and the congregation were visibly moved. As always Rabbi Freedman delivered a beautiful and thought-provoking sermon.

After the service and our usual superb Kiddush, there was a wonderful meaty buffet lunch after which Jo Greenaway gave a very interesting talk on the challenges that the Beth Din face when navigating their way through the tricky territory of gett refusal. This was followed by a whole afternoon of stimulating interactive discussion on subjects ranging from empathy to building more sustainable relationships.

As Shabbat drew to its close and we came together once again for Mincha, Seudah (more food!) and Maariv, we all stood with the community and all our guests in the candle light of Havdalah and thought just how lucky the Jewish people are to have been given this special day where we can remind ourselves of the spiritual nature of life and re-connect with ourselves, each other and ultimately Hashem, but not just on Shabbat UK, but every single Shabbat of the year!

By Eli Ballon