“Today we commemorate 70 years since the D-Day landing. Words cannot adequately express our indebtedness to the bravery and courage of the Allied forces who participated in the invasion. Many laid down their lives so that we can live today in freedom. As those able to provide living testimony become fewer our challenge is to preserve their memory. Let us continually work towards guarding it, and let us ensure that Europe will always be a model of peace, tolerance and coexistence.”
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Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis spoke to Chief Rabbi Avraham Guigui of Brussels and has been in touch with Maurice Sosnowski, President of the Coordinating Committee of the Belgium Jewish Organisations. Chief Rabbi Mirvis sent a message of condolence to the Belgian Jewish community:
“The Jewish communities of Great Britain and the Commonwealth stand in full solidarity with the Jewish communities of Belgium at this difficult time, following Saturday’s shocking murders. We deplore such despicable acts of terrorism and cowardice. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and the families of those murdered and injured.”
The Chief Rabbi issues a wider call to the people and leaders of Europe:
“I call on peace loving people everywhere to come together to fight all forms of prejudice and intolerance and upon the people and leaders of Europe to tackle the growing antisemitism within our midst. Such behaviour cannot and should not be tolerated. It has no place in our open and inclusive societies across the continent.”
Approximately 70 times a year, our community Rabbis, stand at their pulpits to deliver a Shabbat or Yomtov sermon. They are uniquely privileged to have these valuable moments to use as they see fit for the betterment and enhancement of their communities.
In delivering reflections drawn from the Torah and our wider tradition on the central issues that confront us within our changing and challenging world, our Rabbis have the ear of thousands of members of our communities and with that the responsibility and opportunity to teach and inspire.
With this in mind, this coming week I will be taking a group of 50 Rabbis on one of the largest ever Rabbinic missions to Israel from the UK. Our trip is designed to equip our Rabbis with the means to inspire our communities to build deep ties and an enduring relationship with Israel. Our key educators, the spiritual leaders of British Jewry, will be brought face to face with the wonders and the challenges of Israel today.
Our participants will have the opportunity to see first-hand and gain a better appreciation of the political, social, economic and religious reality within which Israel survives and thrives. We will be exploring narratives. Narratives of faith, political narratives, narratives of a society in flux and narratives of social change.
We will meet with Rabbinic leaders and other faith leaders, with key political figures together with political commentators. We will witness first hand what Israel is doing to transform itself and the positive impact it is having on the lives of many in third world countries. We will share many special experiences.
Through this visit, our group of Rabbis will gain a better understanding of the complexities of the current situation in Israel. We will deepen our awareness of both old and new challenges. It is my hope that we return to our communities, galvanised by our experiences and the opportunities for reflection we have had, to strengthen the love our communities have for our sacred country and the central role it plays within our faith.
The inextricable link between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel is clear for all to see. It dates back not only to God’s covenant with Abraham but, according to our tradition, to the creation of the world. In his opening commentary to the Torah, Rashi brings a Rabbinic tradition stating that the reason the Torah commences with details of creation is to emphasise that as creator of the world, it is in God’s gift to determine which lands belong to which people. In this context, Israel is the eternal home and God-given land of the Jewish People.
Through the two millennia of our exile, we have prayed thrice daily, “May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy”. For the Jewish People, Israel is not and has never been a mere idea or a place of the heart. It is a physical reality, where we live and breathe as a people. The 66 year old State of Israel is a modern day miracle for which we thank the Almighty on a daily basis. We pray for its safety and security. We pray for peace.
The Jewish People’s connection to the Land of Israel is deep and it is eternal. It goes to the very fibre of our being as a faith community and as a nation. It defines who we are. No legitimate theological narrative or theological reinterpretation can deny this fundamental and essential link and any that does or attempts to do so must be confronted and exposed for what it is.
Looking at the reality that is Israel, we cannot fail to be impressed and exceptionally proud of what our people hasachieved in such a short space of time. While Israel is not alone in facing difficult challenges, the Jewish state has become a paradigm in many areas of endeavour, an example that others around the world admire and seek to emulate.
We are looking forward to the many opportunities our trip presents for us to develop and grow as Rabbis. We are alsolooking forward to returning to our communities to enjoy sharing with our congregants and the wider British Jewish community our reflections on what we hope will be a memorable and enlightening experience in Medinat Yisrael, the eternal Home of the Jewish People.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
This article appeared in the ‘Jewish News’ 9th May 2014
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Last night Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Archbishop of York John Sentamu met in Durham for the first time at the invitation of Durham University students to discuss interfaith in the 21st century. The CCJ will be facilitating and supporting a network of Student Presidents made up of the leaders of Christain and Jewish Societies at Universities up and down the country.
The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu opened the discussion by talking about the necessity for interfaith dialogue, particularly within the context of the modern world. He highlighted that we are all more interconnected and reliant on each other than ever before. In his address he spoke of the importance of increasing religious literacy, understanding and most importantly dialogue.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis talked about how much Christians and Jews can learn from each other using the historical bonds between the two faiths. Society as a whole needs to look up to religion and respect faith; it is this which promotes compassion and understanding.
The event marked the launch of a new student-led interfaith community called the CCJ Student Presidents (CCJSPs). Participating students will work with the wider organisation to facilitate regular opportunities for students of different faiths to meet, campaign for religious tolerance and promote religious intelligence within the wider campus community. Students from across the country are invited to join the initiative and implement the programme in their own campus.
Tammy Ostro, President of the Durham Jewish Society and inaugural CCJSP says:“Last night was not only a day of historical importance for Durham, where Jewish-Christian relations has always been significant, but also one that is also deeply personal. My family would not be alive today if it wasn’t for the friendship between my grandfather who survived the Holocaust with the help of Christians during the Second World War. I hope that the CCJSP platform helps to bring the significance of this kind of friendship and understanding to the next generation.”
The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu says:“This is an exciting occasion for the Jewish and Christian societies of Durham University. It’s exciting because there is a major opportunity to work and witness together in finding solutions to the intractable challenges of difference. If we are not listening and talking to one another, fear and misunderstanding will grow and mutual support will be lost. Our world is increasingly interconnected which gives us wonderful opportunities to develop inter-religious relationships and understanding. I believe the case to learn how to live as near-neighbours is stronger than ever.”
The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis says:“I issue a call to students across the UK to participate in interfaith activity. I am encouraged that so many students are committed to dialogue. It is through such conversations between people of different faiths that we can achieve the kind of social cohesion and mutual respect that we all yearn for. Religion can, at times, be the cause of division and friction. But religion also has the power to heal the world. Every human being is created in the image of God and therefore we must appreciate the Godliness in every individual. Let us promote what brings us together whilst being respectful of our differences.”
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Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was invited to attend the World Economic Forum 2014 (WEF) which took place between 23-25 January in Davos, Switzerland. The focus of this year’s annual gathering of world leaders from across politics, economics and civil society was on the consequences for society, politics and business of our ever changing and complex world.
The Chief Rabbi contributed to sessions in the Faith and Civil Society track: “Revolutionary Learning: How Knowledge of History can create a Better Future” as well as “Multistakeholder Dialogue on Governance and Peace-Building”. The Chief Rabbi attended sessions with academics, politicians and faith leaders. At a session exploring how we can make Human Dignity integral to our economic activity, the Chief Rabbi echoed Pope Francis’ open letter to WEF to ensure that humanity is served by wealth, and called on us to “build dignity of the person and respect for humanity into the fabric of the way we do business”. “It will pay dividends in the long term” he said.
The Chief Rabbi, together with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, attended Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to the World Economic Forum.
The Chief Rabbi said: “Events such as this provide the space and time to meet with others to listen, discuss and contribute on a variety of important global issues. Through such dialogue, we can all benefit through sharing not only our concerns but also our hopes for a better world”
In the wake of Nelson Mandela’s passing, the Chief Rabbi writes in the Jewish News to reflect on the transformed nation that the South African leader leaves behind and the inspiring legacy that lives on.
The world is sustained by three things: justice, truth and peace (Ethics of the Fathers 1:18)
By upholding the values of justice, truth and peace, governments respect and protect the rights of their citizens, providing them with the means to live securely and in harmony. The absence of these values led to the demise of Apartheid South Africa, while these were the essential three pillars upon which Nelson Mandela’s world stood.
Mandela was an aspiring lawyer in a country that cruelly closed the doors of opportunity in the legal profession to its black majority. The injustice of the Apartheid regime condemned Mandela to 27 painful years of imprisonment on Robben Island. Emerging from this horrendous ordeal, he was indefatigably devoted to the establishment of a democratic multi-racial society founded upon the principles of justice, truth and peace.
The hallmark of Mandela’s legendary contribution was the manner in which he dealt with adversity. A man with a deeply forgiving nature, who was willing to cast aside bitter memories of the past in his desire to create a positive and enriching destiny for his people. He had a vision for a glorious future.
Following Mandela’s release from prison, South Africa was on the brink of civil war. His charisma, deeply held beliefs and skilful leadership gave the country direction, creating, against the odds, a path to peace and reconciliation.
At home he leaves a transformed country. In South Africa and well beyond he leaves a legacy of hope which has inspired the millions who mourn for him now. May we be inspired by his memory and all that he achieved to do our part in guaranteeing that our world will be sustained through justice, truth and peace.