Rev. David Wolfson z'l Memorial Lecture - Tuesday 16 September 2014

The Rev. David Wolfson z'l Memorial Lecture on Tuesday 16 September 2014 at Ruislip Synagogue was notable on several counts. The lecture was presented by the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis who graciously honoured Ruislip with his presence. Furthermore it put Ruislip Synagogue very much on the map. Ruislip may have a small congregation, but it is a force to be reckoned with as the Board of Management are dynamic and persistent.

Over 100 people with keen anticipation crowded into the Synagogue hall to hear the Chief Rabbi speak , and they were not disappointed.

Guests of honour were the Wolfson family, children and grandchildren - one of whom came from Australia to attend this auspicious event. Menahem Briskman, Chairman, welcomed everyone and left the floor to Neil Wolfson (grandson of Rev. Wolfson) to read psalm 121. Ruislip's own Rabbi - Stanley Coten - then reminded everyone about Rev. Wolfson who served Ruislip Synagogue from 1974-2003, and then was emeritus minister till 2010, but even then he did not think he was retired! Rabbi Coten subsequently introduced the 11th Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and spoke eloquently of his dedication, mentioning that he had already visited 70 synagogues and attended many meetings on diverse subjects, and we were honoured to have him with us.

Chief Rabbi Mirvis said it was wonderful to be in Ruislip and he was delighted and honoured to give the David Wolfson Memorial Lecture. He proved to be an excellent raconteur and entertained his audience with jokes relating them to football and watches - both of which were dear to Rev. Wolfson's heart. He juxtaposed his witticisms with serious thoughts about how the Jewish community and others are facing a crisis of non speaking, and advocated that we should make connections and talk to each other, and through these means we can achieve unity. He quoted Genesis that every human of any colour or creed is precious, and every person is a child of G-d. We should not forget this. However, he acknowledged that in our striving for unity, sometimes one goes with the flow and the result is uniformity which is not the same thing. One has to preserve our difference in order to preserve our faith as an individual, and this is why we need outstanding leaders.

He concluded with the hope that this Yom Kippur we will dare to be different and connect with our faith - as he said 'yiddishkeit is simcha,' joy of Judaism is to celebrate. His final words were typically humorous reinforcing his statements with a riddle which left the audience in fits of laughter and wanting more from such an eloquent and accomplished speaker.

A vote of thanks was given by Ronnie Cotsen, Warden, who thanked him warmly for coming to Ruislip, and hoped he had enjoyed it as much as we all had. Ronnie also gave a 'plug' for the interfaith service on 28th November.

Finally on behalf of the Synagogue, Alex Maxwell presented a book ‘The Varieties of Jewish Experience’, by Rabbi Aaron Lichenstein of Gush Etzion, to Chief Rabbi Mirvis, on the occasion of his visit to Ruislip on 21 Ellul 5774.

The audience were then able to converse with the distinguished speaker over refreshments.