Photo of Shul by Catherine Yass (2000)

Hebrew - Congregation of Jacob
The Congregation of Jacob Synagogue
incorporating
cheva yisroel
Chevra Yisroel & Bicur Cholim & Stetziver Synagogue
351-353 Commercial Road, London, E1 2PS
Tel: 020 7790 2874
- Fax: 0871 661 6774
Over 100 years of service to our community - Founded 5663-1903
Using modern technology to bring old tradition to your home

Photo (Left): Catherine Yass (2000) - Image (Right): Shul Pinkas (1903)

Image by Shul Pinkas (1903) Beis Hay

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24th October 2005
Mandi Lennard

LADY J TALKS EXCLUSIVELY AT
THE CONGREGATION OF JACOB

With so much heritage on offer for those venturing east, why come to our beautiful bijou shul?

The magnetic welcome, David Brandes always instills in our tight and loyal community, combined with such a stellar guest, created an electric synergy of curiosity and expectation. A trickle of guests soon became a grab-a-seat-any-seat throng, comprising our very own colourful congregation, friends, oversees visitors, and newcomers alike, all anticipating the arrival of Lady Jacobovits, the wife of the late Chief Rabbi, Lord Immanuel Jacobovits.

On entering the shul, you could instantly detect Lady J’s presence and strength of character. Exquisitely turned out, she sprinkled the audience with her infectious zest; an avalanche of tales from when her family were trying to escape during the war, tiny miracles of survival, all punctuated by ‘I need 20 hours to tell you’ and ‘You can imagine’, as well as utterly hilarious references to her visits to the Queen Mother in Windsor.

A musical accompaniment was cleverly interspersed by way of a ‘Desert Island Discs’ theme, with Ruth Franks, (whose grandfather Samuel Wolkind used to be the shul’s Secretary, and whose father Jack Wolkind, who used to be Chief Executive of London Borough of Tower Hamlets, was Barmitzvahed in the shul), interviewing Lady J as though she were the show’s presenter Sue Lawley.

The most poignant moment had to be when Barry Davis sang a myriad of songs that included: Sheyiboneh Bais Hamigdosh – To rebuild the Temple Speedily, Ovinu Malkainu – Our Father Our King, and Oseh Sholem Bimromov – He who makes Peace in High Places – of course we couldn’t help but all join in for this. His tone and pitch, the perfect accompaniment to Lady J’s tales; solemn, nostalgic, yet vibrant and alive. To Lady J’s delight, Cyril Hiller, our resident crooner, sang Swannee by Al Jolson, which she told him she had very much been looking forward to. Good to know she had a warning then... ha ha, Cyril, it was faultless!

The audience were riveted. How could someone so composed, elegant and personable, have not only survived devastating odds, but be such an eloquent raconteur? When she spoke, she wasn’t speaking to the audience, but to each and every one of us, even checking every so often, that we could all hear her ok – she kept spilling the water onto her lap, which we precariously placed by her, and just the way she gauged the triviality of such a mishap by ignoring it, made you question why we get so wound up by our little everyday gripes, this happening while she was telling us about the shocking reality of escaping the Nazis as a child in wartime.

Allowing her talk to overrun, she regrettably had to leave as soon as she finished - to our rapturous applause, only broken by the appearance of a humongous bagel-fest, bottomless plates devoured in an instant.

It was such a privilege to have been there, meet her and hear what she had to say; each and every one of us left with a little more than we went with, a little more humility in our step, and magic thoughts of Jewish pride. A tonic.

Read More

Jewish Chronicle - 9 September 2005
Jewish Tribune - 8 September 2005

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