Rosh Hashanah and Pomegranates
Anyone new to Woodside Park Synagogue might wonder who on earth these New Moonies are and what happens at their meetings so read on…
The New Moonies are a Ladies Group which meets round about the time of Rosh Chodesh, when the New Moon is considered a minor holiday for women. Hence the name, the New Moonies. And on Wednesday 1st October it was an unusually balmy evening in an unusually balmy Autumn – so much so that it did indeed feel like a minor holiday as we walked the last few hundred yards to the welcoming home of Gila and Rabbi Hackenbroch for what promised to be a fascinating evening with an intriguing title.
As about forty of us sat down there was not a pomegranate in sight and the mystery deepened. Instead there were two lovely ladies Rae Adler, Community Development and Dr Veronique Berman, Scientific Advisor, who gave a professional presentation with slides about the charity, Chana, and put out packs for us to read. I have to confess I did not know anything about Chana before I arrived – but I discovered that I was not alone.
Our evening began with an inspirational talk by Gila giving us deep insights into the story of Chana (Hannah), who had been longing for a child for nineteen long years and had her prayers answered by God when she followed the prophet Eli's advice on how to pray with love instead of bitterness in her heart.
Then Deanna, who had invited Gila to join her as Co-Chair, explained the pomegranate link. With their 613 seeds symbolising fertility, it linked in with Chana, which was set up to give emotional and practical support to Jewish couples who experience primary or secondary fertility. They have a really good website at www.chana.org.uk which I looked at when I got home and I urge anyone reading this to do so as well. Throughout the Bible pomegranates are referred to and became symbolic of fertility. Incidentally, the link to Chana with information about this amazing charity is also on the shul website at https://www.woodsideparksynagogue.org.uk/chana
Rae and Veronique were very warm and approachable speakers and gave a fascinating fact-filled presentation with question and answers interspersed between the slides. I was surprised to hear that as many as 1 in 6 couples experience infertility and the Jewish community is very fortunate because the NHS are very restrictive as to who they will help and the cost of infertility treatment is staggering!
The New Moonies meeting formula is just perfect. There are always three parts. First is the spiritual input which feeds the soul. Secondly we have inspirational speakers telling us about their work, like tonight, or maybe a practical session related to the particular festival at the time, or something that will aesthetically improve the Jewish home and our lives. The third section is the refreshment and socialising part.
However 'refreshment' is too mundane a word adequately to describe what happens at a session of the New Moonies. Instead, we sojourn to the Hackenbroch kitchen where the centre table area is an aesthetic feast for the eyes, beautifully adorned with white cloth, pretty napkins, colourful candles, exquisite dishes of sushi, chopsticks, fruit, dips surrounded by beautifully cut vegetables, mouth-watering kichels and biscuits, sweets, chocolates and various drinks.
The dedication, hard work and attention to the last detail of every aspect of the New Moonies does not go unnoticed. The ladies of Woodside Park are indeed fortunate to have the opportunity to be so enriched.