(JTA) — Perhaps the strangest part was sitting through a Sunday service in the 1,000-year-old nave of St. Albans Cathedral (the longest nave in England!) and hearing the Hebrew Bible (specifically I Kings 1:32-40) read aloudt in English. Maybe stranger yet was hearing part of that passage set to the music of 17th-century maestro George Friedrich Handel! These, and many other oddities, were only a fraction of the wonderful and unusual experiences of being an American-born British rabbi during the first coronation this country has seen in 70 years.
As with the funeral last year of the late Queen Elizabeth, the scale of organization and competence required to pull off such an event is astounding. For a country where it often feels that small-scale bureaucracy can get in the way of day-to-day life, the coronation was, by all accounts, seamless. This of course makes it the exception rather than the rule, as coronations past were often marred by logistical issues, bad luck and sometimes straight-up violence.
It was the coronation of Richard I in 1189 that unleashed anti-Jewish massacres and pogroms across the country and led to the York Massacre in 1190, in which over 150 local Jews killed themselves after being trapped in Clifford’s Tower, which was set ablaze by an angry mob. During that year there were attacks in London, Lynn, Bury St. Edmunds, Stamford, Lincoln, Colchester and others. It was exactly 100 years later, in 1290, that Edward I would expel Jews from England altogether. They wouldn’t return (officially) for 400 years — or get an official apology from the church for 800.
This weekend’s festivities, thankfully, were of a very different caliber. Not only were Jewish communities front and center, but Jews, religious and not, were active and welcome participants in the ceremony in Westminster Abbey. Indeed, despite the ceremony taking place on Shabbat, the United Synagogue (a mainstream Orthodox denomination that accounts for 40-45% of British Jewish synagogue membership) was represented by Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who, together with other faith leaders, played a role in greeting the king as he left the church. This was especially unusual as it has long been the position of the United Synagogue that their rabbis and members should not go into churches (much less on Shabbat). In many ways, this demonstrates one of the consistent themes of the coronation: the interruption of normal routine and the continued exceptionalism of the royal family.
Judaism is agnostic, at best, about kings. Our own monarchy came about because the people insisted on it, but against the will of the prophet Samuel against the desire of God. Once it was established — a process which involved several civil wars, a lot of bloodshed and the degradation of many historical elements of Israelite society — it did, for a brief time, bring some stability to the fragile confederacy of Israelite tribes. But it was really only the half-century golden era under King Solomon that managed this feat. After him, and ever since, the monarchy has been a source of conflict and violence. While we still hope that a righteous heir of the Davidic monarchy will reappear and take their place as king of Israel, we, famously, are not holding our breath.
Our approach to non-Jewish monarchs is even more complex. Whilst King Charles III was being coronated to the words of our holy texts and being anointed in oil (the ceremony for our monarchs) from the Mount of Olives (in our holy land), we were at the same time reciting a litany of prayers, as we do daily, to remind us (in the words of our prayers): “We have no king but You” (Avinu Malkeinu); “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom” (Ashrei); “God is King, God has ruled, God will rule forever (Y’hi Khavod); “God’s kingship is true there is none else” (Aleinu).
These words were chosen by our sages for our prayers in part because they shared the biblical anxiety about monarchs. Halacha, Jewish law, does retain the notion of a king over Israel, but that king is so heavily bound by legislation, it is far from the absolutist monarchies of most of Europe.
However, since 1688 at least, after the brief (and failed) experiment with the notion of divine right of kings, England (and now the United Kingdom) has endorsed the notion of a constitutional monarch — a king or queen who is esteemed, but also bound by the law and by restrictions imposed by the people. In practice, this makes today’s monarchy an awful lot like that of ancient Israel, and very different from historic European monarchies, as well as very different from how Americans and others often see it. After nearly six years living and working on these green isles, I’ve come to appreciate the complexities and absurdities of the British monarchy, and to value the role that the ceremonies play in the collective life of Britons.
Many here are surprised to find that, being a Yankee, I’m not also a republican (an anti-monarchist, in the British context). Indeed, while I have my doubts about the idea of monarchy and while, religiously, there is a strong argument against human authority, the monarchy as it operates in modern Britain is fairly compatible with the idea of kingship as established by halacha — restrained, limited and primarily occupied with being a moral exemplar rather than an authoritarian ruler. Maybe then it shouldn’t be so strange that so much of the ceremonies this weekend were drawn from our texts, and so much of the symbolism referential to our tradition. We can be grateful that King Charles’s coronation, the first in a generation, went off without a hitch and without bloodshed, and with the support and involvement of a diverse representation of Britain’s peoples and faiths.
To the outside, this weekend has likely appeared to be just a lot of pomp and pageantry. No doubt, it is often Americans who are camping out on the Mall in see-through tents or wearing the royal family’s faces as masks in coronation parties — but this American, after more than half a decade here in Britain, can appreciate the depth of the monarchy in ways I couldn’t before. I see both its deep significance and history, its connection to our own tradition (sometimes through appropriation), and its negatives. As a rabbi and a Jew, I will always be of the opinion that there is only one Sovereign who truly rules, but there is something to be said for having a king as well as a King.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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