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Celebrations Across the UK Mark New Torah Cycle

Friday, 16 October, 2009 - 9:05 am

simchat-torah.jpgThousands of people danced and celebrated in Chabad Centres throughout the country for Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah – the concluding holidays of the Jewish festive season.

As well as hosting the usual array of festive meals, hakafot (dancing with Torah Scrolls), and religious services, Chabad Centres reached out to Jews in other parts of the community by walking to different synagogues to join in and add to the rejoicing – a practice encouraged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of blessed memory.

"Simchat Torah was very big this year," said Rabbi Leivi Sudak director of Lubavitch of Edgware, which welcomed over 1000 people during the festival.

"We went to dance and celebrate with Jews in all the other shuls in the local area, and people from the other shuls came to dance and celebrate with us."

In cooperation with the local police, congregants in Edgware were able to dance in the street with the Torah scrolls.

"Our neighbours and passers-by were interested to see what was going on," says Rabbi Sudak. "They cheered us on and were happy to see people rejoicing in the streets."

Chabad of Hendon hosted some 700 people over both days of the festival with communal meals being served in the Chabad House.

"The first night we had so many people that we had to borrow another sukkah in a neighbouring synagogue," said Rabbi Dovid Katz, assistant director at Chabad of Hendon.

"This year there was a fantastic atmosphere and real sense of Jewish unity as we visited different synagogues in Hendon."

For the third year running, the Lubavitch community in Leeds visited the city’s three other Orthodox synagogues in what has become an established custom.

"We were received very warmly and people were very happy that we joined them to dance and celebrate. I got calls before the festival to make sure that we were definitely going to come, ” said Rabbi Eli Pink, educational director at the Lubavitch Centre of Leeds.

On campuses up and down the country, Chabad Centres catered as a home away from home for students during the festival.

In London, Chabad of Bloomsbury held their festive meals in Marble Arch Synagogue.

"We managed to attract over 45 students and young professional to the synagogue for meals and dancing," said Rabbi Yisroel Lew, director of Chabad of Bloomsbury.

"Their presence really added to the atmosphere and was appreciated by the whole community."

Eddie Rabinowitz, an Israeli student at City University, commented: “It was the first time I’d experienced a Simchat Torah like this outside of Israel. It was a great atmosphere and everyone was having a great time.”

Chabad of Cambridge attracted a diverse group of Jewish students to their sukka for the first night of the festival.

"Many of the people who came weren’t affiliated to any traditional Jewish movement and for some it was one of their first Jewish experiences,” said Rabbi Reuven Leigh.


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