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Sun Shines on London and Leeds as Jews Gather for Once-in-28-Years Mitzvah

Monday, 20 April, 2009 - 8:13 am

hmb0032.jpgHeavy clouds and rain looked set to dash the hopes of Jews gathering in London and Leeds wishing to celebrate the once-in-28-years mitzvah of birkat hachama - thanking G-d for the sun as it returns to the position it occupied when it was created.

However, by 8am on April 8th, the skies had cleared leaving London "basking in sunshine," says Rabbi Levi Sudak, director of Lubavitch of Edgware.

The London ceremony, which took place in the grounds of London’s historic Kenwood House, attracted Jews of all ages and backgrounds from the immediate area and across the capital. The proceedings were led by Rabbi Levi Sudak and accompanied by the cantorial talents of Chazzan Avromi Freilich of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue.

The event, which falls in a Hakhel year (a year of Jewish unity), was recorded for as part of a live broadcast uniting Jewish communities all over the globe.

The broadcast began in Christchurch, New Zealand, which was among the first Jewish communities in the world to say the blessing. JsHI2850511.JPGIt then progressed from New Zealand through different time zones encompassing seven locations, including Brisbane, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, London, New York, Coloarado, and finally Honolulu in Hawaii.

Millions worldwide participated in similar ceremonies with more than 1,000 gathered at Sydney’s Yeshiva Centre.

"It was a special event," says Adina Bernstein, a local Hampstead Garden Suburb resident. "It was great that Jews came together from all over the world for this unique occasion."

Meanwhile, some 200 miles north in Leeds, over 400 Jews gathered to thank G-d for the sun in a cross-communal ceremony held at the Untied Hebrew Congregation synagogue. The event, which united Jews from the city's five Orthodox synagogues, was facilitated and planned by Rabbi Eli Pink, director of education at the Lubavitch Centre of Leeds.

"Our idea was to bring Jews together from all of Leeds' different synagogues for birkat hachama,” explains Rabbi Pink. “There was a communal shacharit service and birkat hachama, followed by a siyum for firstborns with a little something to eat."

To watch the London ceremony, click here.

[Top photo by Howard Barnett]



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