This was an extremely moving week for myself and my husband Andrew, who is the child of a survivor. In this capacity, he was invited by the Perse School in Cambridge to make a presentation about how his mother survived the Holocaust for HMD 2020. My husband had been planning the presentation for weeks as this was the first time he delivered any sort of public presentation on such a personal matter and it was important to him to do justice not only to his family but also all those that perished or whose lives were shattered by the Holocaust. You can read my reflection on Andrew's presentation below.
This week the CCJ team completed the next edition of Common Ground which reflects on the 75 years since the liberation of the camps and developments in Christian/Jewish relations since that time. This will soon be available to members and friends and we await publication with eager anticipation. I want to express thanks in particular to Programme Manager Esther Sills and Deputy Director, Revd Dr Nathan Eddy for compiling, designing and editing this latest edition.
Also included below is a piece by CCJ Alumna Clare Levy who spoke at a dinner hosted by Near Neighbours for their Catalyst programme and a piece by a current CCJ Student Leader Sam Drysdale who writes about the recent interfaith dinner held at the University of Reading. Our thanks to Clare and Sam.
Wishing you all a good weekend
Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko, Director
Council of Christians and Jews
Trustee Revd Patrick Moriarty and Dr Andrew Sawczenko make HMD presentation
Andrew's mother grew up in a large family home together with her cousins, aunts and uncles. Each part of the family occupied a different floor in the house. It was a traditional Jewish home filled with love and laughter. However war was looming and in 1939 his mother's home town of Pryzemysl was divided down the middle by the river San by occupying German and Russian forces. In 1941, when mass killings and the ghettoization of the Jewish community was in full force, Andrew’s mother, aunt and grandparents escaped to the eastern side of the town, controlled by the Soviet army. Since his parents were Polish citizens they were soon deported first to labour camps in the Gulag in Siberia and later to Kazakhstan. The rest of Andrew’s family, who remained under Nazi occupation were transferred to the ghetto and later deported and murdered in Belzec death camp. Andrew's maternal grandparents died shortly after deportation to Siberia from starvation and thyphus and his 6 year old mother and 8 year old aunt were left to the mercy of strangers as orphans during the war. We have no idea how these two young children survived, since neither spoke of their suffering during the war years. At the end of the war, the young girls were returned to their home town in Poland, where unable to return to their family home, they were placed in an orphanage, not far from their own home. Of the 20,000 Jews from Pryzemyls only 300 survived the war.
The girls were later brought to the UK by a famous Orthodox Rabbi, Dr. Solomon Schonfeld. From the documents in our possession, it is clear that Andrew’s mother was moved from place to place between the ages of 13-16 in London. It took Andrew’s mother a further seven years to become naturalised in the UK. Often when we hear from survivors, we are amazed by their strength and their seeming ability to adapt to normal life after the war. We don’t often focus on those who did not have this ability. This was the case for Andrew’s aunt and mother.
My thanks to Revd Emma Rothwell and all the students at the Perse School for hosting and listening to Andrew’s story, and to trustee Revd Patrick Moriarty for joining us at the Perse school and for his heartfelt response to Andrew’s presentation.
Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko Director
Pictured: Andrew in front of his family home in Poland
CCJ Alumna speaks at Catalyst Dinner
Last month I had the privileged of attending a dinner hosted by Near Neighbours in aid of their young person’s programme Catalyst.
During the CCJ Campus Leadership Programme we participated in a three-day residential training, part of which was led by Catalyst trainers. Through this training we were able to learn more about ourselves and others on the courses as well as being equipped with the skills needed to lead interfaith events on our campuses.
At the dinner we had the opportunity to hearing from four prominent speakers from various communities, Dr Rowan Williams, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Dr Husna Ahmed and Dr Kirit Pankhania as well as previous Catalyst Alumni. It was fascinating to hear from other young people who partook in the full Catalyst programme which takes place over a year and to see how the training we undertook with Catalyst fitted into a wider picture. Throughout the night the conversation was directed towards how young people can help to create systematic change through their own leadership and peer support. In the current climate it is more important than ever to be holding these conversations and I am extremely grateful to have been able to participate in them on behalf of CCJ.
Clare Levy Student Leader Alumna
Interfaith Dinner at the University of Reading
It is interesting how central food is to the human experience both religious and secular – to be included in the meal is to be included in the community. This being the case a meal is also one of the best ways to bring different and differing communities together. Which is why the University of Reading Chaplaincy and the Student Union collaborated to organise an Interfaith Dinner between the various faith societies within the student body.
The meal was attended by members of the Christian Union, Islamic Society, Jewish Society as well as Orthodox and Catholic students and part- and full-time officers from the union. They shared a meal together and engaged in some lightly structured dialogue about life and faith based on some questions provided by the chaplaincy. It was well attended, and some excellent conversation was produced.
As a successful evening it has several lessons for what interfaith activity might look like. Primarily by emphasising the social nature of religion and hence the importance of building interfaith personal relationships and strong friendship bonds. Religion has always been about people more than ideas and so interfaith work will have to be as well. My favourite moments were watching people smile and nod in silent agreement when others shared their experiences. The other lesson is that the biggest barrier to religious harmony is disorganisation. The normal level of human farce and other commitments provided far more challenges than anyone’s malice or apathy. Still faith conquers all and we look forward to a hopeful future of interfaith at the University of Reading.
Sam Drysdale Reading Student Leader
Applications open for 2020 Yad Vashem Seminar
Applications are now open for CCJ’s annual seminar at the International School of Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The seminar—which will take place Monday 12 to Thursday 22 October 2020—is open to ordained Christian clergy and lay church leaders. Now in its 14th year, the seminar is a unique opportunity for church leaders to learn about the Holocaust, pre-war Jewish European life, and post-Holocaust theology from the world’s leading experts. In doing so, participants will become part of our active network of over 250 "alumni" across the UK, committed to passing on Holocaust learning in their churches and communities, championing Christian-Jewish relations, and challenging antisemitism.
For more information on the programme and how to apply, please contact Senior Programme Manager, Rob Thompson, at email@example.com
Legacy of Revd James Parkes to be explored at the Wiener Library
From 16 – 20 March The Wiener Holocaust Library in London will host the travelling exhibition James Parkes and the age of intolerance. This exhibition—which CCJ has been proud to help bring to a number of cathedrals in the UK—reflects on the life and legacy of the Revd James Parkes, a key personality in the founding of CCJ and one of the leading thinkers, writers, and campaigners in twentieth century Jewish-Christian relations. You can find out more about the exhibition here.On Thursday 19 March 18.30-20.00 our Senior Programme Manager Rob Thompson will join a panel to discuss the work of James Parkes. Alongside Rob will be speakers Prof Tony Kushner, Marcus Sieff Professor in Jewish/non-Jewish relations at the University of Southampton, and Dr Barbara Warnock, Senior Curator and Head of Education at The Wiener Holocaust Library. Please do join us to reflect on Parkes’ extraordinary legacy and the repercussions of his work in contemporary issues as well. You can sign up for this free event here.
CCJ Branch Events
CCJ Bournemouth & Wessex Branch event
CCJ Bournemouth & Wessex welcome Dr Helen Spurling again to lead another series of three Study afternoons, organised through partnership between The Parkes Institute and The Council of Christians and Jews Bournemouth & Wessex:
The title for this afternoon is – ‘Unusual/unconventional women in the Bible: Session 1 – Eve’
Please note: It is necessary to register as handouts will be provided.
Time: 2.00pm - 5.00pm Sunday 16 February 2020 Venue: The Menorah Suite, Murray Muscat Centre, Glen Fern Road, Bournemouth, BH1 2LU
Please note that food and drink cannot be brought into the Synagogue. Refreshments will be available and a contribution of £3 is requested to cover costs. For further information please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
CCJ Avon Branch event
CCJ Avon branch welcomes Revd Patrick Moriarty as a guest speaker. Patrick is a Christian and Headteacher of a Jewish school and is also a CCJ Trustee and an Honorary Secretary. It promises to be a most absorbing evening so please come along!
Time: 7pm for a 7:30 start, 17th February 2020 Venue: University of Bristol Multi-Faith Chaplaincy, 1 Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1TB