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Dear Friends and Members,

It would be an understatement to say that I write to you in a moment that is challenging the world over: to us and to those that lead us. Almost as if mirroring our lives, yesterday I read in the Talmud (Tractate Shabbat), ‘even if all the seas were ink, and the reeds that grow near swamps were quills and the heavens were parchment and all the people were scribes; all of these are insufficient to write the quantifiable space of authority’. This beautiful piece of rabbinic poetry helps us to envisage the immense responsibility that in the space of a day a government might need to deal with; so far reaching that ordinary words, ink and parchment cannot do it justice.

We are all connected in this moment, in spite of social distancing. In my road alone, our neighbours have joined together as a virtual community, to help one another and to provide food and clothing to local foodbanks organised by our local churches. As branch members it is in your nature to bring communities together and I know that it will be difficult for you now not to meet one another on a regular basis. Our Chair Bishop Michael Ipgrave is holding each and every one of you in his prayers. It is our advice,  in line with current government guidelines to keep contact with others to an absolute minimum and only where necessary, so that we are advising our branches not to hold meetings at this time. We will therefore not be advertising branch meetings for the foreseeable future and you can assume that all previously advertised meetings on the newsletter are cancelled. I am sure that as branch members you will however remain connected is so many other meaningful ways, to ensure one another’s safety and well-being.

The CCJ team is continuing to work remotely and planning for better times. This week we were extremely sad to postpone our national Rabbi Clergy conference. My sincere thanks to Esther Sills who put her heart and soul into preparing this for over 100 clergy and rabbis. We will  re-schedule when we are able.  Please be in contact with us if needed and let us know if we can help in any way. If anyone wants to be in direct contact with me, my e mail is We are also looking at how we can use the newsletter in the coming weeks. In the coming days you should receive an outstanding edition of Common Ground. We hope you enjoy it and we would love to receive feedback. My grateful thanks to Deputy Director, Nathan Eddy and Programme Manager Esther Sills for leading on this edition.

We all have loved ones that we are concerned for at this time. My own husband is a hospital consultant and is leading his team in accident and emergency treating those in need.  I am reminded of the encouraging words of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and the great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hassidic Judaism: "The whole entire world is a very narrow bridge and the important thing is not to be fearful"

The CCJ trustees and team send you all our best wishes and the hope that each and every one of you will remain safe and healthy.

Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko

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