Family News December 2023

News from Michael and Claire – December 2023

Sadly, Claire’s mother Anita passed away at the end of 2022. She had dementia for many years, and was unable to speak or recognise people for the last two years, but was still able to smile. She was wonderfully looked after at Whitchurch Lodge in Edgware with dedicated staff. The home somehow managed without agency staff right through the pandemic and did an amazing job. May her memory be for a blessing.

Artichoke flowers from our garden

Summer 2023 was a wonderful time of peace and enjoyment. Our first trip abroad for several years was a delight, as we took the train to Rotterdam, and then spent a week in Gouda and a week in Amsterdam, with day trips to Delft, Den Haag, Utrecht and Leiden. We attended shabbat services at three Liberal Synagogues and met up with Cantor Nachshon Roderigues Pereira of the Bendigamos Sephardi community.

The cottage where we stayed in the centre of Gouda.

August in London was a delight too, with lots of sunshine, warmth and rain, and as a result three to four times as many runner beans and tomatoes as we have ever managed before. The sense of a time of fulness culminated in our fortieth wedding anniversary, with a small gathering of friends and family, and lots of love, home made food and reflection.

Our wedding in August 1983

As September began Jacob arrived to spend a week with us. Last time he came was in April – he arrived with his girl-friend Holly Mandel and they promptly went off to Paris and got engaged! Their wedding is now booked for August 2024 in California, so we look forward to another exciting summer!

At the beginning of August our second group of guests arrived under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Angela and Andrew found their own place to live last December. Iryna and her 15 year old son Denys were living towards the top of a high rise in Kyiv, and with Russian planes constantly overhead, found their lives intolerable. They have excellent English and Iryna was able to get a job with the Red Cross in London, having done similar work in Kyiv. Denys has missed a lot of school but is very bright and is catching up fast in one of Barnet’s excellent schools.

Vegan food at the Jia Restaurant, South Kensington, 4th September 2023

Michael has continued his teaching of classical Greek, his mental health campaigning, his interfaith work, leading occasional prayer services, mentoring rabbis and student rabbis, and his studies of Arabic and Judeo-Arabic, as well as working on a bible commentary. After years of preparation he has now started writing his book on Judaism and Islam, and is looking first of all of how the correct texts of the Torah and the Quran were established by scholars in the early centuries of Islam who seem to have been in dialogue with each other.

Claire is making excellent progress with her book on mental hospital policy, politics and practice in England in the 1920s. She too is continuing her Arabic studies, and also continues to field history queries from individuals and the media on behalf of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, where she has recently been appointed Honorary Archivist.

Benjamin has edited the second edition of the 80,000 hours career guide about how to find a fulfilling career that does good. You can find his two minute summary of the book here.

Our September newsletter expressed hope for a sweet and peaceful year ahead. How quickly the hopes of the Jewish world were dashed! In mid October Michael wrote a blog about Gaza which is posted elsewhere on this website. Now in December the situation feels even worse, and the difficulties of maintaining contacts across the divides even greater. But we are determined to keep our interfaith contacts going in these times of danger and difficulty, and have met mainly with positive responses to our attempts to build bridges. We hope and pray that 2024 will be a year of peace for us all. In a world where so much needs putting right, we need to maintain both our social anger and our personal joy.

Design by Claire Hilton, using bark from a London Plane tree.