Miriam Levene

President, Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation

The Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation (LPJC) is a small but vibrant community of the multi-cultural makeup of this Midlands city. Our ethos focuses on equality, social justice, and social action, the latter of which is known in Hebrew as Tikkun Olam – “Repair of the world”.

LPJC members come from varied backgrounds, with many having strong family connections to Central and Eastern Europe. Often connected through the unfortunate historical persecution of the Jewish people, and while never forgetting these experiences, we also look forward to building connections and raising awareness of different perspectives.

Anti-Semitism has been and continues to be an integral part of our life. The pattern of its expression goes in cycles, but it is ever present. Like racism in general, it seems there will always be those who need scapegoats; those who cannot accept that all human beings are equal in the sight of God and should be so in each other’s sight too. At LPJC we believe that we have a responsibility as individuals and as a community to resist misrepresentation and misunderstanding of ourselves but also of other peoples.

Speaking for myself for a moment, communication has been a key element of my professional life as a speech and language therapist and in my personal life too. It was a constant source of frustration to me as a child that I could not communicate fully with my Polish-Jewish maternal grandmother on her occasional visits to the United Kingdom from abroad. She spoke Polish, German, Yiddish and Hebrew but not English. I could read biblical Hebrew and the type of Hebrew used in prayer books. I could even translate some of it, but I could not speak the language.

Having been involved in interfaith work in Leicester for some time, I was delighted to be able to co-create Recovering Connections as an opportunity for Poles and Jews to meet each other, talk to one another, and develop some creative practice about our shared lives in the United Kingdom, in the city of Leicester to be more specific. We, Poles and Jews, share so much, whether it is foods such as borscht, cheesecake and our love of gherkins, or our common history of displacement and relocation. We can also share the values of human respect and the family, and care together for the environment.