Autumn the end or the beginning ?
September 23rd ,the Autumn equinox named for the equal length of night and day.
A season of contrasts, ripening maturing summer fruits at its start, golden fallen
leaves at its end, surrender to the barrenness of winter .
Harvest moons ,early sunsets, a constant reminder of schooldays ; as days
shortened I enviously observed the Jewish girls I grew up with, allowed
to miss the last lessons on Friday , the start of their sabbath, so they returned home
before the sun set.
I have fond , abiding memories of girls in Lyle stockings ( the more orthodox ) as
they meandered aimlessly ( did they really have to miss the whole of the last period
of maths?) through falling leaves that surrounded school.
Growing up a gentile in a traditionally much respected Jewish School gave me
regard for other religious beliefs , acceptance of difference and was in part the
inspiration behind MiDei Pa’am.
In seven years, I didn’t witness one instance of racial intolerance in either
direction unless you count the pork sausages that one cheeky student irreverently
slipped into her friends lunch with a wink and a look that said, ‘don’t tell’.
Whilst maintaining an accepted and dignified separateness Jewish girls joined
‘Christmas post’ traditions explaining about their own festival of light , Hannukah.
The bolder revealed family secrets, reformists allowing Christmas trees alongside
We enjoyed the similarity despite the knowledge that the Jewish girls generally set
themselves apart, allowing only brief explanations of the kippot they crocheted for
their boyfriends, sometimes affianced from an early age.
Their parents , generally from the more affluent in Salford society , doctors ,
lawyers, entrepreneurs; even one girl dropped off by a chauffeur-driven car . This
contrasted starkly with my own father’s motor bike and sidecar.
Many children from successful Jewish families working in the rag trade
accessed latest fashions. Whilst coveting their suede coats and pin striped hot
pant suits , I was inspired to purchase my own .
The Jewish girls gave me an insight into the otherness of a world where the rabbi
visited Jewish assembly on Fridays, enriching my childhood.
This week Jewish people celebrated the start of the Jewish New Year, Rosh
Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah coincides with the second harvest celebrating the
creation of Adam and Eve . It is the head of the year characterised by much
candle lighting , loud blowing of the shofar ( rams horn ) reminding sinners to
repent , visits to running water in which sins are cast , feasts of traditional meals
soaked in honey, inspiring a sweet New Year and a call to become your best self,
Despite Autumn’s gloomy portent of winter to come it has always felt to me
like a beginning , not an ending ; a time for a fresh start , following the
harvest of the previous year’s accomplishments.
So , raise a noise, salute the new season and Shana Tovah Umetukah.
Have a good and sweet new year.