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

Hannukah candles.

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,

teshuvah.

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.