It is hard to know where to start or more importantly how to begin to do justice to such a very special occasion!
The 12th and 13th August, 2016 were a truly amazing 2 days for our little community as we welcomed Richard and Georgia, Chazan Jaclyn Chernett and husband Brian, and about a dozen other distinguished members of Kol Nefesh synagogue in London , former Darlingtonites Martin and Valerie Finn and several welcome visitors who wanted to use the opportunity to catch up with friends over the weekend, one person coming from as far away as Glasgow. It rapidly became apparent that the KN group were as friendly a bunch as us at DHC BUT unlike much of DHC (our rabbi of course excepted), it turns out they were also marvellous singers. As the packed congregation started on the opening notes of Mah Tovu for the Friday evening service which was led by Rabbi Dr Borts, the sound brought tears to many eyes.
The idea for the visit originally came from Richard Wolfe who, delighted to discover that DHC still existed, wanted to share his home town and the community where he was bar-mitzvah (at which he read from the same desk still in use) with family and friends. Earlier on the Friday the Kol Nefesh visitors enjoyed visits to various historic sites in Darlington including those associated with Richard’s father Herbert z”l, such as the Railway Museum which he was instrumental in founding.
Despite numerous hospitals visits and even in-patient stays in the weeks and days leading up to the weekend, DHC Social and Catering secretary EstelleSolomon managed to expertly plan, shop and cook the majority of the food not to mention also organising members of DHC to prepare and bring other dishes. There were the now customary DHC lavish spreads not just for the Friday night meal for nearly 40 people but also Saturday kiddush/lunch for a similar number and the 3rd meal served for about 25 after the afternoon service on Saturday evening before the fast started for Tishah B’av. That makes over a 100 substantial meals! Enormous thanks are owed to Estelle and to all the many DHC members who contributed in some way. Kol Nefesh members schlepped very generous amounts of tasty traditional kosher deli treats and a box of wine all the way from London for which DHC hugely thanks them.
The study session on Saturday before morning service was led by Chazan Jacky Chernett and was delivered entirely sung. She gave us a fascinating outline and practical demonstration of some of the history and styles of Jewish synagogue music, the congregation enthusiastically joining in every time they recognised a tune.
The visitors had planned and prepared for the services, undertaking mitzvot including leyning from the scrolls.
After an afternoon rest we recommenced with the Minchah service, 3rd meal, a study session led by Chazan Chernett related to the fast approaching fast , followed by Ma’ariv and Tishah B’av services.
DHC members supported the visit magnificently not only by their enormous help with catering and clearing up but also by their attendance at the services. Nearly every DHC adult member who wasn’t known to be away on holiday or incapacitated, came to at least one service.
As a community we renewed friendships, made new friends and forged links with Kol Nefesh. DHC have been invited to a ‘return match’ .
So a Shabbos full of tuneful and heartfelt davening, learning, warm and friendly company, herring, wine and help clearing up, Kol Nefesh are visitors that DHC should have again!