Factoid 1: 1215 - The Magna Carta reduces the legal rights of Jews to reclaim money they had lent to Christians.
Factoid 2: 1290 - Edward I decrees that all Jews must leave England. All money and property owned by the Jews is confiscated.
Our trip to London was a multi-purpose one. First, we wanted to visit a cousin of the King who lives 20 minutes south of London. Second, we wanted to attend the matriculation into Oxford of our Italian friend's daughter because they could not come from Japan. Third, we wanted to visit my Rabbi friend from AIPAC who has for years told us we must come for a Shabbat service before he returns to Israel. Fourth, the last time we were in London was over 20 years ago when the Queen was asked to speak at the Royal Society of Medicine.
I have a second cousin who lives outside London in the village of Cobham & Stoke D'Abernon who I had not seen in 25 years. We last saw each other for her father's 80th birthday party in Port Jefferson NY. It was a very nice visit with her and her husband Carl. We had lunch in their house and then had a nice walk around the village. They moved here in the late 70s with their two sons. One son still lives close by and the other has moved to Israel.
The village they live in was just what you would expect a small English village to look like. They were a short walk from the train station.
We arrived in London on a Friday and were supposed to go to Oxford on Monday for the matriculation of our Italian friend's daughter. She emailed us to tell us that she had gotten the week wrong and that the matriculation was the following week on Monday. She told us that on Monday she would be busy for the entire day but if we came we could walk around Oxford and she could meet us for dinner. Oxford is about one hour by train from London. We had planned to go but it turned out that Monday was very rainy and we did not want to walk around in the rain so we did not go. We will see Emma in Rome when she is there on holiday.
Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld
I met Lionel at an AIPAC meeting in DC five years ago. One of the AIPAC highlights for me is meeting him for coffee or lunch each year and I look forward to that as much as the meeting itself. He is the chief rabbi of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London. The synagogue congregation dates back to 1761. After years of invites we finally decided that this year we would go for a Shabbat service. The synagogue is in the middle of this set of buildings. The rabbi and his wife live on the upper floors above the chapel.
The service we attended was on the Friday night between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We were invited to remain for the Shabbat dinner after services. The rabbi's entire family had come in from Israel for the holidays. He has four children and too many grandchildren to count. His wife cooked the entire dinner and she does this every Friday night as they often have visiting guests who attend the service. The evening was very lively with lots of singing around the table and some political discussion. The children are all over the place as to their politics as well as the grandchildren.
The Marble Arch nearby, referred to in the synagogue name, was built in the late 19th century and used to be at the entrance to Buckingham Palace. It was moved later to this location where it sits somewhat isolated on a large traffic circle.
Hotel Chilworth London Paddington
We wanted a hotel that was walking distance to the Synagogue and also close to transportation. The Chilworth London Paddington met all those criteria and was right next to the Paddington Train station so we could take a train directly from the airport to the hotel.
We selected the least expensive room - a compact double room with one bed. We assumed that compact meant small and since we only planned to be in the room to sleep we did not care how bit it was. We do travel a fair amount and have been in some very tiny rooms but this was beyond little. The advertisement for the hotel on the Internet says that there is a desk in the room. In order to sit at the desk you need to be a contortionist. The Queen is a small person and she could barely climb/maneuver to sit at the desk.
There was a fold out thingy for your suitcase in a corner behind the desk. There was no where to open it up so that you could use it.
The closet was a short one since a microwave and refrigerator was located under it. This meant that you could not hang a pair of pants in the closet. Since there was no dresser of any sort we used the microwave as a place for our dirty clothes.
The small suitcases we had were on the bed during the day and one was then put at the entrance door at night and the other went into the bathroom.
Random London Things
Buckingham Palace has been the home of the Royal Family since 1837. It has 775 rooms and sleeps 4. It is only open for tourists during the summer.
The English are still into horses and in wandering around we saw many `horse groups' and lots of horse poop.
This is the home of the Cavalry Museum. We did not go in but I am assuming that this entire building is not dedicated to horses.
NHS is the National Health Service. Notice how the sigh says NHS and Private Dentistry. In England they do have nationalized medicine but if you have money you go to the private doctors. Waits are just too long for the nationalized services.
Almost all streets had these directional signs painted on the streets. It is so easy for Americans to look the wrong way and we got to depend upon these markings to remind us where to look.
We took the underground (subway) quite a bit in London. The London Underground was the first underground train system in the world. The system is quite extensive and is heavily used. The older tunnels we rounded and small and the trains that use them are also rounded. It was like sitting in a small tube. A tall person would have to bend over standing near the doors.
The Queen sits with FDR and Churchill. She had just learned that Churchill was a dirty old man. (That was just a joke. Do not want to start a rumor about Churchill.)
In our wanderings in Hyde Park we came upon the Holocaust Memorial Garden installed in 1983.
One day we visited the Jewish Museum of London. This small museum, a combination of several museums, has exhibits of the story of Jews in London. The photo is from a collection of menorahs.
In the museum there is an Aron Kodesh (Torah Ark) that was beautifully carved. According to Jewish law the Torah Ark is the second holiest part of a synagogue… the first is the Torah itself.
London was very crowded - lots of tourists - and even though the days were rather dark and dreary lots of people were out. This is the famous Piccadilly Circus. The word circus is taken from the Roman word for circle since this is actually just a pick traffic circle. It used to have illuminated signs on all sides but there is only one building that now has neon signs - with the Coke ad.
London is filled with lots of war memorials and arches.
We spent part of one day just wandering through Hyde Park. It is the largest park in London - 350 acres and is divided by Serpentine Lake.
Weekend shopping in downtown London.