walkingborders

'Walking Borders: borders, risk and belonging' is funded by the Leverhulme Trust

Walk 4. Walking in Belfast with Sandra Baillie:social justice, faith and belonging

I met Sandra in the café in the House of Fraser in Belfast over coffee and cake and she talked me through the route of the walk she was going to take me on, to share her Belfast with me. Sandra studied at Queens University, had a Law Degree, a PhD that focused upon women and religion and her walk was a combination of her biography, her focus on social justice, on making a difference and as a convert to Judaism,  her strong faith and commitment to the  Jewish faith, but also its role in peace and reconciliation.

It was lovely to meet her and I asked her to say a few words to describe her walk.

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Fig.1. Sandra Baillie

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Fig.2. Sandra sharing her map of the walk.

Sandra did not draw her map but traced it out on a map of Belfast.

OK well hopefully the walk illustrates some of the things that are really important in my life in my own identity.  The walk is going to finish at the synagogue and Jewish religion and faith is very important to me and I represent the community on the Interfaith Forum.. we’ll probably go downstairs and look at some of the shopping that’s one of my hobbies and we’ll look at the courts as well because I volunteer with Victim Support.  I studied law that’s one of my degrees and also we will look at the old synagogue which we once had plans for, it’s now derelict but it’s got a very rich history, probably the prison, the old prison and the hospital the Mater Hospital and then we’ll go up, on up the Antrim Road which is actually an interface between Protestant and Catholics, it’s quite a, well it’s quite dynamic and also unfortunately there’s quite a lot of conflict there still and violence so it’s a very challenging kind of road, it’s also quite divided in terms of sectarian divides and then we’ll head up to the synagogue and you can have your tour of the synagogue.

I asked Sandra to tell me what borders, risk and belonging mean to her, in relation to this walk.

Sandra talked about her Father and how he had encouraged her to be open to other cultures and experiences.  Divorced in the 1950’s, which was frowned upon, he had moved away from Northern Ireland to Australia and Canada “it was quite redemptive in a way because it opened his mind to new ways of thinking and mine.”

Walking with Sandra from downtown Belfast to the Jewish Synagogue

We start in the fashion department where Sandra tells me she is artistic and likes to be creative with fashion and maybe that’s a career she could have had.  Sandra was very friendly with the staff and the assistant tells me that Sandra loves dressing up and that she wears dresses all the time.

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Fig.3. House of Fraser fashion department.

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Fig.4.Pesach (Passover) Dress

Sandra tells me that she is going away for Pesach (Passover) to Sirmione in Italy and that she is going to wear this dress

and you don’t eat any bread so you only eat matzah and there are particular rules for your kitchen.  You have to have separate sets of utensils one set for meat and one set for dairy and you seal your cupboards and you get rid of anything with any bread in it and every year it happens and this year we’re going away for Pesach. It’s quite a lot of work.  You’re meant to completely clean your house as well.

Sandra represented the Council of Christians and Jews at a conference where she met Pope Francis, and also led discussions  and attended seminars on  the history of the Nostra Aetate document.

The pope is celebrating fifty years since Nostra Aetate and I think he’s also released some statements to try and improve relations between Christians and Jews and promote good relationships so it was a privilege to be at that conference in Rome. Nostra Aetate is a Latin term, it means ‘in our time’…And we also had a follow-up in Clonard where the Rabbi spoke and a Catholic priest spoke and the Sheikh from the Islamic Centre spoke and I said a few words on my experience of being there.

Sandra tells me that Clonard (a monastery on the Falls Road) has a focus on reconciliation and that Father Gerry who died recently was also involved in peace and reconciliation.

I think Clonard has been quite instrumental in negotiating for the peace process.  Some of the clergy there along with some other clergy from the Protestant community did negotiate..Now I’m not from that tradition but I have a lot of respect for some of the things they do.  It’s a community centre as well.

We had reached a monument  outside the shopping centre and Sandra stopped to  take a photograph.

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Fig.5. Daniel Jaffe memorial fountain

This is quite a famous fountain it was a memorial to Daniel Jaffe who was one of the first Jewish immigrants here.  It used to be in Ormeau Park and it was transported here.  His son ended up being Mayor of Belfast ..it’s quite a beautiful piece.

The Jaffe Fountain originates from the 1870s and was placed in Victoria Square, where it has now returned.  I asked Sandra about the importance of the monument and the Jewish tradition in her life.

Yes, yes it is and I think it’s very fitting I mean in the end Otto Jaffe had quite a difficult time here.  He was mayor but it was at a time whenever there was quite a lot of anti-German feeling so sadly he actually ended up having to leave and going to London, but he was a wonderful person and a great philanthropist and he set up a school and he actually set up one of the synagogues which we’ll see in Annesley Street. So he was a very, very respected person, he was also an industrialist and a businessman. I think he was involved in the linen business and in the rope works as well so he was an employer and he’s very highly thought of but sadly he had to leave Belfast. He was Lord Mayor of Belfast twice over so and there’s a plaque on Linenhall Street to him.

We were walking through the cathedral quarter past the war museum heading up towards the Annesley Street synagogue.

Yes we’ve now turned off the High Street and we’re walking up Bridge Street.  There are quite a lot of agencies round here like the Human Rights Commission and also I used to do some work there, in the Law Centre.. I did some Citizens Advice for a short time too.

It had started to rain.

Sandra pointed to the war museum

Neville and the Rabbi and I went there on Holocaust Memorial Day and there was a small service, it was very moving, for the Holocaust survivors from the Millisle Farm  who attended as well. Millisle Farm was a farm in Millisle,  when there were children refugees from Germany.  The community here set up a project in Millisle in which the children could come and you know have some life on this farm.  A lot of people emigrated in the end to Israel but there are a few people still here, some work has been done on that as well.

We were passing near to St Anne’s Cathedral, which was a landmark for Sandra, and we ran into a walking tour.

We stopped at the War Memorial museum on Talbot Street. “They always have a nice display in the window”. We talked about the display being of women with one display of Rosie the Riveter. The war memorial building was near Belfast Cathedral Centre.

We carried on walking with our umbrellas up and the rain too heavy to stop for photographs.

On the Antrim Road we past the Mater Hospital and Sandra pointed out the Crumlin Road Prison

 People were actually condemned to death there and it’s now a museum and it’s very historic and as I said this guy Eddie Cullens who was a circus performer ended up being imprisoned there and sadly he was hung in the 1930s. He’s meant to haunt the place still, because he said he was innocent. And Rabbi Schachter had to minister to him and I think that was a very difficult thing, he was never really the same afterwards you know and he was American, he was an American Jew and he was here with the circus act.  So as I say there was an attempt to get his remains interred and removed and maybe buried in the Jewish cemetery but some people don’t really agree with that because he was obviously found guilty, but there were no witnesses and also the authorities at the jail say that they wouldn’t be able to find the remains now and there’d need to be DNA and none of his relatives came forward.  I think they tried to advertise in America, he’s from New York so he’s still said to haunt the place.

Sandra pointed out the UNITE offices as we walked past and we stopped at the Old Synagogue on Annesley street.  In her role as a sociologist of religion Sandra was involved in a project trying to regenerate the Synagogue as a museum. Sadly it didn’t happen.

It is a beautiful building with stained glass windows protected behind grilles. The building now closed was covered in graffiti. Sandra said “it’s just all kids really..there’s also a mikveh inside it, that’s a ritual bath, a Jewish ritual bath”. Sandra told me her friend “Neville was bar mitzvahed in this synagogue.  The new synagogue came in 1964 I think.”

I asked if this area has a history of Jewish settlement and Sandra said

There would have been way, way back, I can give you a booklet on it, but not recently.  As the community became more prosperous they moved towards the top of the Antrim Road.

We passed the Catholic School, St Malachy’s and were on the Antrim Road that Sandra described as an “interface” between Catholic and Protestant and the New Lodge area.

This is still a very contested area, quite a difficult sectarian-wise.  There’ll be quite a lot of incidents of crime as well on this road at night particularly, it’s not particularly safe..I haven’t really looked it up but a lot of assaults and you know just it’s just a difficult if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, you know certain sectarianism is still about.

Sandra pointed out  Alban Mcginness’ office.

Alban Mcginness, he’s an SDLP, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, he’s retiring soon, he’s a very nice man, he spent some time in a kibbutz and he’s also very friendly with my friend Nigel because they were at the Bar together, he’s a bit of a gentleman.

Returning to issues of this area Sandra tells me about the suicides and that further up the Antrim Road we will pass  the

PIPS (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm ) Project that particularly is trying to help…I signed up for it but they didn’t get back to me, so I don’t know, because of my counselling but apparently suicides in this area are a big issue..Partly from the deprivation and sectarianism. And a lot of post-traumatic stress in Northern Ireland society. Yes there’s another organisation called Wave. Wave deal with bereavement, they have an office further down one of these roads and they gave some training for my Victim Support.

I asked if the projects were for everyone,

I don’t think there’s really discrimination in terms of trauma.  I mean that’s one of the things that Wave tried to say that when they first tried to address it, you know, what about people maybe the wife of someone who planted a bomb and they came for help, what were they going to do and it caused a bit of controversy.

The fact that projects such as Wave were offering support to everyone who needed it, I suggested was an example of restorative reconciliation.

Yes I think there had to be quite a bit of toing and froing on that but in the end they decided that..and particularly for the women and the children that had been left with….

We started talking about law and politics, Sandra had studied at Queens and had taken a politics module alongside her Law degree. She said,

law is law but politics here unless you grow up in it. It’s not easy to pick up from scratch. Lord Bew was my tutor. He’s in the House of Lords and he teaches at Queen’s and so he does both. I really enjoyed being in his tutorial and I used to take the opposite position so we could argue [laughs] it was good fun.

This reminded me that Sandra had also written speeches for certain representatives in the House of Lords and I asked  ‘Who did you write them for and what where they about’?

Well I wrote them for Wallace Browne, Lord Browne, I was in the DUP at the time and I wrote one on the Saville Enquiry and then I wrote one on for the Assembly on the Irish Language Act and there was also one on the Bill for I think Equal Sex Marriage….Well the Saville Enquiry was really quite a privilege to do, you know, I think Wallace would be a Unionist but he tries to be a fair-minded human being.  So it was written in a very moderate, with a moderate tongue.

Sandra tells me she is no longer involved in politics.

No I was involved for a while and was still in the Ulster Unionist Party as I think I explained and like this I enjoyed doing, I was Women’s Officer for East Belfast. And at one point I had a panel of all women. I had Lady Trimble from the Ulster Unionists.  I had Diane Dodds from the DUP, she’s now a European MP. I had Bernie Kelly from the SDLP and I had Sue Ramsay from Sinn Fein.

I was impressed and asked her to tell me more.

It was really good, we all got on very well and the women candidates or MPs or MLAs spoke about all issues, it wasn’t just women’s issues, we spoke about politics in Northern Ireland and global issues; and a lot of people from East Belfast came in and it got a little bit of publicity from some of the newspapers as well. So it was kind of nice bringing women together from different parties.

I imagined the impact of this could be far reaching and Sandra said some of the women wanted to do it again but she had got some flak for it.

We were approaching the back of  the synagogue.It is a lovely building.  Sandra’s friend and colleague Neville met us at the door and took our soaked umbrellas. We entered a community space:

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Fig.6. Sir Otto and Lady Jaffe.

Indeed, those pictures there are of the founders of the Belfast Hebrew congregation, Sir Otto Jaffe and his wife Lady Jaffe.  Sir Otto was High Sheriff and Lord Mayor of Belfast in the early 1900s and I should say to you that this is our third synagogue.

Neville told me that the congregation had worshipped at the old synagogue on Annesley Street from 1904 until 1964.  The Synagogue that Neville and Sandra were showing me around:

would have been consecrated in October 1964 and if you can imagine this wall did not exist and we would have had seating here for about thirteen to fifteen hundred people and it would have gone right the way back where you’re standing in the reception area but I suppose to use a horrible expression with the decline in numbers we had to downsize and it was decided to split the building in two so it’s now a listed building.

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Fig.7. The Pulpit

The building itself if you can imagine yourself in a plane or a helicopter looking down the roof, as I say the building is a listed building for better or for worse and you can look down from the sky and the building, the roof is in the shape of the Star of David and you’ll see the Star of David in the Rabbi’s pulpit there and the beams are in the Star of David and being an orthodox community we, men and women, sit separately. 

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Fig.8. Mechitza

You’ll see there’s three steps up and there is a separation in Hebrew called a mechitza. We worship towards the east which is the Temple in Jerusalem as far as services are concerned because our numbers would be between eighty to ninety now, eighty, eight-oh to ninety members which is you know unfortunately we are reducing.  We just have services twice a week here excluding High Holy Days and so on a Thursday morning which is in the small synagogue which we’ll walk through next door and here on the Sabbath Day which is our Saturday and we start about ten o’clock in the morning and it takes about two and a half hours and the rabbi would lead us in prayer and this is what’s known in Hebrew as a bimh, b-i-m-h where he would stand and as I say face the east and lead us in prayer. 

We don’t have a choir, we don’t because we’re an orthodox congregation we don’t have musical instruments and I mean we would recite psalms, follow the rabbi in reciting prayers et cetera and he’s very musical and he has a very, very nice voice.  So the rabbi would sit over there, that’s where he sits and the wardens whenever we had wardens here would have sat over there.

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Fig.9. The Pulpit and  Holy Ark

This is where the rabbi would preach his sermon.  The Star of David there it’s not a religious symbol as such but it indicates that this is a Jewish House of Worship.  There’s a lot of argument about really what it stands for.  The Star of David is really the Shield of David and the points there represent the tribes of Israel.  There’s Hebrew writing here on the, this is called the Holy Ark and this you may want to take photographs, you are very welcome to.

The Hebrew writing which roughly translated ‘know before whom you stand’.  The writing there in the centre is self-evident, that’s the Ten Commandments and the light here is called Everlasting Light and that never, never goes out, that shows the presence of the Almighty.

Neville points to the candelabra

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Fig.10. Candelabra by Nehemia Azaz

And in the old days the priests would have lit the menorah the candelabra which is illustrated there, that was designed by an Israeli artist Nehemia Azaz and funnily enough her granddaughter I think, I think it’s her granddaughter is coming to Belfast shortly to see her mother’s work of art as it were. So it’s a quite interesting work of art and that would, shall we say have been for want of a better expression the forerunner of the Everlasting Light.

Neville spoke about the scrolls.

The scrolls there contain as you know, we only accept/observe the five books, the Old Testament, the Five Books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers.

Sandra said “That’s it Neville, yes that’s it, you got it”.

Thank you very much, thank you very much, Sandra always keeps me right, she’s a unique woman you know as they say in French

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Fig.11. Scrolls

This the scrolls would look like this inside OK written on goat skin, it takes about seven years to prepare and we read from right to left OK.  So that is the inside of the scroll.

Sandra said, “Maggie, the whole service is in Hebrew except for the sermon which is in English”.

Standing near to the pulpit Neville then pointed to the breastplates in the Holy Ark.

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Fig.12. Breastplates in Holy Ark

So these are quite old actually, quite ancient and they one or two depending whether it’s a High Festival or an ordinary Sabbath they’re taken out and they are brought round, processed round the synagogue and a portion of the Five Books of Moses, what is contained in here is contained in there I think that’s the easiest way of describing it and you have here the Five Books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  We read from right to left and a portion of this book, shall we say, is read from a scroll every Sabbath.

You’ll see here that there are breastplates here, very nice breastplates.  The crown represents the power of the Almighty, the Lions of Judea the strength of Judaism and the Ten Commandments and the pointer called Hebrew Yad which means hand hence the hand there, and in certain circumstances they’re presented to the congregation in memory of  the date of the creation and as I say one of these scrolls, these scrolls are quite old but one of them in fact is about a hundred years old.

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Fig.13. The Siddur

Neville goes on to tell me about the prayer book.

So over the hundreds of years, I don’t know if you’re a church goer but we have collected prayers in what’s known as the Siddur, the Authorised Daily Prayer Book and the prayers are set out here on waking, morning service, evening service et cetera right the way through, OK and there’s one prayer that we, the only prayer, we pray in Hebrew naturally, there is one prayer which if I can find it here we recite in English and that is the prayer for the Royal Family and so that is read in English but the rest is in Hebrew

Prayer and community

So we as I say our prayer, our services are as I say twice weekly with the exception of our New Year which is in September and then we would our New Year, our Day of Atonement, our Tabernacles, our Passover and our Festival of Pentecost andservices would be over two days, OK and certainly during our New Year service the synagogue would be dressed in white, white for purity and I’m sure as Sandra has explained to you, we have our own dietary laws. 

Sandra said:

I run a kosher kitchen and I have separate pots for meat and they’re red and separate pots for dairy whichare blue and I’ve a pair of pots which are green and separate cutlery and the meat comes from Manchester but recently the rabbi’s son has started a new enterprise,  you can get some beef here, some kosher beef, there hasn’t really been up to now any outlets.  I think Tesco Ballygomartin does do some kosher cuts and the rest are ordered from Manchester and come in a container for the whole community about every six weeks. Yes the container comes, it’s frozen, people are rung up and come and collect their order, so meat’s a bit of a treat in a good way.

I say, I’d like to ask Neville about the prayer for the Royal Family.

Sandra said “Yes he usually does that.”

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Fig.14. Prayer for the Royal Family

Now why do we say a prayer?  Well the custom was, the custom I think from the twelfth or thirteenth century that when the Israelites were dispersed over you know over Europe, over wherever, Asia that they would give thanks to the local ruler of the land where they found themselves in, give thanks for offering them protection and the same sort of format prayer for the say for the President of the United States or the President of France or President of the Republic down south.  So it’s a standard form which is adapted to the country that we’re in. 

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Fig.15. Prayer for the Royal Family

Yes indeed just give you a rough, literally a rough and ready guide to what’s going on.

Yes I was going to say to you the Five Books of Moses are the basis of my religious beliefs, they lay down religious laws, customs, practices and I suppose you can equate that to you know dietary requirements and I’m sure Sandra’s explained to you the issue of if you asked me to come to Macdonald’s I’m afraid I’d have to refuse.  My, we would have to have special meat et cetera, we cannot mix milk with meat so as I say we do our best. 

As I say we are an orthodox community here and we do our best to preserve our orthodoxy.  We reckon we have another ten, eight, nine, ten years as a community.  For service just on that point for Jewish service I mean you can, one can have private devotions but for a church service per se we have to have a minimum of ten men.  What is a man in Hebrew religion?  A person of over thirteen years of age.  I’m sure you’ve heard the expression bar mitzvah?

When boys become from a religious perspective boys become men and girls at twelve years become ladies OK but they do not, but with respect to the lady members here as far as the service is concerned they do not, we cannot accept them as partaking in the service.  There are other forms of Judaism where the ladies do play an active part in the synagogue and would sit with men, sit together.  I mean it may seem strange for those who are church going from other denominations but that’s us, that’s our practice and long may it continue.  So madam that’s a very, very rough and ready guide, it really is a rough guide.

I say I am very grateful and appreciate the time both Sandra and Neville have shared with me.

Neville pointed to the two clocks on the wall

and when our rabbi speaks in the pulpit it depends which clock you want to, one clock is five minutes slower than the other so if you get, we often say well you know has he run over time on that one or is he behind time on that one and you’ll notice also the Hebrew lettering there on the clocks that dial saying one, two, three, four, five, six, seven now that’s the Hebrew numbers and so that’s really that.  If we can go outside we’ll have a look at the small synagogue and have a look at the portraits as we go out.

I asked if the two clocks, one slower than the other by five minutes were significant or symbolic. They weren’t,

No there’s not actually [laughs] they’re just, it just happened you know. One clock on one side that’s it and no, no I didn’t mean it to be symbolic, as I say it just worked out that [laughs] it saves craning one’s neck you know. And as you say you see we’ve celebrated our fiftieth that’s a couple of years ago but we haven’t bothered taking down the signs yet you know or the banner I should say.

I returned to Neville’s point about the potential lifespan of the community and its viability.

There will always be Jewish people here but there’s but you know it’s the viability which really it’s rather sad but well we’ll do our best in the meantime.

Our rabbi’s very good, he has invigorated us and brought new life to the community.  It’s funny the smaller we are the more we need you know.  Funny just I’m standing here and if you want to come where I am just standing you’ll see through the windows there you’ll see the outlines of a building so that’s, those are the buildings that I referred to in my initial comments about having to dispose  of some of the property.

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Fig.16. Prayer Shawl

Now whenever men pray they wear a, oh here we are, a prayer shawl, it’s OK if you want to take a photograph of that.

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Fig.17. Tallis

And men and boys over the age of thirteen at the moment will don these, wrap it round themselves. It’s called a tallis. OK and the fringes there represent, the fringes represent the six hundred and thirteen, the six hundred and thirteen daily commandments which I have to observe, I’m not saying I observe each and every one of them.

Sandra added, “Not every day!” and Neville replied “Not even three of them perhaps [laughs] but there’ll be a clap of thunder on that one.”

Yes, you know what is meant by kosher, without going into the politics of ritual slaughter it means that the blood is drained from the meat, we can eat meat which is from, which is of animals which chew the cud.  We cannot eat shellfish, we can’t eat crabs, we can’t eat lobster but we can eat fish with fins and scales and we don’t eat shellfish, OK.  So in the old days you’ll notice here you see this because we stand for prayer you know sometimes we don’t sit all the time we stand so it’s you know we sort of push this back OK and a lot of these you see in the old days the income would have been derived from seat rental.  Now we’re small in number we just there’s just an overall membership charge and each person would have had their own particular seat to sit on and it made quite a, when the place was fairly full [laughs] it used to be quite traumatic if one was sitting at somebody else’s seat.

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Fig.18. Mezuzah

Now this here is what’s known as mezuzah, all buildings have, Jewish houses and buildings would have this fixed to the doorpost of or as the Prayer Book says fixed to the doorpost of your house.  So that contains a prayer and it’s placed in a certain angle, rabbis couldn’t make up their minds whether it was vertical or horizontal, vertical rather or horizontal so the story goes that they placed it at an angle, so that’s called a mezuzah.

Neville continued

we used to be known as the Belfast Hebrew Congregation up until the 1990s.  Now as I say we’re the only Jewish congregation in this part of the kingdom.  There would have been a Jewish community in Lurgan 1894 to 1927 or round about that and in Derry, Londonderry up until 1948/49 and that would have catered for the you know before partition there would have been families living in Donegal so that would have been part and parcel of it.

Pointing to the portrait of Otto Jaffe Neville continued:

So and this man was a great philanthropist, he was very generous towards the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Mater Hospital and it was the when you walked up from town if you came up the Antrim Road you’d have passed the Cliftonville Road and there used to be the Jaffe School there which he founded as an integrated school but there we are, there endeth the lesson. We’ll go out and have a look in the hall there and see what.  So this as I say is where we would have our entertainment as such and if you can envisage that you would have entered as I say from that side and the seating would have gone right the way back to those doors you know.

Sandra’s mentioned the Millisle Farm and in the 1930s when the Nazis took, came to power in Germany an attempt was made to rescue Jewish children and they originally were supposed to settle them in the what was then the Irish free state but the government in the Irish free state declared itself neutral and was reluctant to accept refugees so the Stormont regime, Stormont Government agreed to allow these children to come north and they settled, the community bought as you’ll see here a farm, leased a farm Gorman’s Farm in Millisle, the farm is still there and they settled the children, young people and they learned, well trades and a lot of them stayed here and the farm was eventually abandoned in 1948 and either, a lot of them went on to the States or to Palestine and other parts of the world, but certainly we did our best to help them.  As I say there’s a local primary school, Millisle Primary School they have done a project and it was very, very moving and I’ve seen the results of their project, very, very moving.

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Fig.19. Holocaust memorial

Across here you’ll see the little plaques here, holocaust and then there’s a plaque there for those who gave their, members of the community who gave their lives during both World Wars and you see the Millisle Farm there the plaque and there are one or two other and then there’s a plaque there really that I’ll just draw your attention to there the Sir Isaac Wolfson who in fact assisted with the building of the synagogue. And that’s a Star of David there which I collected from a German lady..she’s a sculptress and she phoned me and she said oh it’s something small and I’d come on from somewhere else and it took two of us to struggle to get it into the back of the car and about three of us to try and get it out of the car.

Neville took us into the smaller synagogue . “This is where we would worship, this is a small synagogue”.

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Fig.20. The second, smaller synagogue

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Fig.21. ‘With a study for those who come to study’.

And this is where we would worship say just if we didn’t want to open up if there was just say on a week day and the, that again is though it’s empty there that’s the Ark, the Ark there. Which the rabbi would pray from and that’s various plaques.  These plaques here would represent those members of the congregation who have passed on, unfortunately there are more, there are almost as many plaques as there are members now if not more plaques than members and I suppose really this is the Hebrew date here and that’s the name of the person concerned from there OK and for the lady there, all right and the date of death of the, the Hebrew date of death.  So it’s customary to put up a plaque in their memory and again you have the Everlasting Light that Everlasting Light actually comes from Annesley Street.

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Fig.22. Plaques represent members of the congregation who have ‘passed on’

Yes, yes it comes and the Ten Commandments there come from which is above the Ark there come from Annesley Street as well as does the, do the lights, see the lighting there? On the right hand side where the rabbi would worship from that also is from Annesley Street and just in fact I may just switch it off otherwise the chairman our little chairman will have a fit.

Yes that in fact is 1938 so that comes from the, that’s it, the synagogue in Annesley Street and those names there are names of very learned men who belonged to the congregation, plaques there.  So we’re full of plaques, that’s about all we have, plaques, plaques, plaques, plaques and more plaques, so.

 

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Fig.23. ‘And these here are pictures of days gone by and that’s our former rabbis’.

Yes would have been our old, that would have been our old boardroom there which is now as I say elsewhere and there are very famous pictures there of Dr Herzog who was the first Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel. Yes, he was born here. A former rabbi here and oh yes, yes indeed very and yes so there we are.

On leaving the synagogue I asked Sandra about the connections between social justice, the work she had done, her creativity and her faith

Well I suppose that’s part of faith really it’s that you want to make a difference in the world for good and often you wonder how, how much you can do, but I suppose you do what you can, but it’s not up to you the outcome really. Just try to be there, and as I say I like organising events and that’s been quite exciting.

I thank Sandra and Neville for their time and sharing the walk.  I  really appreciated having an insight into the orthodox community;  and they both tell me I am very welcome.

It was an interesting day;  the rain had impacted upon both the pace of our walk, we certainly had a fast walk up the Antrim Road as it was raining hard, and the time and space needed to stop and look and decide what images to take at the various landmarks. However, the rain did not impact upon the sensory dimension of the walk and the connection or attunement to Sandra as she pointed out various places and spaces important to her, her memory and biography. We shared a relational and dialogic space along the route. I learned a lot in walking  with Sandra about the history of the Jewish communities in Belfast, the spatial dynamics of Jewish settlement and return and the role of faith in Sandra’s life and social justice work. I also learned more about borders and risk in Belfast. This is one walk where the map or toute Sandra took me on is not available on this website, for reasons of security.

Sandra was a  Research Affiliate at the Department of Sociology and Social Policy, The Queen’s University of Belfast when her book was published.  Evangelical Women in Belfast: Imprisoned or Empowered? was published in 2002 by Palgrave Macmillan. In 1999  Sandra received  a Rowntree Charitable Trust grant which  funded  her  study on Presbyterianism and Identity in Ireland (north and south).

One comment on “Walk 4. Walking in Belfast with Sandra Baillie:social justice, faith and belonging

  1. Pingback: Walk 4. Walking in Belfast with Sandra Baillie:social justice, faith and belonging | walkingborders

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