Governor Lesley Bell’s blog

28 September 2023

MKUH Governor attends the Milton Keynes Synagogue Heritage Open Day

By Lesley Bell

MKUH Governor John Garner and I visited Milton Keynes Synagogue in Gifford Park on 10 September as part of the local programme of Heritage Open Days.

As a Governor of MKUH, I was particularly interested in visiting the synagogue because I realised I had never visited one before and personally know very little about the Jewish faith. I wanted to learn more, as it is important that the hospital provides medical services which respond appropriately to the needs of our multicultural and multi-faith population.

The synagogue was built over 20 years ago although there has been a Jewish population locally for over 50 years. It is a Reform synagogue currently serving over 90 families living in Milton Keynes and neighbouring counties. Members of the Synagogue were very welcoming and informative. They showed us around and explained the displays and the principles of Judaism.

Of particular interest was the Torah scroll – a sacred text which records the first 5 books of the Old Testament. The Torah scroll in Milton Keynes is particularly significant as it was rescued from the remains of a village in the Czech Republic, Pacov, which was destroyed by the Nazis in the Second World War. The Torah scroll has been identified as being 400 years old, and is kept in the Ark (meaning a cabinet or box). The doors to the Ark are inlaid with the Tree of Life, the leaves and branches of which spell out the words Tree of Life in Hebrew (please see picture below).

It was a fascinating visit and I would like to thank all those involved from the synagogue for their valuable time and for helping me understand more about the Jewish faith. However, I am well aware that I still have a lot to learn.

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The Torah Scroll, and the Tree of Life