On 3 October, Beth Shalom synagogue unveiled a blue plaque to commemorate the Yasume Club for Far East Prisoners of War, which was located on the land now occupied by our synagogue. Councillor Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council, unveiled the plaque. He was accompanied by Colonel Roger Herriot of the Royal Anglian Regimental Association, relatives of some of the POWs, Beth Shalom synagogue members and neighbours. There were three speeches including this one, written by Beth Shalom’s chairman:
Councillor Herbert, distinguished visitors, neighbours, friends and synagogue members. Welcome to Beth Shalom synagogue. Not so long ago, Beth Shalom synagogue, was a nomadic tribe, wandering the wilderness of Cambridge, setting up temporary camps in Cockcroft Hall, Mayfield School, then Wesley House and Mill Road Baptist Church, with occasional sojourns at The Guildhall for the High Holydays. We schlepped our Torah scrolls, like the ark of the covenant, from venue to venue for more than 30 years.
In 2012 or 2013, we were fortunate to stumble across our very own Promised Land: this site in Auckland Road, previously used by the Yasume Club… which neatly fits into the space between the peaceful neighbourhood in front and the beautiful community orchard in the rear.
Constructing the synagogue building on this site has transformed our lives: enabling us to settle down in one place and strengthen our community; bring our Sunday school (our Cheder) under the same roof; give-back to the wider Cambridge population through outreach and religious education activities and the Cambridge Churches Homeless Project; and to give us a sense of belonging in the wider Cambridge society.
We are very grateful to the City Council for allowing us to transform this site into our new home and to the neighbours for welcoming us into their community.
With this plaque on our wall we will remember the former occupants of the site and teach our children about them. The sacrifices of the members of the Yasume Club during the second World War, and many others like them, enable us to live our lives in freedom and peace and to build our own community here in a friendly, accepting environment. For that we owe them a debt of gratitude.
Click here for the Cambridge Independent article about the unveiling and YouTube videos of the speeches.