THE TREE OF LIFE A Film by Sarah West Celebrating Hope, Community and the Earth which is our only Home

A short portrait film about Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah & the BHPS community made in 2015

At the beginning of 2015, an undergraduate called Sam Gavin asked me if he could make a film about me, focusing on my LGBTQ experience, as part of his film studies degree. Sam had grown up at Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue, celebrating his bar mitzvah and graduating from the Kabbalat Torah class, and I had known him since he was a small child. I agreed, and we set a date for filming.

One spring morning a group of film students arrived at my home just outside Seaford, each one using the project to express their particular skills – as director, sound engineer, etc. Sam had the role of producer. In the afternoon, we travelled to Brighton and Hove to film at the synagogue, which was in the process of rebuilding at the time.

Sam sent me the film, entitled, Tikvah, when it was completed, and I congratulated him and his colleagues on doing a fantastic job.

I was reminded of the film a couple of months ago, when someone, who had seen it on YouTube tweeted about it, and so I watched it again. Tikvah makes a powerful statement about the LGBTQ experience and values that have infused my rabbinate, and just as important, about what a wonderful inclusive congregation Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue has become: a beacon of Liberal Judaism on the south coast.

Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah

Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah
Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah

Elli is a profoundly passionate Jew with a deep love of the spiritual, theological and practical aspects of our faith. She leads by example (she is the epitome of the saying, ‘If you want something doing, ask a busy person’), and is also committed to supporting the learning, participation and contribution of everyone in the community, regardless of background. Elli has fostered a sense of community in her congregation that touches all – members, Friends or just once in a lifetime visitors to our synagogue by the sea.

Our Rabbi has a long history of activism both inside and outside the world of Judaism. As a feminist lesbian, Elli is a steadfast voice against inequality and discrimination. As a Rabbi, she is learned, wise, highly intelligent, a skilled teacher, compassionate, dedicated and much more. From intricacies in theology and Hebrew language to humanitarian issues and the puzzles of daily life, Elli’s erudition and keen insight make her lessons and sermons unique, penetrating and stimulating.

If you want to learn more about your Jewish faith and history, if you are not Jewish but have an interest, or you are interested in converting to Judaism, the Access to Judaism classes that Rabbi Sarah runs are fascinating and instructive – you can commit to the entire course or just drop in as a particular class grabs your attention. Elli encourages dialogue and intellectual discussion in a warm, inclusive and relaxed atmosphere that welcomes all students, of all ages and all levels of understanding.

Elli is committed to making a difference, on both a small scale and in the wider world.  Her dedication to our synagogue and our community, her warmth, vibrancy and deep empathy for humanity as a whole is something we never take for granted.

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