When Richard and Barbara Ossias first came over from Canada to spend time in a beautiful remote lodge near Inverness, they had no idea there would be any Jewish people nearby. But then a neighbour introduced them to someone who had attended many SCoJeC events, who told them about our activities in the area, and it didn’t take long before the idea came about for them to host a gathering in the hope of meeting more local Jewish people. So when we decided to hold a tree-planting event around Tu b’Shvat, the Jewish New Year for Trees and to link it with Holocaust Memorial Day, they were happy to welcome us.
The weather was perfect, with a sprinkle of snow on the ground but not enough to stop us getting up the narrow roads to the Lodge, where our hosts organised the planting of an assortment of greenery including holly and cotoneasters. As well as our usual cream cheese and smoked salmon bagels, rugelach, and strudel, SCoJeC’s Projects and Outreach Manager Fiona Frank had brought with her an assortment of the ‘seven fruits’ that are often eaten at Tu b’Shvat as well as red and white grape juice for a special Tu b’Shvat fruit Seder.
We read some ceremonial words during the tree planting, and Richard spoke about links with his family and others of our families who had perished in the Holocaust or managed to escape from the Nazis – and how the planting of new trees feels like a message of hope for the future in the face of history and of other world events.
The tree planting was followed by a walk, and we all then sat round a roaring fire listening to stories about wartime Hungary from Holocaust survivor Kathy Hagler.
In the evening we were joined by other local residents who hadn’t realised there were any Jewish people in the area until they saw an advertisement in December for SCoJeC’s Inverness Chanukah party.
Rolf Schmidt, Chair of Inverness Interfaith, said “I felt privileged to be able to take part in this event. It’s a great thing to be able to take part in all kinds of celebrations from different faiths; sharing our culture helps to remove our differences.”
Other participants commented:
“We thoroughly enjoyed our evening with everyone and found it fun as well as learning new things about Judaism. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming and we look forward to meeting again.”
“… a cold, snowy day to be planting trees, but the nursery had been so well prepared by Richard that they should flourish and grow!”
“So many meaningful stories, and you put together a wonderful program – from the readings before the tree planting through the 7-fruit seder before we closed. We look forward to the next time we can see everyone."