The Cambridge synagogue was familiar to me from my student days, where, although I studied at Imperial, I did have friends in Cambridge and spent a few Shabbatot (Sabbaths) there. The synagogue in Thompson Lane is non-affiliated Orthodox. There is gender separation, but the symbolic divide runs front to back, so women and men sit in a segregated but egalitarian arrangement. The dividing screens are also solid to waste height and above that, are merely a framework. In a pleasant break with tradition, the 1-12 year old girls opened the holy Ark. Apparently, in the college holidays, it’s usually the kids that open the ark, and the boys were outside playing something. Anyone can open the Ark and the honour is frequently given to non-Jewish visiting dignitaries. Nevertheless, it seemed to me to be sensible and refreshing to give the ladies something to do.
An Israeli mathematician, Dr Yoav Gitt, read the weekly Torah portion. When I’d last visited, as a student in the early nineties, Yoav, then a student, was the regular reader, and it seems that he’s been in demand ever since.
Israel Patent Attorney, Standford T Colb donated a Sefer Torah to the Cambridge Synagogue in Honour of his father. Apparently both he and his son had spent happy semesters there.
Due to the Synagogue visit, I missed the session on Patents and life forms that was chaired by Professor Simon Lee, Fellow of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge and executive director of the Cambridge Theological Federation and which included the following lectures:
- Patenting on life forms/judgments of the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office – Christopher Rennie-Smith, Former Chair of the Biotech Board of Appeal and former Member of the Enlarged Board of Appeal at the European Patent Office
- Legal and ethical aspects of the patenting of human body materials – Dr Julian Cockbain, European Patent Lawyer, author, consultant and bioethics expert
- Patents and the moral limits of markets: The case of germ line interventions – Dr Katerina Sideri, Intellectual Property advisor, Agricultural University of Athens; and Member of the International Scholars Network of Intellectual Property in the Biosciences
I also missed most of the second session, titled Patents, human rights and politics
Chair: Professor Elizabeth Schiltz, Professor of Law, Thomas J. Abood Research Scholar and Co-Director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota
- Patent governance, ethics, and democracy – Professor Ingrid Schneider, Department of Political Sciences, University of Hamburg, Research Centre for Biotechnology, Society and the Environment
- Human Rights and Life Patents: Lessons from the Church’s Social Teaching and Engagement – Dr Stephen Colecchi, Director of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Patents on Embryonic Stem Cells: On Moral Intrigue at the European Patent Office – Dr Justin Turner QC, Barrister at Three New Square chambers, Lincoln’s Inn; Director of UKAD
For lunch I had fried fish, mashed potato and spinach again. After my parents retired, they immigrated to Netanya, which is a Mediterranean Bournemouth on Sea. They’ve found a Synagogue called Young Israel, with an average age of congregant being about 70, and where most members are British retirees. Nothing Young and nothing Israel about it. They’ve got used to the local diet and one can find things like Marmite, English teabags, etc. if one is willing to pay a premium. What one cannot get in Israel is fresh North sea fish suitable for frying. I had fish & chips at a Hendon restaurant on the Wednesday, and two Hermolis meals in Cambridge on Shabbat. That’s three lots of haddock. It’s true, there is nothing like British fried fish. Funnily enough, Mrs Beaton describes it as fish in the Jewish tradition, and apparently it arrived with Portuguese Jewish immigrants in Cromwell’s time.