Dvar Torah: Praying for protection – on the sale of the Markaz

Written by Rabbi Josh Levy — 22 October 2021

Look in an Orthodox siddur and you will find that the chatimah – the closing blessing – for the next prayer in our service, hashkiveinu, is slightly different.

This prayer for divine protection does not end quite the same way as it does for us.

After we have sung in a moment, we will read:
‘Baruch attah Adonai, ha-poreis sukkat shalom aleinu v’al ammo yisra’el, v’al kol ha-olam’ –
Blessed are You God, spreading the shelter of peace over us, over Your people Israel, and over all the world.

By contrast, the Orthodox liturgy ends:
‘Baruch attah Adonai, ha-poreis sukkat shalom aleinu v’al kol ammo yisra’el, v’al yerushalayim’ –
Blessed are You God, spreading the shelter of peace over us, over Your people Israel, and over Jerusalem.


The reason I believe strongly in the importance of liturgical change is because the liturgy is an expression of core values. What we pray for must reflect our core beliefs, what we consider to be important.

So there is something amazing about the fact that when we ask for divine protection we look beyond ourselves: Our concern, we express, is not only for the protection of ourselves, but also of others. Protection isn’t just for us.

We do not look narrowly at our own needs and concerns, but seek to protect others also. Our Hashkiveinu is an expression of universal concern, not only of particularist self interest.


This value is there in our liturgy. In what we pray for every evening.
And it is why we have been proud for the last five years to stand with the community of Iraqi Shia Muslims who bought the Hippodrome in Golders Green to develop into a centre for their religious life.

We have done what we can to protect them from those for whom only their own needs have been relevant – standing with them as they have been subject to a campaign which has had little to do with parking and more to do with fear and bigotry; one which has, unfortunately been led by a group that includes Jews who do not share our values, do not share this core belief.


It is a source of great sadness to me, to us as a community, that this campaign against them has, unfortunately been successful.
That the trustees of the markaz have now been forced to give up, selling the property to a church group – a church whose use of the building will be little different than that which they proposed, but whose religion, and the profile of their members will be more to the taste of those around.


Something has gone terribly wrong in our neighbourhood that this has been the case.
We are losing neighbours who we have only just begun to know, partners in the important work of interfaith dialogue in this area.

I do not know what more we could have done… I know that there are people in this room who worked wholeheartedly to try to prevent this outcome. Yet this sad conclusion has come to pass.


But this evening, we must reaffirm that this is not our Judaism, these are not our values. When we sing of God’s protection, we do so also for those beyond our walls.
And commit ourselves that the next time others need our care, we will once again stand together with them – as our prayerbook, and our Judaism demands.