Ruby, my advice to you is: "Don’t worry about your Bat Mitzvah. Learn your portion and do your best on the day. It’s a lovely occasion and really not something to worry about."
Dorothy Cathles is a truly charming lady and the mother of Adam Rynhold - a prominent member of our shul. Adam is a lovely smiley and friendly face at synagogue and at cheder so it was a pleasure to get to know his mum.
Dorothy was born in Southgate and had four brothers and one sister. Two of the brothers were in the army and two were in the air force. She had fond recollections of walking to the rec near Ally Pally which is a familiar place, not far from where I live in Tufnell Park. I like to go skating there during the holidays.
Her strongest memory growing up was the prime minister declaring Britain’s entry into the second world war. She recalls the V2 bombs which glided until they landed. She found this incredibly scary; for the first time in the war you could hear it coming but she didn’t know exactly where the bomb would land. One of these bombs landed next to Bounds Green station. Dorothy’s memories of this tragedy were understandably extremely vivid. A lot of Belgians had come over to the UK to avoid Dunkirk and were sleeping on the platform. A tunnel collapsed and 12 Belgians as well as 3 English people were killed that night on 13th October 1940. The power of these memories was overwhelming and I found the whole story deeply sad and distressing.
Dorothy didn’t have a Bat Mitzvah herself since she converted to Judaism as a young girl. As a child, she went to a Quaker school and then on to Palmers Green high school where she met a number of Jewish girls. What I found most inspiring about Dorothy was the power of her conviction at such a young age. She was turned off Christianity for a variety of reasons and having assessed all the other religions, Dorothy decided that Judaism was the most acceptable. This must have been an incredibly brave choice at the time when few young girls would have had the courage to take this step, let alone parental permission. Lucky for her, Dorothy’s parents were supportive. I am sure she is proud that her son is now such an active and impactful member of the Belsize Square community.
The most important lesson Dorothy taught me is choice. I will always have the power to choose what I want to do, or which direction to pursue. This is one of the most powerful things for any human, and I feel strongly that I would like to have a positive impact on eradicating poverty and ensuring everyone has an equal chance in life. Thank you Dorothy for reminding me that it’s in my hands.