Peter Brill - Tuesday ThoughtPeter Brill is a member of the Bristol Progressive Jewish Community and former chairman of Salaam Shalom.
This weekend marked the end of the most important part of the year for Bristol's Jewish communities. Following Rosh Hashanah (New Year), ten days of penitence led up to Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) – a day of fasting and prayer to atone for the sins of the year.
There are many similarities with other faiths over this period – the pagan rights of solstice and change of the calendar; the Christian period of Lent; the time of fasting during the Muslim month of Ramadan, to name just a few.
There is also Tzedakah. Literally, the word means righteousness or justice, but it has also come to mean charity.
Interestingly, the Muslim words for charity are Zakah and Sadaqah; another reminder of the similarities that binds these two faiths together.
During the Yom Kippur services, we were regularly reminded of the need for Tzedaka.
At one point, our Rabbi, Monique Mayer, made it very clear that not only should it be more than just financial, but that it should also hurt.
Not in the physical sense, although digging someone's allotment or helping to build their new Ikea furniture can play havoc with the muscles, but by way of ensuring that the act of charity was not just thoughtless and throw-away, chalking one up against the sins we've committed.
Certainly we should "feel the pinch" according to the Rabbi. Tzedakah should really count for something and create an element of hardship.
However, it should also come from the heart and carry the positive motive of wanting to make a difference.
Each year, at this time, our synagogue chooses three charities for the community to support through Tzedakah.
The first is, perhaps, the least surprising: Charlton Farm Hospice, an excellent charity providing respite for disabled children and their families.
The other two are more likely to raise eyebrows. Oxfam's Syria Appeal, providing immediate and urgently-needed support to the civilian population and, in particular, refugees fleeing the current atrocities.
And, Hand in Hand, dedicated to the co-education of Jewish and Arab children in Israel, with the clear and specific goal of raising a future generation that can live, work and create a society which can see beyond the political, emotional and physical barriers of the country in its current form.
In each of these cases, and for very different reasons, there is both pain and hope.
But, by undertaking Tzedakah, we can only hope the small pain we endure individually will make a positive difference to families, communities or even nations.
Peter Brill is a member of the Bristol Progressive Jewish Community and former chairman of Salaam Shalom.