The Street Party on Alt Street was an afternoon to celebrate local achievement in Toxteth.
Most daveners went home after the Shabbat morning service on Shavuot eve, but a group of us went after Shabbat lunch to a street party in Alt Street, a road with a story to admire attached to it.
The Rev Dr Shannon Ledbetter first took the lead on Merseyside with charity Habitat for Humanity some 20 years ago. I remember the launch on the docks, below the Liver birds.
Beyond the revolving strobe lights, Shannon’s voice rang out clear with her vision to build affordable housing in Liverpool. One of the patrons of the Charity was the-then Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks.
Since then, the Liverpool project has changed its name to Helping People Build Houses, but the inspiring example set by a site worker and patron, former American president Jimmy Carter continues to lift volunteers in the sector whatever the name, and never fails to raise an eyebrow.
Now in his 90s, he spent decades building alongside other volunteer builders, plumbers, electricians and other skilled workers.
The part of Alt Road built by the project sits on ground donated by the Catholic church.
The church itself has been converted into several dwellings. The street party was lively, a family put-together brimming with heartiness and love.
House patios became stalls serving tea, home-made refreshments reflecting a variety of cultures in addition to English fare; African, Asian and Arabic.
The jumping castle was such a draw for my daughter that she refused to leave until it was collapsed!
We discovered new friends and ended up for two hours more invited in for coffee and dates by local Yemenis who regaled us with stories of Jewish neighbours with whom they had lived until moving to England in the past few decades.
The spirit on Alt Street augurs well for the plan to have thousands more homes in Liverpool where people will live not only in knowledge of the existence of their neighbours, but creating safe spaces for their kids to play outside with the freedom they deserve.
Moving forward, plans emerging from lengthy conversations include a meet-up for further co-operation to arrange a safe social space for women of all religions and none in a safe working space.
For me, the prospect of inviting a neighbour home, rather than live in unit isolation of one’s own homestead is an attractive proposal.
Neighbours in the Helping People Build Houses projects, wherever possible for them, contribute of their own efforts, by building for their own and others’ dwellings, adding a shed, putting up frames, whatever can be done.
This is known as “sweat equity” and is worth value towards the cost of the home.
This project is dignified in the extreme. The Torah speaks of home building in the second person.
“When you build a home . . .” the focus needs to be on safety, and on enjoying the fruit of one’s own labour.
The Torah speaks of building a fence to guard against falling from a parapet.
One who builds a home should be allowed to live in it before taking himself off to war.
Liverpool is breaking new ground in forming projects like these.
The bonds created by neighbours who have toiled for each other creates a kinship surely very conducive to peace; it constitutes the best interfaith effort, in which the parties do not merely participate in meetings, but live the ideal of communal harmony side by side, looking out for each other’s children and practising citizenship without having to travel somewhere else to do it.
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