Aneesa Riffat

“Why do you want to work at Beth Shalom?” – this was the beginning of the conversation I had when meeting Marina in 2006. I can’t remembered how I answered, but the answer now would be profoundly different to back then because of everything I have learnt. I have been beyond honoured to have worked for 16 years at Beth Shalom- one of the most beautiful, spiritual and important places imaginable. Meeting the Smith family has been the MOST life-changing experience for me, and so much of this was down to Marina and the enormous part she played.

Endless cups of tea (and highly calorific cakes) with the most stimulating conversations made it such a privilege and a joy to spend time with this incredible woman. We conversed about everything. I knew how important faith was to Marina, and as it was also for me, very often we would have deep conversations about religion- the good and the bad.

So many times I felt vulnerable- when a terror related incident happened, or tensions flared up in the Middle East and I sought comfort from someone who understood how I would be feeling fearing again that Muslims will all be tarnished with the same brush. Dear Marina spoke with me and worked through my anxieties in a way that no one else could.

I will always be humbled by the many lessons I learnt from her. The Holocaust is one of the most complex and challenging subjects out there- how on earth should it be curated? How should something as seemingly passive as an object speak? How do you incorporate deeply personal testimonies and make these available for the general public? Marina had an answer for all of these and beyond.

I will miss so much. But I want to say thank you for everything. Bethany felt like my home. I was made to feel at home and I know I was in the presence of love and care.

Dear Marina- affectionately known as Mrs Smith- I promise to uphold all the values you taught me. I promise to continue to grow in faith, and be thoughtful and think humanely in all walks of life. I will miss you so much, and I am so grateful for all the years I got to work with and for you.

‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un’ – Verily we belong to G-d and verily to him do we return.

With love and the deepest respect. Aneesa xxx