At our May meeting we discussed the resolution which is to go before the National AGM at the Albert Hall at the end of May. The wording of the resolution runs as follows: There are chronic shortages of midwives. The NFWI calls on the Government to increase investment in the training, employment and retention of midwives in England and Wales to ensure services are adequately resourced and are able to deliver a high standard of care. Two of our members, Elizabeth Sugarman and Eva Croxford, have both worked as midwives and have also taught midwifery so were well equipped to advise us.

Eva told us that one of the problems in this field is a shortfall in recruitment; the training now includes a three year university course which could deter less academic candidates. The fees of £6000-£8000 are also a problem for some people. Some women are lost to the profession through their own family commitments. The hours are unsocial for those that are married and the ones returning after taking a break to raise their own children can be intimidated by having to take part in refresher courses. There is also the danger of a surplus of graduates if more training places are provided which then leads to places being cut back and the whole cycle begins again. As one of the factors exacerbating the shortage is the present baby boom perhaps the answer would be to encourage people to have fewer babies! Of course it all comes down to money in the end: the plain fact is the NHS cannot afford to pay all the people they need. The discussion was then opened to the floor and we took a vote. The resolution was carried with the proviso that Eileen Riches, who will be our delegate, is free to make up her own mind how she votes after she has heard the arguments on the day.

After this Elizabeth had a further contribution to make as she took on the role of speaker and gave us a talk on Jewish festivals. Because the Jewish calendar is based on the Lunar Cycle, she told us, adjustments have to be made to keep it in sync with the seasons, so seven extra months are added during every nineteen years. There are many festivals and however long they last they always start just before sunset and end when at least three stars can be seen in the sky. One that most people have heard of is Passover during which the Israelites’ escape from Egypt is remembered. Unleavened bread is eaten for eight days, symbolic of the fact that on their journey they did not have time to wait for the bread to rise. During the traditional meal which is consumed between two services Roman table manners such as drinking wine, lounging and leaning sideways are imitated to show that the nation now rejoices in freedom and is no longer enslaved.
Cheesecake is one of the items on the menu at the festival of Shavout which takes place in May and celebrates the giving of the first books of the bible, the Torah, which contain the Ten Commandments. Eating this is a reminder of the land of milk and honey, the land that was promised. In contrast, at the festival of atonement, Yom Kippur, you are expected to fast for a period of a little over twenty five hours but not if it might adversely affect your health. Judaism is a humane faith.

V E Bines


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