One of the communities I visited was the newest US member community, St Albans. This had been an Affiliate community since the 1950’s but given the gradual growth of the Jewish community in the South Hertfordshire area, there has been a growing realisation that the US had to “up our game” in this area. St Albans community therefore took the plunge to change from an Affiliate to a full Member Shul last year and is now searching for a new and dynamic Rabbi who will be able to engage with the younger elements of the wider community around the St Albans area. It is a very exciting time for all of the current team and we hope to be able to entice a real star to kick start the growth there. They have a lovely shul, and they have lovely people, and we have high hopes of making the US St Albans shul a force to be reckoned with in the United Synagogue.
My next port of call was to North East London, to visit the communities of Chigwell and Clayhall. These are very different communities, but both have the same desire to engage their members and especially develop stronger programmes for the youth of their communities. Rabbis Davis and Wilson also happen to be the two leading lights of the Rabbinical Council of the US, and so play a major communal role too in the US. With committed lay leaders and such high profile Rabbis, both these communities have their sights set high, and we look forward to helping them grow and thrive.
The next stage of my travels was further afield, and I spent the second half of the week in Israel. Developing the pool of new Rabbis for our community is a vital part of the work we do. We have to constantly keep on the lookout for new talent, and when we find it, we have to retain a regular contact to enthuse and motivate these candidates until positions become available. The job is made more complicated because we have to spot talent at an early stage, often whilst the person is still studying for Semicha. For really good talent there are often a number of organisations vying for their commitment, both in the UK and elsewhere. Our role therefore is often to nurture a pool of young Rabbis for a number of years, and keep them engaged with the vision of the US and Tribe for a long time. I therefore used my time meeting some of the stars of the future of the US, continuing our dialogue and discussing positions currently available.
Most of my meetings took place in our small Tribe Israel office in the centre of Jerusalem. It is a really convenient venue, and well managed by Gaby Godfrey. Gaby looked after me well, ensuring all the back to back meetings worked successfully. Thanks Gaby!
In addition I took the opportunity to pop in to the Eitz Hachayim cemetery in Beit Shemesh to check on how the US section was developing. We sadly have already had to use one of the reserved plots, despite the fact that the development of our section hasn't quite been finished, (although it is nearly there). Fortunately we were able to ready the section sufficiently for the first burial, and I have to say, it is a very beautiful setting. If anyone is interested in this project, just let either myself or Melvyn Hartog of the Burial Society know.
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