Leo Baeck College celebrates 60 years of training Europe’s rabbis

8 November 2016

More than 200 people, including 43 rabbis and student rabbis spanning six decades, attended the 60th Anniversary Service of Celebration for the Leo Baeck College this weekend.

Leo Baeck College is a preeminent institution of Jewish scholarship and learning, based in Finchley, Barnet, that is the heart of the intellectual and spiritual life of the Progressive Jewish community. Almost every serving Liberal and Reform rabbi in the UK, and many abroad, trained at the College.

Taking place at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, the moving event was attended by the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of Barnet, Councillor Sury & Mrs Tara Khatri.

Rabbis taking part in the service included Leo Baeck College’s first alumnus, Rabbi Lionel Blue OBE, 86, and today’s current rabbinic students, who are aged from 26 upwards. The senior rabbis of Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism – Rabbis Danny Rich and Laura Janner-Klausner – also attended.

The service was led by Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh, Dean of the College, with a special musical accompaniment by Student Rabbi Cantor Gershon Silins, Student Rabbi Hannah Kingston, and Student Rabbi Igor Zinkov.

The Principal of the College, Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, gave an inspirational address recounting the history of the College and the importance of securing its future as the beating heart of Progressive Judaism in Europe.

She said: “Today we celebrate a legacy – 185 rabbis ordained and nearly 90 educators trained to undergraduate and MA degree level for our congregations. Rabbis for London and Brighton and Birmingham and Manchester and Kent and Surrey and Essex. Head teachers for Leeds and Edgware and Geneva. Rabbis for Paris and Amsterdam and Berlin and Brussels and Kiev and Odessa and a community director for Minsk.

“Rabbis who have contributed to the national life of this country and countries around the world, none more so than one of our beloved first alumni, Rabbi Lionel Blue, who we are blessed to have with us at this service.

“The first European female rabbi ordained in 1975, Rabbi Dr Jacqueline Tabick. The first openly LGBTQI+ rabbis in Europe, Rabbi Elizabeth Sarah and Rabbi Shelia Shulman z”l, in 1989. The first MA programme in Jewish Education in Europe commencing in 1992. The first ever Danish female rabbi, Rabbi Sandra Kviat, in 2011.

“And in less a than year, God willing, the first ever Spanish born Progressive rabbi to help begin to heal the wounds of an altogether different, but no less potent rupture in Jewish history.”

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