Leo Baeck College makes history again as seven new progressive rabbis ordained

10 July 2017

Seven new European Progressive rabbis have been ordained by Leo Baeck College, including the first ever Spanish born Progressive rabbi.

Rabbi Haim Casas will make history when he returns home to begin work in communities in Spain, as well as France and Switzerland.

He was one of the class of seven new Reform and Liberal rabbis ordained, in front of 500 guests at West London Synagogue, after studying for five years on Leo Baeck College’s acclaimed Rabbinic Programme. The full list of new rabbis is:

Rabbi Haim Casas to communities in France, Switzerland and Spain
Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen to Manchester Reform Synagogue (Jackson’s Row)
Rabbi Kath Vardi to North West Surrey Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Hannah Kingston to North Western Reform Synagogue (Alyth)
Rabbi Naomi Goldman to Kol Chai Hatch End Jewish Community
Rabbi Danny Newman to Finchley Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Daniel Lichman will be working for Student Chaplaincy and acting as a rabbi for new and emerging Reform Judaism communities

Leo Baeck College principal Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris said: “In our 60th anniversary year, we could not be prouder to be carrying on the heritage of this transformational institution through these seven inspirational rabbis.”

The ordination of Haim, who was born and raised in Córdoba, was especially poignant, as the Jewish community in Spain has only re-emerged very recently. Jewish people were expelled from the country, or forced to convert to Christianity, in 1492 and it has taken five centuries for Judaism to return in a meaningful way – either through Spanish people discovering their Jewish roots or Jews from other countries moving there.

Speaking on BBC Radio 2, Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE said: “The accepted wisdom that Jewish life in Spain has ended has been overturned. Haim’s ordination was both a sign of hope and a statement of belief in a Jewish future in Spain.”

Leo Baeck College is a preeminent institution of Jewish scholarship and learning. Almost every serving Liberal and Reform rabbi in the UK, and many abroad, trained there.

The College previously made history with the ordination of Britain’s first woman, openly gay and transgender rabbis, as well as the first Progressive rabbis to take up post in the former Soviet Union.

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