Rabbi Pete Tobias leaves Elstree for California

4 March 2020 – 8 Adar 5780

4 April 2020

Rabbi Pete Tobias is leaving The Liberal Synagogue Elstree (TLSE) after more than 17 years as the community’s beloved rabbi and leader.

Pete will take up a position at a congregation in Southern California in September, allowing him to live close to his son and family there.

Writing to the community, Pete said: “I have precious memories of life cycle moments, tragic and joyful, plus the countless other opportunities to share in your lives, accompanying so many of you through a variety of life-changing experiences. In many ways, you have been my family, being as much a part of my life as I have been of yours. For that I thank you.”

As well as his role at TLSE, Pete has contributed significantly to Liberal Judaism and Jewish life in the UK. He has written several books – including Liberal Judaism: A Judaism for the Twenty-First Century – organised Biennial Weekends and other major events, and contributed significantly to the movement’s thinking and liturgy. The Haggadah he co-authored with Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein will be on Seder tables around the UK and Europe this Pesach. In wider society, he is best known for his 11-year run on BBC Radio Two’s ‘Pause for Thought’ and his contributions to newspapers including The Guardian.

Responded to Pete’s letter, TLSE chair Mike Walton said: “The news that Rabbi Pete will be leaving our community in September and emigrating to California to start a new life with his family there will come as no surprise to those of us who have seen the pictures of him with his grandson. Pete refers to his mixed emotions on his decision and my own feelings are also mixed. I am so happy for Pete that he will now be a permanent fixture in Jaxon’s life but on the other hand I will be very sad to see him leave us. I will be forever grateful to Pete for inspiring me to become involved in TLSE, which is an aspect of my life that is very important to me. I know that many other members feel the same way.”

You can read the letters in full by clicking here.

Rabbi Danny Rich, outgoing chief executive and senior rabbi of Liberal Judaism, said: “Pete is an engaging proponent of Liberal Judaism, which is no doubt why his books are so well-read and his radio broadcasts were so popular. Many of his congregants and students – as well as those who have attended Liberal Judaism’s Kadimah Summer Camp and/or our Biennial events – will fondly remember his creative and genius sessions, including those on the connection between ancient Judaism and modernity.

“Liberal Judaism’s loss is California’s gain.”

The next issue of LJ Today will contain a tribute to Pete’s wonderful work for both The Liberal Synagogue Elstree and Liberal Judaism.


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