Finchley Progressive Synagogue

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 1 January 1935, the youngest of 3 children, Frank Hellner gained a B.A. degree in English literature from Yeshiva University in 1956 while also attending the Teacher’s Institute in Judaic Studies.

In 1956 he participated in the Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad (Machon L’Madrechei Chutz LaAretz) situated at that time in Katamon, Jerusalem as a representative of Young Judea, a Zionist youth movement. Following a gap year, he returned to New York, to enter Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institue of Religion and gained a B.H.L. degree.

In 1960, he returned to Israel as the leader of the Young Judea Year Course, organising a year’s study & work programme for 30 American high school graduates under the auspices of the Jewish Agency. It was while he was in Jerusalem that year, that he and his group attended the Eichmann trial. The following year, he returned to HUC–JIR in New York to complete his rabbinic training and was ordained in 1964 receiving his M.A. degree on a thesis on the Life and Writings of Judah Hai Alkalai.

In 1991 he was awarded a doctorate (honoris causa) from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in recognition of twenty five years of service to the community and his work in inter-faith relations.

His first full-time pulpit was in Monticello, New York (the Catskills). In 1966, he accepted an invitation from the Finchley Liberal Synagogue in London (later known as Finchley Progressive Synagogue) where he served as the sole rabbi for 33 years until his retirement on 31 December 1999. During his rabbinate he served on numerous committees, including the executive of the Barnet Community Relations Council, Chair of the ULPS Rabbinic Conference, Editor of the ULPS News, Governor of the Akiva School from its inception until 2004, Extra-mural part-time lecturer at Birkbeck College, a Member of the Leo Baeck Company, a member of the Liberal & Reform Assembly of Mohalim and Chaplain to the Mayor of the London Borough of Barnet. He presently serves as a Trustee and member of the Jewish Community Day School Advisory Board (JCDSAB) and is a Vice President of the Finchley Council of Christians & Jews.

He has had several articles published in the national press and the Jewish Chronicle, and a commentary for a Marshall Cavendish series on The Bible. He also produced a slide/film-strip presentation entitled, “The Land of Promise” on the creation of the State of Israel and a book of sermons entitled “I Promise I Will Try Not to Kick My Sister and Other Sermons”, published in 1987 to celebrate his 20th anniversary with Finchley Progressive.

In addition, he appeared in several musicals under the auspices of the Finchley & Friern Barnet Operatic Society and appeared briefly in a cameo role, portraying a rabbi, in a film with Martin Clunes. His hobbies include art, sculpture, Israeli stamp collecting, music, singing, films, cooking and aquarobics.

He is married to Valerie Boyd-Hellner who is Director of Education at Hendon Reform Synagogue and who had three children from a previous marriage. He has three children from his first marriage and between them, they presently have ten grandchildren. He is enjoying retirement and is Emeritus Rabbi at Finchley Progressive Synagogue.