LONDON –- Ten Orthodox rabbis were ordained in London Sunday, the largest number in decades.
It was only the second time since 1999, when Jews’ College (now the London School of Jewish Studies) closed its semicha program, that a group of Orthodox rabbis have been ordained in the British capital. Many of the community’s rabbis either train overseas or are imported from abroad.
The new rabbis are graduates of the London Montefiore Semicha Program, run in partnership between LSJS and the Judith Lady Montefiore College, which is part of the Spanish and Portuguese community. The program, then run by the Montefiore College alone, produced five graduates in 2009.
“By producing so many home-grown rabbis we can develop a rabbinic leadership that is sensitive to the particular needs of Anglo-Jewry and that truly reflects the modern make-up of our community,” said Jason Marantz, chief executive of LSJS. “The re-emergence of a British semicha signals that the Jewish community here is self-sustaining, forward-planning, strong in its convictions, and confident about its future.”
Meanwhile, on the same evening, the Progressive Leo Baeck College ordained three rabbis – two of whom are going to marry each other in October.
Kansas-born Rabbi Leah Jordan will take up a post as Student and Young Adult Chaplain at Liberal Judaism while her future husband, Rabbi Benji Stanley, joins the rabbinic team at the West London Synagogue. They met at Hebrew Union College in the US, where Rabbi Stanley was studying for a year, and Rabbi Jordan transferred to the UK so they could be together.
The third graduate of the program, Dutch-born Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz, will become assistant rabbi at the Sinai Synagogue in Leeds, and is expecting her first child in August.
The new Orthodox rabbis, who range in age between 23 and 65, include Dr. Raphael Zarum, dean of LSJS, and David Steinhoff, head of Kashrut at the Sephardi Kashrut Authority. As the program was part-time, the graduates mostly already have jobs, including in shuls affiliated with the Orthodox United Synagogue, in schools and adult education initiatives. All but one of the 10 have a first degree, five have a Masters, and one has a PhD.
The graduates were handed their rabbinical diplomas by Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks at a ceremony in Bevis Marks synagogue, the oldest shul in the UK.
The program “is so vital for producing well-trained rabbis for our shuls and schools,” Sacks told Times of Israel.
The London Montefiore Semicha program is recognized by the Rabbinical Council of America.