New year, new rabbis!
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Rosh Hashanah

New year, new rabbis!

Micaela Blitz speaks to three dynamic couples taking on leadership roles around the country

  • Rabbi and Rebbetzin Hambling
    Rabbi and Rebbetzin Hambling
  • Rabbi Meir and Rebbetzin Rina Shindler
    Rabbi Meir and Rebbetzin Rina Shindler
  • Rabbi Anna Posner and Cantor Tamara Wolfson
    Rabbi Anna Posner and Cantor Tamara Wolfson

Rabbi and Rebbetzin Hambling

When Yossi and Channah Hambling began their new roles
as Rabbi and Rebbetzin of Birmingham Central United Synagogue in July, it was the first time they had met any of their congregation in real life. Owing to the pandemic and travel restrictions, the couple, who were completing their studies in Israel, underwent the whole recruitment process via Zoom.

With Rabbi Yossi completing his semicha earlier this year, this is
the couple’s first rabbinic post, and they have been impressed with
the synagogue’s commitment to Torah education, services and community welfare. He says they “look forward to working with the community to enhance and innovate in these areas, turning the challenges of the last year into opportunities for meaningful growth and development”.

This dynamic couple have been involved in helping their local communities since they were teenagers. Rabbi Yossi, who grew up in Ilford, Essex, was responsible for reviving the local branch of Bnei Akiva (BA) and continued running this until finishing Hasmonean High School, while Finchley-born Rebbetzin Channah ran her local branch of BA based at Woodside Park Synagogue for two years.

The couple moved to Israel as part of a Mizrachi UK Rabbinic Fellowship after Rabbi Yossi completed his degree in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at UCL, returning to the UK to take up their new roles in the Midlands.

Rebbetzin Channah is currently a stay-at-home mum to their daughter, Temimah, but has a diploma in fashion design and a bachelor’s degree in fashion, which she plans to put to good use. As a keen knitter, with experience in retail and administration, she plans to start her own business producing knitted headbands, hats and scarves.

Rabbi and Rebbetzin Hambling

Rabbi and Rebbetzin Shindler          

Rabbi Meir and Rebbetzin Rina Shindler are preparing to say farewell to Richmond United Synagogue and take up their new roles at Cockfosters and North Southgate United Synagogue later this year. They replace Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Ilana Epstein, who recently moved to Western Marble Arch Synagogue. 

Like the Hamblings, their appointment was also partly conducted over Zoom. “Being interviewed virtually made it more difficult to show our true personalities to some extent, but it also felt less intense than being in the same room, which was probably a good thing,” says Rabbi Shindler. 

Read life magazine!

It obviously worked, as the couple were overwhelmingly voted in and join the community in November.

Rabbi Meir started his career as Associate Rabbi at Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue in Essex, where his main focus was working with young families, while at Richmond United, he created the Richmond Jewish Community Hub, an inclusive education and cultural centre serving the south-west London community.

He has always loved engaging with young families and youth, and part of  his interview process included his plans to reinvigorate the congregation in a post-lockdown world.

“Before Covid, the intention was always to bring people into synagogue, but that has changed and we have been able to bring shul to people in their own homes. I think this period has magnified the need to understand that taking the community to Judaism and Judaism to the community are equally important.”

Originally from New York, Rebbetzin Rina has a degree in psychology and an MSc in clinical sociology and family counselling, as well as teaching qualifications. 

As a community rebbetzin, she has been involved in educational projects, as well as teaching batmitzvah girls, which she plans to continue doing. She is also clinical manager for Noa Girls, a charity providing emotional, practical and therapeutic support to Orthodox adolescent women.

The couple, along with their four children, have forged many “cherished friendships” during their tenure at Richmond, and hope to do the same
in Cockfosters.

Rabbi Meir and Rebbetzin Rina Shindler

 

Rabbi Anna Posner and Cantor Tamara Wolfson

For newly-weds Cantor Tamara Wolfson and Rabbi Anna Posner, the past 18 months has been full of change.

Back in April 2020, Tamara started as cantor of Alyth Synagogue in Temple Fortune, while in November of that year, newly-ordained Rabbi Anna took on not one, but two new roles. She is now the rabbi at Norwich Liberal Jewish Community and Progressive Jewish student chaplain at Beit Kial Yisrael supporting Jewish students on campuses throughout the country.

Added to this, the couple’s wedding was postponed three times because of the pandemic, before they were finally able to marry in July in Nottingham, Rabbi Anna’s home town.

Covid also affected the way the couple could interact with their new communities. 

Anna Posner

When Cantor Tamara started her cantor role, she was unable to even sing alongside the congregation as services were virtual.  

“It was strange to meet the whole community just from the shoulders up, but being able to connect with people via Zoom at a time when singing altogether in public was not allowed was a great comfort for them and for me too,” she explains. 

For Rabbi Anna, her role as a student chaplain has also been challenging, with so many students not studying on campus, or unable to leave their halls, she felt it was important to be available to Reform Jewish students.
She contacted all first-year students to ‘check in’ on their well-being and offer help where possible. 

Her position at Norwich Liberal Jewish Community is significant for her and the community as this is her first rabbinic role since graduating from Leo Baeck College and the community has not had a rabbi for more than five years. 

Rabbi Anna’s vision is to build that community and create an environment based on “inclusivity and tolerance alongside togetherness”, just as she herself experienced growing up in the small Jewish community in Nottingham.

Rabbi Anna Posner and Cantor Tamara Wolfson

 

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