Former Elstree rabbi launches congregation
A new Orthodox congregation has launched in Borehamwood, affiliated to the independent Ner Yisrael community in Hendon and led by the former interim senior rabbi of Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue, Shimshon Silkin.
Rabbi Silkin, who left Borehamwood at the end of last month, said a turnout of more than 100 adults and many children on the opening Rosh Hashanah morning service had got the new community “off to a flying start”.
He added: “We ran clean out of seats that we’d optimistically set out. There is a lot of excitement.” Ner Yisrael Borehamwood, Beis Yisrael, to give its full title, is meeting in premises in an office building, Isopad House.
Its foundation hardly comes as a surprise since rumours have been circulating for months that Rabbi Silkin was going to start a new minyan in the area.
He has been joined by former congregants from Borehamwood and Elstree who were disappointed when he was not confirmed as the permanent senior minister last year.
“We are looking to establish a vibrant modern and Orthodox synagogue in Borehamwood, which has a very strong emphasis on education,” Rabbi Silkin said. “On Shabbat, we ran three different learning sessions during the course of the service.”
Support from Ner Yisrael in Hendon — which is headed by Rabbi Alan Kimche — has included provision of a Sefer Torah and some of its members contributed to the start-up costs of its affiliate.
Rabbi Silkin said the new congregation would maintain “close ties with other shuls” and, hopefully, would share programmes with them.
Borehamwood and Elstree chair Anne Gordon said: “We wish them all the best and will continue to work with all shuls in the area for the well-being of the wider Borehamwood and Elstree community, as we always have done.”
Rabbi Silkin had turned down the offer of running a satellite minyan of Borehamwood United, based at Yavneh College.
“We very much value the United Synagogue,” he said. “I had an excellent time in my post there.”
But in talks between the US and him and his supporters, “it got to a point where we felt we were not communicating on the same lines. It was difficult to establish a rapport. So we felt it would be perhaps better if we did something alongside, but not part and parcel, of the US.
“We are joining a fleet of shuls, sailing in the same direction.”
The launch team includes one senior educator, Aryeh Richman, head of Jewish studies at Yavneh College.
Educational events are planned to run throughout the week and two Shabbatonim have been scheduled over the next few months.
One is with Project Seed and another with Dr Daniel Rynhold of America’s Yeshiva University, who is co-editor of a book of essays produced in honour of Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks.
“These events will be open to the wider community,” Rabbi Silkin said.