Yorkshire renewal gives Mirvis hope for future

By John Fisher and Marcus Dysch, May 19, 2014
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And there's cake: Rabbi Mirvis with Cynthia Speight at the bakery

And there's cake: Rabbi Mirvis with Cynthia Speight at the bakery

On a three-day Yorkshire visit, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis conveyed a message of connection, commitment and unity, encouraging diminishing regional communities to fulfil their potential.

"Even when numbers are declining, we still need to be empowering ourselves to deliver greater success so that we can climb higher and higher," he said.

Rabbi Mirvis's programme reflected Jewish renewal in Leeds as he unveiled a new functions wing at Donisthorpe care home, launched a kosher bakery, opened a kollel for which seven families have moved to Leeds, renamed a school campus and accepted an invitation to become a life patron of Leeds Jewish Welfare Board.

He also addressed a conference of shul presidents from areas including Manchester, Liverpool, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Fresh exciting things are taking place in Leeds

"Fresh exciting things are taking place in Leeds and I believe the reason is because they are looking at things as they are now rather than looking back as to how things were," Rabbi Mirvis said.

More generally, "for shuls to thrive, we need ongoing commitment and we need to be ensuring our places of Jewish worship are powerhouses of Jewish religious, educational and social excellence".

He would soon be announcing the head of the Centre of Rabbinic Excellence (CRE) and would be "seeking to empower our rabbis and communities to be involved in significant excellence of programming so that rabbis have fresh ideas of what they can do in their communities". Too many communities, he said, considered only the present

"If we are only concerned with today, without an eye to the future, maybe we are putting the future at risk."

Opening the Street Lane Bakery, he termed it "a wonderful model of community excellence". And at the new Jewish high school, he told pupils: "This building is important but there is something more important and that is the people inside."

Launching the kollel at the Beth Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue, Rabbi Mirvis told rabbis that it was responding to an educational need. "You will show people what they are missing out on."

The Chief Rabbi also visited Hull to lead the induction service for Rabbi Naftoli Lifschitz at Hull Hebrew Congregation.

Gateshead-born Rabbi Lifschitz began working in the east Yorkshire community 18 months ago and has been credited with revitalising Jewish life in the area. In his address, the Chief Rabbi said Rabbi Lifschitz had made the community more active and vibrant, having speedily established a strong rapport with his congregants.

In an emotional response, the minister said he felt responsible for keeping the community alive and ensuring it thrived in the future.

Shul president Jonathan Levine, who presented Rabbi Lifschitz with a tallit to mark the occasion, said he had "breathed new life into the community with increased Jewish education, communal functions and cholent lunches. We have acquired several new members and encouraged [the] non-affiliated to attend.

"I am pleased that Rabbi Mirvis was able to induct our new rabbi so early in his ministry. He said it was music to his ears to hear of Hull's successes."

Last updated: 10:45am, May 19 2014