Minyan men get a rabbi
Rabbi Jeff Berger sees the potential for up to 1,000 members
Borehamwood's new Sephardi minyan has taken an important step towards consolidation with the appointment of its first rabbi.
Rabbi Jeff Berger, who has been taking services from September - first once, then twice a month - will move with his family to Borehamwood from Maida Vale in January.
His new part-time post is being supported by the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, looking to establish its first new community for some 40 years.
"There are an estimated 9,000 Jewish people in Borehamwood, so given the proportion of Sephardim in the Anglo-Jewish population, there is a potential for a membership of 500-1,000," Rabbi Berger believes.
Alan Mendoza, a member of the Spanish and Portuguese mahamad (executive), sees "an exciting opportunity for the congregation to spread its wings beyond its traditional areas and provide support for the fledgling community".
The Borehamwood minyan already has 40-50 adult regulars and 15 children and there were 100 people at its most recent service.
They meet in Allum Hall, which was used by the Ohr Yisrael Federation Synagogue before it found a permanent home.
Originally from New York, Rabbi Berger, 52, is a product of the Montefiore Kollel, the programme set up by the Spanish and Portuguese community to train new central Orthodox rabbis for British Jewry. He is the first of its graduates to find a pulpit.
He had previously worked in electronic sales and marketing and met his wife Michie in Japan.
He has given up commerce and, apart from his new ministerial position, he will continue to teach - he will be delivering several lectures at Limmud.
An Ashkenazi in origin, he and his wife, who have two young children, used to attend the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York.
"We became enamoured of the music, the tradition and the 350-year old history," he said. "We want to continue that relationship."