West London voting on Baroness Neuberger

By Simon Rocker, January 20, 2011

Members of the Reform movement's flagship community, the West London Synagogue, were this week casting their votes on whether to accept Baroness Neuberger as their new senior rabbi.

The 60-year-old peer, who is president of Liberal Judaism, was unanimously recommended by the West London board to succeed Rabbi Mark Winer, who left in October. But her appointment is subject to a postal ballot of members, which closes next Friday.

Baroness Neuberger - who would be the first female rabbinic head of the central London congregation and the first serving Progressive rabbi in the Lords - would not comment until the result of the vote was known.

In a letter to members, West London chairman Jonathan Lass said she would be "a great addition" to the illustrious roster of senior rabbis who had served the 170-year-old congregation. "I cannot think of anyone better qualified to lead us."

In a personal statement accompanying the letter, Baroness Neuberger stressed her commitment to pastoral care, interfaith relations and making the synagogue "a centre of learning and ideas".

She told members: "I very much miss the pastoral role... and it would be enormously satisfying to return to it."

In addition, "there is an urgent need to improve relations across the Jewish community and West London Synagogue can play a vital role here".

The existing team of three rabbis was said by Mr Lass to be "delighted" at the prospect of her return to a synagogue where she grew up and was married in.

Baroness Neuberger was rabbi of South London Liberal Synagogue for 12 years until 1989 before moving on to a variety of professional and voluntary roles. She is currently president of West Central Liberal Synagogue in London.

If voted in, it is envisaged that she will begin at West London part-time in March, moving to a full-time role in the autumn.

Last updated: 2:34pm, January 20 2011