Rabbi and his 'clown' set for Suburb

February 24, 2011
Freda and Rabbi Dov Kaplan, who will be coming to HGS subject to members' approval in a ballot

Freda and Rabbi Dov Kaplan, who will be coming to HGS subject to members' approval in a ballot

Leaders of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue have looked overseas to fill the role of senior rabbi which has been vacant for more than a year.

American-born Rabbi Dov Kaplan, who has been rabbi of Caesarea in Israel for the past 13 years, has been unanimously recommended by the board to become spiritual leader of the 3,000-strong congregation.

Members will vote on the choice on Sunday week. Under United Synagogue rules, it must secure the approval of 75 per cent of the ballot.

Rabbi Kaplan, 51, who made aliyah when he was 11, has also served as a rabbi in Colombia.

His wife Freda has an unusual occupation for a rebbetzin - she is a fully qualified hospital clown.

Keith Barnett - who resigned as a joint vice-president of the US to become HGS chairman last year - said the congregation was "really excited to have been able to attract a couple of the calibre of Rabbi Kaplan and Rebbetzin Freda". They would "bring to the community their distinct brand of inclusive Judaism which we are convinced will be warmly received across the whole spectrum of our membership.

"They are original thinkers who have demonstrated ability to work with all levels of observance and we are confident that their leadership will greatly enhance the religious life of Hampstead Garden Suburb."

More than 40 rabbis from the UK and abroad had applied for the post following the resignation of Rabbi Reuben Livingstone. Another 30 names had also been discussed.

Acting rabbi Anthony Knopf had done "a magnificent job" and would be given an enhanced role, Mr Barnett added. Together with chazan Avromi Freilich and a soon-to-be appointed youth rabbi, Rabbi Kaplan would complete a team of four.

The intention is for the Kaplans to arrive with the three youngest of their six children in time for the High Holy-Days.

Last updated: 3:07pm, February 24 2011