St Albans shul fills 50-year gap

By Jay Grenby, January 14, 2013

St Albans Synagogue is set to have its first rabbi and rebbetzin in 50 years.

Subject to the approval of members at an EGM on Sunday, part-time positions will be taken up by Brazilian-born Rabbi Elimelech Vanzetta and his wife, Rachel, a qualified teacher and counsellor.

Awarded his semichah in Israel in 2005, Rabbi Vanzetta, 38, has worked for the past four years in Santiago, Chile, his wife’s birthplace. In addition to serving as assistant to the Chief Rabbi of Chile, he has been community rabbi to one of the country’s four Orthodox congregations and a dayan of the Beth Din. He has also led communities in Madrid and in Sao Paulo.

Previously, he studied at the London School of Economics, worked as deputy press attaché at the Brazilian embassy in London and as a corporate investment banker in the London offices of Citibank. He speaks English, Hebrew, Yiddish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and conversational German. He is also executive secretary of the Conference of European Rabbis. The Vanzettas have four young children.

Established in 1933, St Albans currently has 140 members. Following its switch from affiliated to constituent membership of the United Synagogue some 18 months ago, the rabbinic couple will be funded by the US for a minimum of three years as part of its investment in the shul’s future.

“We had a substantial number of applications for the post,” said St Albans vice-chair Karen Appleby, “but we believe we have picked a winner. We are thrilled the Vanzettas have agreed to come to St Albans in the face of competition from other shuls looking for new ministers.

“Eminently qualified, they will bring with them a fresh perspective, as well as experience and enthusiasm for getting involved with a small community such as ours. They already have many plans to engage all our members, whatever their age or degree of observance.”

Last updated: 11:45am, January 14 2013