West London rabbi hits the jackpot in Vegas

By James Martin, July 9, 2009

A London Reform minister believes his upcoming move to Las Vegas is no gamble, rather the “opportunity of a lifetime”.
Rabbi Malcolm Cohen, 35, is leaving the West London Synagogue to take up a post next month with the Temple Sinai congregation in Summerlin, 25 minutes by car from the centre of the world’s gaming capital.

“I got the offer in April and decided it was a fantastic opportunity to be able to develop a community there,” he said.

The former youth worker wants to help the shul’s 400 members “find a connection to the Jewish community, regardless of whether or not they attend synagogue services”.

He also hopes to attract new congregants, pointing out that only 10,000 of the 90,000 Jewish residents in Las Vegas are affiliated to a synagogue.

His wife Sarah is a philosophy and religious education teacher at Mill Hill County High who hopes to find a teaching post in Las Vegas and the Cohens have a 14-month-old son, Elijah.

Their farewell party at West London was appositely on Shabbat — American Independence Day.

When the couple visited their new community, “we didn’t spend a cent in the casinos,” Rabbi Cohen reported. “We love the desert landscape and enjoyed the chance to be outdoors.”

The plan was “to enjoy the challenge — and if we come back, we would try to build on the ideas we gathered from there”.

Last updated: 3:31pm, July 9 2009