London Olympics put the spotlight on local rabbis

By Jessica Elgot, December 29, 2011

Local rabbis will feature prominently within the contingent of 2012 Olympic Jewish chaplains with four rabbis from Redbridge working with Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

The quartet from Redbridge and Essex include official Olympic chaplains, Reverend Gary Newman, from Newbury Park United Synagogue; Rabbi Richard Jacobi, from Woodford Liberal Synagogue; and Rabbi Moshe Muller from Chabad.

Rabbi Maurice Michaels, from South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue, has been highly involved in the process for two years, as a member of the Olympics Faith Communities Outreach.

He will be a chaplain at the athletes' village during the Olympics, and a roving chaplain at the Paralympics. "Obviously, there's all the Israeli team but many will come from the US and all over the world," he said.

"It means an awful lot that there has been a fair split between Orthodox and Progressive rabbis."

Reverend Newman, who will be chaplain to the Olympic athletes, said Redbridge was "leading from the front." He added: "It's a simcha for me and for my shul, and I'm grateful to them for nominating me."

Rabbi Jacobi, who will work at both the Olympics and Paralympics, said: "It might be the London Games but it is also the East London Games, and it's great that the closest community is the one supplying many of the rabbis."

Rabbi Michaels said the Redbridge community is planning its own events during the Games, including services for tourists and screenings of the major events.

More British rabbis are expected to accept chaplaincy positions in the coming weeks. Chaplains will even be assigned to offer counselling and "divine inspiration" to the 20,000 journalists expected to attend the Games.

Last updated: 12:43pm, December 29 2011