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Rabbi Ariel Abel has stunned Radlett Synagogue's honorary officers by announcing that he is quitting after five years to pursue his educational interests.
He will take up the directorship of the Jewish Heraldic Foundation, "a new venture that will aim to educate and inspire young people to pioneer, lead and achieve more, both in the Jewish and the wider community". Rabbi Abel explained that the foundation "will run various projects with interested partners and fulfil a role in recognising and honouring rising stars in the Jewish community".
He will also continue his involvement with the Montefiore Endowment as director of its semicha programme and pursue a course at University College London towards a PhD in Hebrew and Jewish studies.
With a statutory six months' notice to work out, Rabbi Abel will remain in Radlett until August and particularly looks forward to officiating at the regular barmitzvahs at the youthful community. But although he has not ruled out the possibility of returning to the pulpit, "after 12 satisfying years in that role, it is now time for me to extend my activity across the community".
Before taking up the Radlett post, the 35-year-old Mancunian served Liverpool's Princes Road shul and Waltham Forest Hebrew Congregation.
Paying tribute, Radlett chair Michael Seres said that during Rabbi Abel's time at the shul, "membership has grown, as has the range of services provided, with a particularly dramatic growth in activities for our youngsters. We have been fortunate to benefit from his guidance and leadership."
With over 1,000 adult members and more than 850 young people, Radlett will be the second major US community in the market for a rabbi. Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue minister Rabbi Reuven Livingstone is due to quit the Norrice Lea pulpit at the end of this month.
"In acknowledgement of the esteem and affection in which Rabbi Livingstone is held by the community," the shul will not start the recruitment process until after his departure. Chairman Bernard Taub is hopeful of making an appointment within the year and in the interim, ministerial duties will be taken by HGS community director Rabbi Anthony Knopf, with other local rabbis helping out where necessary.
A US spokesman did not foresee problems in filling the vacancies. They offered "opportunities for internal moves as part of an individual's career development, as well as the possibility of attracting candidates from outside the US and even from abroad."