Former Masorti chair takes on leadership of LSJS

Bill Benjamin intends to expand the school’s global reach


Bill Benjamin

A former co-chair of the Masorti movement has taken the reins at the London School of Jewish Studies, the Orthodox adult education and teacher training academy.

Connecticut-born Bill Benjamin, who moved to the UK 22 years ago, was also chair of the UJIA for five years.

A global property investor, he joined LSJS as a trustee three years ago, recruited by his predecessor as chair and a longstanding friend, Gary Phillips.

Explaining his religious journey, he said: “When I was growing up in the New York area as a young adult, many of us moved comfortably between Masorti, i.e. the Conservative movement, and the Modern Orthodox movement.

“When I moved to London, after finding our feet, New North London Synagogue served the family very well. But as my older kids grew up and life evolved, I personally found a very comfortable home at South Hampstead Synagogue.”

When he stepped down from his UJIA role at the end of 2017, he took a break from communal leadership. “I took a break, I got remarried, we had a little boy, my professional commitments expanded.”

But he intended to return. “It is in the blood,” he said. “My mother and grandmother were always communal activists.”

“Many of us who care about the future of the Jewish community want deeper affiliation with Jewish life,” he said. “At UJIA, that vehicle was Israel. Alongside that, I have always had a deep interest and commitment to Jewish education. We are, among other things, the People of the Book.

As to his new role, Benjamin told the JC: “I’ve been hugely impressed with the teacher training LSJS does on behalf of the community, with its growing degree programmes and its very high-calibre adult education courses, which teach over 15,000 people a year.”

He was previously involved with education as a member of a commission on schools, set up by the Jewish Leadership Council some years ago.

The plan for LSJS is “to continue to invest in teacher training, to elevate the status of the profession within the community, and to expand our global reach with our BA and MA programmes, as well as with our first-class adult education.”

“LSJS is a thought leader for UK and Europe on Jewish education, and we see ourselves as a convenor of stakeholders who have a commitment to Jewish literacy. We have a lot to do in collaboration with other groups in the community, and I am sure opportunities to expand our remit will evolve.”

After October 7, he said, “there is a renewed sense of urgency about strengthening Jewish life and LSJS wants to be part of that”.

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