Liberals offer Rich learning potential in HQ programme


Rabbi Danny Rich, the chief executive of Liberal Judaism, will be getting stuck into classical Jewish jurisprudence at a discussion group on Thursday lunchtime.
He will be leading the first of a planned monthly series of Mishnah study, one of a number new activities designed to raise the profile of the Montagu Centre, Liberal Judaism’s central London headquarters.

“I chose [tractate] Sanhedrin because of my interest in criminal justice,” he explained.

The Montagu, he said, “has served as a very effective administrative centre and meeting place since the 1950s. I want us to do more there as a religious and spiritual centre.

“My eventual hope would be to have a Talmud class, a Bible class and one on philosophy or literature. We have to start somewhere.” 
A monthly Monday morning shacharit service has also been launched.

But this week’s Mishnah group is taking place in his home in Barnet as, since the middle of last month, the Montagu Centre has been undergoing emergency repairs after a sewage pipe burst in the premises above. “The walls and equipment have had to be decontaminated and cupboards and carpets stripped,” Rabbi Rich explained.

Staff have either been working from home or found temporary refuge in Liberal synagogues in St John’s Wood, Finchley and south London, or with other organisations such as Bicom, Ort, the Movement for Reform Judaism and Leo Baeck College.

But they hope to return to their headquarters after Pesach.

Since autumn, the Montagu Centre has been hosting the Hebrew University’s Melton adult education programme jointly with the Lyons Institute of West London Synagogue. Students alternate weekly between the Liberal HQ and West London. 

Aside from the educational initiatives, Rabbi Jacqui Tabick has joined the West Central Synagogue — which is housed in the Montagu Centre and was undamaged by the sewage leak — as part-time minister.

West Central is unique in holding its main Shabbat service in the middle of Saturday afternoon.

And there will be more Shabbat usage of the building after Pesach when the Beit Klal Yisrael Synagogue moves from Notting Hill.

“There will be a Shabbat eve service every Friday night, held either by BKY or the student egalitarian minyan,” Rabbi Rich said. “And there will be a Shabbat morning service at least twice a month.”

The new venture, he hopes, “will attract people who work, live or study locally. We’re upping our educational game.”

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