Rabbi Miriam steps down from leading Finchley Reform after 18 years

The rabbi is opening a healing and wellbeing centre


Rabbi Miriam Berger has stepped down from leading Finchley Reform Synagogue after 18 years

Rabbi Miriam Berger has officially stepped down from the bimah at Finchley Reform Synagogue (FRS) after 18 years of rabbinical service to her congregation, saying that her role had “felt like the greatest of privileges”.

Since Rabbi Berger joined FRS in 2006, the synagogue’s membership has more than doubled in size, blossoming from 500 to 1,000 households, and it now boasts 2,300 members and children.

“Being given semicha doesn’t make you a Rabbi, nor does a job in a synagogue,” Rabbi Berger said in a farewell address to her community of nearly two decades. “The way people see you, relate to you and the part you play in their lives is what truly makes you their rabbi.”

Rabbi Berger noted that 18 was a “poignant” number of years to have been a rabbi. “In Hebrew gematria – where each number is represented by a letter – the number 18 translates into the word ‘chai’, ‘life’ – and it has been a lifetime.

“In that time, I have stood under the chuppah with my former Bnei Mitzvah students and given baby blessings to their children. It is a wonderful honour to accompany people through their lives, and my role has felt like the greatest of privileges.”

Cantor Zöe Jacobs, who has worked alongside Rabbi Miriam for much of her time at FRS, will take over as the synagogue’s principal clergy. Rabbi Berger will become Rabbi Emerita at FRS, a place she said would continue to be “mine and my family’s Jewish home”.

This week, the beloved Rabbi Berger’s years of leadership at FRS were celebrated by the community with a series of events and activities

Synagogue chair Jenny Nuni said Rabbi Berger “leaves FRS in a strong position, having brought inspirational leadership, compassion and commitment to her role”.

“Her guidance has been integral to our growth, helping to make FRS a flagship synagogue of the Reform Movement,” Nuni said.

The community wished Rabbi Berger luck in her new venture - the founding of Wellspring, a centre for healing the body and the mind.

Combining her rabbinical skills with her interest in mental health, Rabbi Berger founded Wellspring following her experience of secondary infertility, saying she had been inspired by “the role the mikveh played in changing my perspective on the hand I had been dealt”.

With talking therapies, complementary therapies and mikveh (ritual immersion) at its core, the centre would focus on "helping people to find acceptance for life as it is even when that is not how we would have chosen it to be”, said Rabbi Berger.

“I am really struck by the anger, hate, sadness and sense of injustice that some people carry around with them because of challenges they have faced in their lives,” she said. “Wellspring will not stop awful things happening in people’s lives but will make sure everyone can be supported through them and will accompany them as they open new chapters.”

The centre is scheduled to open in 2027.


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