Rabbinic couple who turned around a shul are stepping down after 40 years

Rabbi Shlomo and Rebbetzin Dr Lynndy Levin created a ‘warm, non-judgmental’ community at South Hampstead Synagogue


Rabbi Shlomo Levin and Rebbetzin Dr Lynndy Levin are stepping down from the helm of South Hampstead Synagogue after 40 years (Photo: Robert Bray)

One of the community’s longest-serving rabbinic couples, Rabbi Shlomo and Rebbetzin Dr Lynndy Levin, are to step down from the helm of South Hampstead Synagogue at the end of the year after 40 years of service to the United Synagogue congregation.

The couple, who are originally from South Africa, turned around a synagogue which the United Synagogue had considered closing before their arrival.

Instead, their leadership style and unflagging energy galvanized the north-west London community, which has gone on to become one of the strongest in the United Synagogue constellation, with 2,500 members.

In a letter to congregants, joint chairs of the synagogue Joy Cohen and Danny Kay said: “Their commitment, wisdom, and compassion have been the guiding light for us all over these past years and their impact will be felt for generations to come. Their primary reason for making this decision now is to ensure a smooth and orderly transition to new leadership, so the community they love will continue to flourish.”

The Levins have provisionally set their retirement for December, subject to successors being appointed and will assume Emeritus roles, which will enable them “to continue to be present in the community in a flexible way, whilst allowing space for new leadership to emerge”.

Rabbi Levin received an MBE last year for his interfaith work and service to the Jewish community. Unusually, for many years, his ministry was nominally part-time and he combined it with a business career during the week.

The chairs said: “It is through their inspiration and leadership that South Hampstead has grown to become one of the flagship communities within the United Synagogue, but more importantly one that is warm, informal and non-judgmental that embraces all members of the community.”

Their influence “will continue to guide us in the years to come and we look forward to welcoming new leadership”.

A couple of years after they arrived and had begun rejuvenating the community, one congregant said: “The place used to be empty, even at the main festivals. Now you can’t get a seat on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. Even the caretaker can’t believe the difference.”

Five years ago, the community moved into a smart, purpose-built new building, where the Levins’ son Rabbi Eli and daughter-in-law Rebbetzin Lauren also serve as a rabbinic couple.

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