Marriage teacher receives top award from Chief Rabbi

Rebbetzin Rachie Binstock rewarded for her sage advice to couples with Unsung Community Servant honour


Rebbetzin Rachie Binstock never planned to teach Jewish brides-to-be, but since founding the Marriage Enhancement Programme of the United Synagogue she has taught hundreds of them.

And Rebbetzin Binstock of St John’s Wood Synagogue has now been recognised for her sage advice by being presented with the Unsung Community Servant award by the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis.

Speaking to the JC, she said: “I’ve often met women who say to me, ‘I’ve always wanted to be a kallah (bride) teacher.’ Well, that was not me.

“I never wanted to be a kallah teacher and I never chose to be a kallah teacher.”

When she was asked to teach future brides, she said her response was: “I’m still working this thing out for myself.”

She said: “I blundered my way though teaching my first bride. But to my utmost surprise, she kept coming back for more.

“And to my even greater surprise, she even went to the mikveh before her wedding.”

Recalling when she first came to the rabbinate, Rebbetzin Binstock said: “Most brides were not given lessons, and — I am sorry to say — back then, ‘mikveh’ was a dirty word.

“It conjured up all kinds of negative images, and it just wasn’t talked about.”

But, she said, today’s attitudes were different and — having trained and mentored hundreds of brides and teachers — she is a passionate advocate of mikveh and taharat hamishpacha (family purity).

The rebbetzin said: “A couple who observe the laws of mikveh add a dimension of spirituality to their relationship and to their home.”

She said that it pained her to hear that mothers of the brides she had taught had not had their worlds opened up to the “beautiful ideas about mikveh” in the same way as their daughters had.

She believes “the energy of the 1980s with its openness to new ideas” allowed for the emergence of a new style of rebbetzin.

“We were blessed with the privilege of excellent Jewish and secular education.

And the consensus was that the ground was softening. We were noticing an increasing take-up of mikveh education and a greater receptivity to what we had to say.”

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