Rabbi quits cash-strapped shul for Woodford


The rabbi of Liverpool synagogue Childwall, whose members raised more than £30,000 to save his job, has accepted a post with an east London congregation.

Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg will leave cash-strapped Childwall in August to join Woodford Forest United Synagogue in Redbridge.

"It wasn't in our original game-plan, but we want to be somewhere we can make a difference, with security," explained the rabbi, who is married with seven children.

"In London, there seems to be more strategic planning. No one seems to have those conversations in provincial shuls. They just live on a wing and a prayer." But the decision was "tinged with sadness after nearly four years at Childwall".

Selection committee chair Graeme Taylor said Rabbi Wollenberg and his wife, Blima, were "by far the outstanding applicants, which made it easy for us". The family would initially live in a flat above the shul while a house was built in its grounds as a permanent residence.

‘We want to be somewhere we can make a difference’

Rabbi Wollenberg said that on a Shabbat visit to Woodford Forest - the product of the recent merger between Wanstead and Woodford Synagogue and Waltham Forest Hebrew Congregation - his family met "a wonderful community, with very welcoming people. We felt very much at home."

Having worked in communities in numerical decline, he and his wife had something of "a success rate in reaching out to people outside of a shul. I'm always an optimist, and though it's not as big [a Jewish area] as it was, hopefully we can rejuvenate some of that life.

"It is a forward-thinking community, the merger was a brave one and they seem to want to be cutting edge."

At Childwall, meanwhile, outgoing president Syd Edels said: "We most certainly will be looking for a new full-time rabbi because the congregation came together and put forward the finances to keep a rabbi for two years."

He understood Rabbi Wollenberg's concerns over his long-term security of tenure and said he would be "missed by the congregation".

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive