The historic Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London provided an elegant photo-opportunity on Sunday. Families of the 10 graduates of the London Montefiore semicha programme had cameras at the ready to capture images of the new rabbis in their traditional top hats.
“We have placed the future of the Torah in your hands,” Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks told them. “Never forget — if you lift it high, it will lift you high.” He added that great Jewish leaders shared three attributes — a message of hope, a love of the Jewish people and a wider vision. Montefiore College principal Rabbi Abraham Levy joined Lord Sacks to present the diplomas and Chief Rabbi-elect Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was among the audience.
At the age of 27, Yaacov Finn was the youngest of the graduates. Meir Lev, 66, was the oldest. Natan Abenaim, Steven Dansky, Asaf Mittelman, Ofir Ronen, Samuel Rubin, David Steinhof, Lee Sunderland and Rafi Zarum were the others. Rabbi Finn is looking for a permanent position, having filled an interim role at Shenley Synagogue. “In the meantime I’m going to be teaching.” Quoting George Eliot, Rabbi Lev — who has served a number of synagogues, most recently Sutton — said: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
Rabbi Zarum will carry on as dean at the London School of Jewish Studies. He stressed that “we want more kinds of rabbis in different areas of the community”.
Speaking on behalf of graduates at the ceremony, Rabbi Zarum thanked their families for being supportive. And there was applause from the floor as he pledged: “We will be home much more from now on.” He also complimented principal lecturer Dayan Saadia Amor for demonstrating “what a rabbi can and must be in mind and heart”.
For four years, they had studied for two evenings a week on top of their secular jobs and education. Montefiore Endowment chair Lucien Gubbay described the course — held in partnership with the LSJS — as “not for the faint hearted”.