Brondesbury Park Synagogue’s Rabbi Baruch Levin could have been forgiven for spending the 16th anniversary of his arrival at the flourishing North-West London congregation reflecting on the remarkable impact he and wife Kezi have made.
But resting on their laurels has never been the couple’s style.
Instead, in an initiative launched in shul on Shabbat, Rabbi Levin has offered members an innovative birthday present.
If contacted either through a text or WhatsApp message with the words “let’s learn”, Rabbi Levin will offer a 45-minute lesson to the congregant, either one-to-one, or with family and friends.
He is happy to cover any Jewish-related topic, with suggestions including fundamentals of Judaism, kashrut, Jewish philosophy or history and contemporary Jewish ethics.
“For me, the real thrill of the last 16 years has been the sense of revitalising Jewish life in an area that was once the epicentre of Jewish London,” Rabbi Levin told the JC.
“That, coupled with the joy of making Judaism accessible and relatable, is what makes me tick.”
Offered until March 31, “Let’s Learn” has proved an instant hit.
It reflected that “at Brondesbury, we’re more than just a community, we’re a family.
“It’s been a collective effort from day one and alongside Kezi and me, each member has made their own distinct mark on the community.”
Since he joined Brondesbury in January 2004, a congregation of less than 100 households has grown into a community of more than 350 households.
He recalled that in his early days, there were often no more than five children in shul.
Brondesbury now runs six children’s services attracting some 300 under-18s. Fifty-one new members joined last year.
The Levin family has also expanded to number six sons — Meir, Akiva, Shneur, Dovi, Shua and Yossi — and daughter Racheli.
Paying tribute to the Levins, shul chair Steve Elstein said they had “transformed our community immeasurably”.
Sixteen years ago, "the Jewish population of Willesden and surrounding areas was in sharp decline, with most of the local synagogues closing.
“However, Baruch and Kezi have built a vibrant community that is continuing to grow both numerically and in terms of the spiritual and emotional engagement of its members - so much so that we are rebuilding our synagogue to provide more space and better facilities.
“This incredible growth is a result of the way they reach out and build meaningful relationships with members, demonstrating an inclusive, positive, generous and thoughtful approach."
Brondesbury services have been held at a local primary school during the ambitious rebuild of the shul, which is expected to be completed in late summer.