Why Leytonstone and Wanstead Rabbi Brackman walks nine miles each Shabbat

To save the Leytonstone and Wanstead congregation, its leader, Rabbi Zalmy Brackman walks nine miles from his home in Stamford Hill


Every Shabbat, Rabbi Zalmy Brackman makes a nine mile round trip on foot from his Stamford Hill home to take the morning service at Leytonstone and Wanstead Synagogue, having responded to an SOS from the small East London congregation.

Desperate to save the Federation synagogue from closure, secretary and treasurer Ruth Solomons and other local Jews last year rang around contacts in an effort to find someone willing to officiate at services.

“We feared we wouldn’t even be able to hold a Rosh Hashanah service, Ms Solomons recalled.

Through Lubavitch, the shul was put in touch with Rabbi Brackman and for the past year, he has walked to and from the shul in all weathers.

“I do what needs doing,” he told the JC. “I was immediately drawn to the position. Part of the Lubavitch philosophy is that every Jew is a messenger of outreach for other Jews. Please God I’ll get to do it for a length of time.”

The 80 minute walk each way affords him thinking time. He also admires “the beautiful green fields next to the water”.

Only on Yom Kippur did Rabbi Brackman stay closer to the shul. He will do the same this year, either with a host family or at a local hotel.

He credits wife Chaia “for caring for our three kids while I spend most of Shabbat at the shul”.

The Shabbat service normally ends around one, after which Rabbi Brackman joins congregants for lunch before staring the long walk home, accompanied for much of the way by Ms Solomons and her partner.

Close on half the shul’s 40 members attend services and Rabbi Brackman is confident about the future.

“I think it’s going to grow. There are people that are moving out there because it’s cheaper, or they are finding North-West London a bit heavy.”

Ms Solomons pointed out that “at the beginning of last year, there was a minyan just once a month. Then it was twice and now it’s every week.”

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