Starting Year Two – Consolidating and Expanding

I’m now into the beginning of my second year as rabbi of Bevis Marks Synagogue. The significance of my post hit me during my second Kippur service. I picked up an old Kippur prayer book that I randomly discovered in one of the bench drawers (gavetas). I was shocked to find that its prayer for the British Royal Family included King George III! This George was the King of England at the end of the 18th century, and during the American Revolution!

London S&P Prayer Book During King George III

The discovery reinforced my recent realisation that Bevis Marks Synagogue is not only the oldest synagogue in the UK, but perhaps more significantly, it is the longest running synagogue in the world. I regularly feel the awesome weight of the synagogue’s continuity and mesorah (tradition). It was therefore a profoundly moving experience for me to lead the S&P Rosh Hashanah musaf service this year for the first time.

I am in awe of those that have kept Bevis Marks Synagogue and its S&P traditions alive throughout the centuries. Most importantly, those that that have done so in recent years. They are a devoted and distinguished group of individuals. I honour and celebrate their commitment and contributions whilst I labour with them to build upon them.

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19th Century Photo in Front of Bevis Marks Synagogue with Haham Gaster, Hazan Solomon Conquy, and the Mahamad (Shared by Georgina Marks)

I’m pleased to report that as we began year two, we solidified some of the first year’s increased activity. Over the past few months fifteen people either became members of the synagogue, or became official supporters as ‘Friends of Bevis Marks.'(£100 donation.)  It may be the largest membership increase in a century. We celebrated the achievement wth a special kiddush this past week. We are grateful to people from around the world that support our efforts and we welcome others to do so.

We run a diversity of programs, such as educational and social events during the week, as well as dinners and lunches on shabbat. I am delighted that at each event I seem to meet yet a few more people living within walking distance of Bevis Marks. I now have a list of 100 locals. We’ve therefore launched a new programming initiative aimed at anchoring this critical demographic. If you live in the area, please drop me a line so that I may invite you to pay us a visit. We went ice skating at the Tower of London on a Motzei Shabbat a few weeks ago, and we enjoyed a ‘Local’s Lunch’ following a recent shabbat morning service.

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Ice Skating at the Tower of London!

The single most important element to ensuring the future of the S&P Sephardi Community is through our children. I’m therefore honoured to be the headmaster of our Sha’are Tikva School for boys and girls. The Sunday school meets at our Lauderdale Road Synagogue in Maida Vale, London. Unfortunately, the school’s numbers dwindled over the years. I’m therefore absolutely thrilled to report that after just one year we’ve succeeded in almost doubling it in size to nearly forty students!

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Sha’are Tikva School

The more that we accomplish, the more that further opportunities for growth present themselves. I’m excited about several new efforts that we plan to roll out in the next few months. I’m particularly hopeful about a new effort to raise awareness about Bevis Marks in NW London, the hub of today’s London’s Jewish community. Many suburban Jews work in central London, and we aim to better serve their religious needs as we invite them into Bevis.

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Minyan in the City Initiative

I’m also scheduled to begin offering lunch and learns to students on different university campuses across London. We want Bevis to be their home away from home.

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Young Hendonites With Me at a Bevis Planning Dinner 🙂

We see Bevis Marks Synagogue as every Jew’s synagogue. As the oldest in the UK it is the treasure of every Anglo Jew. As the longest running in the world, it should be the pride of every Jew the world over. We invite you to visit us, to pray with us during the week, and better yet to spend Shabbat with us. Spending the weekend at Bevis has never been easier. We’ve inaugurated an online form for booking Shabbat meals, and we maintain relationships with several local hotels so room discounts are also available.

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Bevis Marks Website

 

In closing, we invite you to share in the heritage of Bevis Marks Synagogue! Help us to continue to grow in the year ahead. Thank you.

 

Year Blog Stats in Review

This past calendar year my blog received 20,000 page views.

The most blog views came from the following five countries (in order): The United States, Great Britain, Israel, The Netherlands, and Canada.

The five blog posts that received the most views were:

Barbados

London’s Velho (Old) Cemetery

The Touro Trial

My First Year

Canonicals

Thank you to everyone for reading, sharing, following, and commenting. I look forward to ever more in the year ahead!

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