South Lon­don rabbi’s stay­ing power

The Jewish Chronicle - - Community Life - BY JAY GRENBY

THE ACT­ING min­is­ter of Streatham­based South Lon­don Syn­a­gogue has agreed to stay on as a “per­ma­nent tem­po­rary”.

Rabbi Me­na­hem Lester was re­cruited 12 months ago af­ter the re­tire­ment of Rabbi Philip Gins­bury, who served South Lon­don con­gre­ga­tions for 47 years — first at Streatham, then at Brix­ton, and af­ter the two com­mu­ni­ties amal­ga­mated in 1985. Rabbi Lester spent nine years with Ching­ford and Highams Park Syn­a­gogue be­fore go­ing on aliyah with his wife in 2004.

Al­ready ac­quainted with the 220mem­ber syn­a­gogue through re­turn­ing from Is­rael to as­sist Rabbi Gins­bury at fes­ti­val ser­vices, Rabbi Lester ini­tially agreed to fill the breach for a short pe­riod, which was ex­tended to the be­gin­ning of 2008.

The com­mu­nity had al­ready held a farewell re­cep­tion for him when he had a change of heart. His pro­posal to re­main on the ba­sis of a rolling six­month con­tract was read­ily ac­cepted by the shul’s board.

Chair­man Ge­of­frey Har­ris be­lieves the syn­a­gogue is “very, very lucky. Rabbi Lester has en­deared him­self to us with his con­sid­er­able en­ergy, ex­cel­lent singing voice and ob­vi­ous en­joy­ment in teach­ing and lead­ing ser­vices. On top of that, he is one of the nicest peo­ple you could ever hope to meet.

“He has al­ready had a re­vi­tal­is­ing im­pact on our com­mu­nity. Last week, for in­stance, he helped or­gan­ise our first ever com­mu­nal seder, at­tended by about 70 peo­ple.”

Rabbi Lester is also pleased with the new ar­range­ment, which will al­low him to re­turn home to Is­rael for four days a month.

“This is a lovely con­gre­ga­tion,” he told the JC, “and I have ev­ery con­fi­dence in its fu­ture, es­pe­cially as we are hop­ing to at­tract some of the younger pro­fes­sional cou­ples who are be­gin­ning to move into the area.”

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