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West London Synagogue Appoints Rabbi Julia Neuberger DBE as Senior Rabbi

WLS role sees Neuberger return to the pulpit after 22 years.

Members of the West London Synagogue (WLS) – flagship synagogue of the Movement for Reform Judaism – have voted overwhelmingly to endorse the decision by the synagogue leadership to appoint Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE as the new Senior Rabbi. 90% of ballots cast by congregants were supportive.

WLS role sees Neuberger return to the pulpit after 22 yearsThe appointment marks Rabbi Neuberger's return to full time congregational duties for the first time since leaving South London Liberal Synagogue where she was rabbi from 1977 to 1989.

Rabbi Neuberger will join the community on a half time basis from March, enabling her gradually to resign from some of her existing positions and commitments – including the presidency of Liberal Judaism - with a view to her becoming available on a full-time basis from September 2011.

Photo above by Derek Tamea

Rabbi Neuberger succeeds Rabbi Mark Winer who retired from the role in the autumn of 2010. He in turn succeeded the late Rabbi Hugo Gryn who served as Senior Rabbi of West London Synagogue for 32 years until his death in 1996.

In assuming the role at WLS Rabbi Neuberger has very much returned to her roots as the synagogue’s chairman Jonathan Lass explained in his letter to congregants: "She is a child of WLS; her parents were respected members for many years. Our late Rabbi Hugo Gryn (z'l) officiated at her wedding to Professor Anthony Neuberger, and at the funeral of her father; Hugo was also present at her ordination as a rabbi".

Rabbi Neuberger or Baroness Julia as she is known to many through her wide-ranging public work on a national level will be resigning the Liberal Democrat whip in the House of Lords once she assumes her role at WLS full time in September but will continue to sit in the Upper House on the crossbenches.

On hearing the news of the ratification of her appointment Rabbi Neuberger said: "I am absolutely thrilled. This is the leading Reform synagogue in the UK and it’s a huge privilege to be asked to lead it. This appointment takes me back to my roots as a child and as a pastoral rabbi. I'll be working with a talented team of rabbis and Rabbi Helen Freeman, my friend and the brilliant rabbi I ordained all those years ago, will now be my closest colleague."

Jonathan Lass, Chairman of WLS said:

"I am delighted that the community has overwhelmingly endorsed our decision to appoint Rabbi Julia Neuberger. She is admired by so many of us and has a long association with our synagogue. This is a wonderful opportunity for WLS - Rabbi Neuberger shares our vision and her passion, wisdom and energy will inspire our community in all its vital work in the years ahead. She will undoubtedly be a great addition to the illustrious group of West London Senior Rabbis."

Stephen Moss, Chairman of the Movement for Reform Judaism said:

"I am thrilled at the news of Rabbi Julia's appointment. She is amongst the preeminent Jewish figures in the country today, an inspiring voice for progressive Judaism and an outstanding advocate of the values shared across the whole Jewish Community."

Rabbi Mark Winer said:

"This is a truly excellent choice. She will be a strong and dynamic leader."

Jackie Gryn, wife of the late Rabbi Hugo Gryn said:

"My family and I are absolutely delighted and relieved to hear the news of Julia's appointment. She is remarkable in having achieved such huge stature in national as well as Jewish life and it’s wonderful that she has agreed now to step back into a congregational life. How proud Hugo would have been to see one of his own pupils taking on the role he held for so many years."

Rabbi Helen Freeman, West London Synagogue, said:

"Not only is Rabbi Neuberger the outstanding rabbi of her generation, Julia and I and our families share a long and close history. My husband was her teacher and she in turn ordained me. It will be a privilege to continue that association with her long into the future here at WLS."

Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism said:

"Julia and I have been friends and colleagues for nearly 30 years. I am thrilled for her; West London will be inspired by her. Julia has another nine months to serve as Liberal Judaism’s President, and it is, of course, a matter that will need discussing between all parties."

Lucian Hudson, Chairman of Liberal Judaism said:

"No one movement can contain what Rabbi Julia Neuberger has to offer in terms of her talent and ability to reach people from all walks of life. We wish Julia all the very best in her new appointment. The two movements - Liberal and Reform - work so closely together that Judaism as a whole, particularly Progressive Judaism, can only benefit from such a development."


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