We are a lively, active, inclusive community of progressive Jews. We welcome everyone, from everywhere around the globe, and we provide varied Shabbat and festival services, formal and informal alike, family services, tots’ services and many social activities. Many people who are seeking to become Jewish choose West London, and our services are easy to follow whatever your background. We are also deeply committed to social action, and run a drop-in for asylum seekers once a month and a night shelter for homeless people once a week, and are exploring more and more ways to work with others in our local community to provide help to the most needy. We work closely with local churches and other communal organisations, and rejoice in our interfaith activities, especially where we can work together on particular projects.
Our goal is to provide an exciting and spiritually nourishing Jewish life for everyone of all ages, from religious services to social action, from community activities to study and learning, from religion school to youth clubs and everything else besides. And we aim to include as many people as we can, young and old alike, in our volunteering within and beyond the community. At West London Synagogue, there really is something for everyone, and we want to inspire, welcome and serve all those who enter our doors.
Senior Rabbi Julia Neuberger
Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE was educated at Newnham College Cambridge and Leo Baeck College, London. She has been Senior Rabbi at West London Synagogue since 2011, and before that she served the South London Liberal Synagogue from 1977 to 1989, after which she did many other things for 22 years before coming back to the pastoral rabbinate at West London, where she grew up. She was President of Liberal Judaism until spring 2011, when she joined West London Synagogue. She chaired Camden and Islington Community Health Services NHS Trust from 1993–1997, was Chief Executive of the King’s Fund from 1997- 2004, Chancellor of the University of Ulster 1994-2000 and Bloomberg Professor of Divinity at Harvard University in 2006. She has been a Trustee of the British Council, Jewish Care, and New Philanthropy Capital, was a Trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation, and is a founding trustee of the Schwab Charitable Trust, in memory of her parents. She became a life peer in 2004 (as a Liberal Democrat, but is now a Cross Bencher) and she chaired the Commission on the Future of Volunteering from 2006-2008, followed by being Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Champion for Volunteering from 2007-2009. She was chair of One Housing Group and she chaired the Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity for Lord Chancellor Jack Straw, working across the political parties, and finally reporting to the then new Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke, from 2009-2010. The government accepted all her panel’s recommendations. She is a Trustee of the Van Leer Group Foundation and the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Last year, she was appointed by the Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb to chair a Review of the Liverpool Care Pathway for Dying Patients, the report from which was published in July 2013.
She writes and broadcasts frequently on a variety of social and religious issues. Among her books is ‘Not Dead Yet – a Manifesto for old age’ (Harper Collins 2008), and ‘Is that all there is?’ – (Rider Books 2011), reflections on life, mortality and leaving a legacy. She is married to Anthony Neuberger (married at West London), and has two adult children.
Rabbi Helen Freeman
Rabbi Helen Freeman was a speech therapist before ordination in 1990. She has been involved in a conversion programme for all that time, welcoming individuals from many backgrounds whose spiritual path brought them to Judaism. She has tutored a number of student rabbis and taught shiur in at Leo Baeck College.
Since coming to West London she has enjoyed teaching adults, not only the conversion class but also those who choose adult bar mitzvah. Rabbi Freeman is a qualified analytical psychologist and is studying for a PhD on the Dead Sea Scrolls. She is chair of a Central London Council of Christians and Jews and a member of the Interfaith clergy group in Marylebone. She cofounded a Jewish Muslim Women’s Group.
She has written chapters for the Women Rabbis Books ‘Hear Our Voice’ and ‘Taking up the Timbrel’ as well as for a book on sermons against atheism, Really Useful Prayers and a chapter on Hugo Gryn in ‘Great Reform Thinkers.’
She set up the cancer support group and co-facilitates the Carers Support Group.
She shares her home with her lovely husband David, two cats and a cockerpoo dog.
Rabbi David Mitchell
Rabbi David Mitchell is a member of the Rabbinic Team and also the Director of our Education Team. Ordained in July 2009, he joined WLS in November 2011 from his previous pulpit at Radlett and Bushey Reform Synagogue where he served as their Associate Rabbi and Director of Education. Rabbi David is passionate about finding ways to make each person feel at home in the Jewish world. He was raised in a Modern Orthodox home and attended Orthodox Jewish day schools. It was there that he discovered a true love for Judaism. Although he often questioned as a teenager, it was only during his time as an undergraduate at St Peter’s College, Oxford University that he was first exposed to Progressive Judaism and to some inspirational Reform Rabbis. It didn’t take him long to realise that he had found his true spiritual home and just a few years later David revisited his childhood dream of becoming a Rabbi. He applied to the Rabbinic training programme at Leo Baeck College where he had previously studied for his MA in Jewish Education. As part of his Rabbinic studies, David undertook both a BA and an MA in Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He was awarded a distinction for his Rabbinic dissertation exploring the theme of sexual violence against men in the Book of Genesis. Since then David has continued his research and spends some of his spare time writing up a PhD in Biblical Criticism. A Patron of Save the Congo, he is committed to equality activism and LGBT Interfaith Dialogue. David lives in North London with his life-partner Ian.
Rabbi Benji Stanley
Rabbi Benji Stanley was delighted to join West London Synagogue in August 2013, immediately after being ordained by Leo-Baeck-College. He was awarded a distinction in his (joint Leo Baeck-College- King’s College London) MA in Jewish Studies, and wrote his dissertation on undercurrents of death and exile in the Havdalah prayer. Benji’s five years of training to become a Rabbi included a year of studies in Jerusalem in the Hebrew Union College Year-in-Israel Programme, and a year in New York City as a fellow of Yeshivat Hadar, an egalitarian, intensive text study programme. Benji enjoyed the opportunities to sample innovative and diverse Jewish experiences abroad, attending services at Romemu on the Upper West Side and presenting at Limmud New York.
Benji is passionate about texts, people, social responsibility, and the relationship between them. He loves Judaism’s emphasis on communal acts of reading that compel attitudinal and behavioural change beyond the classroom (or synagogue). As well as interning and working at diverse synagogues over the years, including North West Surrey Synagogue, Alyth Gardens and Westminster, Benji has become a presence at cross-communal loci such as Limmud, Gefiltefest and University Jewish Societies. This year he co-organised a four day, cross-communal festival of text study called the Open Talmud Project. Benji will be working roughly two-thirds of the year with us in order to make time for his own on-going learning. Monday and Tuesday are his days off, and he will be in Israel for most of June and July 2014.
He specialises in adult education, working with young adults, and social action, as well as involving himself in all areas of rabbinic work.
Finally, for better or worse, Benji’s favourite author is Philip Roth, and (again for better or worse) he is an obsessive Tottenham supporter.
Daily and Shabbat Services
Friday: Erev Shabbat Service at 6.00pm
Saturday: Shabbat Morning Service at 11.00am
Family Friendly Friday Night Services
Join Rabbi David at our monthly Family Friendly Friday Night dinners which will be held on the fourth Friday of the month. The evening and service will be relaxed and informal, and a chance to unwind from the week as we welcome in Shabbat.
6.00pm: Arrive at the Synagogue for a relaxed musical service in the Stern Hall with singing and drums – turn up when you can as we understand that not everyone can leave work at 5ish, but you may want to meet your children at the Synagogue. 6.45pm: Shabbat ‘Pot Luck’ bring-and-share supper in the Stern Hall. Please bring a cold vegetarian/fish dish and dessert to share. This can be home-made or bought from Green Valley, or other local food shops such as Tesco or Waitrose (all within a 5 minute walk). Adults are welcome to bring wine. 7.00pm: Kiddush with the congregants from the main service in the Goldsmid Hall. 7.15pm: Pudding and Birkat Hamazon back in the Stern Hall. 7.30-7.45pm: Home!
Shirah Chadashah – A new song and a new dimension in learning, praying, celebrating the magic of Shabbat. On Shabbat morning, Jews in synagogues the world over celebrate the peace and joy of the day of rest in a multitude of ways. For some it’s music and song that lifts the spirit, for some it’s silent prayer, and for others it’s discovering the hidden meanings of the Parashat HaShavua. As part of our desire to respond to the needs of our diverse community, WLS has started an initiative called Shirah Chadashah – A New Song, with a healthy mix of all three of these, and more besides. Includes a mid-service Kiddush!