Clergy corner

Rabbi Miriam Berger

Miriam has wanted to be a Rabbi since her teens but had to wait until the summer of 2006 to receive s’micha – her Rabbinic ordination. Before that she read Theology at the University of Bristol and then went onto study at the Hebrew union College in Jerusalem. It was only then that she began her training to become a Rabbi at Leo Baeck College in London. Having spent her final year as a student Rabbi for Finchley Reform Synagogue, we were delighted when she stayed on to take up the post of Rabbi. But, luckily for us, FRS’s relationship with Rabbi Miriam hasn’t stopped there.

‘In 2008 I was thrilled when my role at the synagogue changed from associate to Principal Rabbi,’ says Rabbi Miriam. ‘And I am relishing the opportunity of working with such an exciting and vibrant community. Luckily my wonderful husband, Jonni, who l married in 2008, understands what an all encompassing role the rabbinate is and the extent to which the community and synagogue is intertwined in our lives.’

Cantor Zöe Jacobs

Cantor Zöe Jacobs holds a unique place in Reform Anglo-Jewry as the only ordained Cantor in the Reform Movement; a statistic she is working hard to change! Zöe can mostly be found on the bima of FRS, which is where she truly fell in love with Jewish music and prayer. After graduating with a degree in Jewish History from Southampton University, she was the chinuch (education) fieldworker for Reform Students, supporting Jewish students on campus. The opportunity to spend many summers learning about music and leadership at URJ’s Kutz camp in New York led Zöe to spend a year studying text and music in Jerusalem. This clarified Zöe’s desire to become a Jewish professional, which led to the extraordinary 5 year cantorial programme at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), from which she received s’micha (cantorial ordination) in 2009.

Zöe is grateful for the opportunity to support songleaders from RSY-Netzer, as well as music and prayer within the Movement for Reform Judaism. In 2011, she set up ‘Shirei Chagigah’, a bi-annual music and prayer conference, and is passionate about any opportunity to encourage individuals to take up a role in leading music and prayer.
‘It was at FRS I learned to love Judaism, as part of the congregation,’ explains Zöe. ‘Fuelled by my experience and the broader love of Jewish liturgical music I gained while at HUC, I feel very fortunate to be involved in the dialogue that will forge new musical paths, enhancing and enriching the voice of the FRS community.’

Rabbi Howard Cooper

Since graduating from the Leo Baeck College in 1980 and training as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in the early 80s, Howard has pursued a dual professional career, combining rabbinical work with a therapy practice, plus an increasing involvement in various writing projects. Over the last 30 years he has lectured, taught and written on a variety of themes – Jewish, psychological and spiritual. Awarded an MA (with Distinction) in Creative Writing & Critical Theory by the University of Sussex in 2004, he was involved in composing some of the new creative material for our new Reform siddur.
‘Having been Director of Education at FRS from 1982-6, I joined Rabbi Jeffrey Newman’s first Rabbinic Team in 1989,’ remembers Howard. ‘Since then I have been involved professionally in various aspects of FRS, in particular running the “Exploring Spirituality” programme. I recently completed 20 years as External Consultant to the Leo Baeck College’s Pastoral Care & Community Skills programme and decided that was enough. This is the same amount of time I have been a season ticket holder at Barnet Football Club, a commitment that also feels almost (but not yet quite) enough.’

Rabbi Jeffrey Newman

When Jeffrey Newman arrived as Rabbi of FRS 42 years ago he, by his own admission, was an idealist. While he knew he may not be able to change the world, he decided he would at least like ‘to make a difference’. And those who knew Jeff would be happy to concur as, under his stewardship, the synagogue became a pioneering synagogue, reaching out and supporting the wider community and those ‘less fortunate’.
Since retiring from FRS, Jeffrey has being involved in many areas, including working as Rabbinic Advisor to the Rabbinic Development Foundation and the Assembly of Rabbis and is a Governor of LBC-CJE. Founder of Earth Charter UK – an initiative which brings together human rights, justice and equality, recognising that we are not going to be able to gain a sustainable universe unless we deal with these inequalities – Jeffrey became its director in 2005.
‘I love FRS,’ declares Jeffrey. ‘I was Rabbi here from 1973 to 2000 and since then I have been Rabbi Emeritus which means I can continue to contribute and use my experience of having been involved with FRS for the last 42 years, as well as enabling me to still be very much a part of the community.’