Member News

Council is delighted to announce the appointment of Rabbi Jordan Helfman as our new Rabbi.  Rabbi Jordan is currently Associate Rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto and will be joining us on 1st January 2022.

Rabbi Jordan says:

“While we are still a few months and an ocean away, I am very much looking forward to joining the SWESRS community.  Rabbi Lisa has spoken so highly of you - as has one of my current Rabbis Emeritus, Dow Marmur, who recalls your community exceedingly fondly.

A little bit about me - I grew up in a family that travelled, often driving ten hours from my home in New Jersey to my birth city of Detroit, Michigan to watch football matches (the American kind) and to celebrate family simchas.  My family also loved music, and I studied Political Theory and International Relations at Michigan State University partially so I could play trombone in the university marching band.

When I was in university, the values of my home and synagogue became increasingly important to me.  I helped cook and collect food for the student food bank. I began leading services for the Reform student group and taking weekend trips to the rabbinical school in Cincinnati.

One of my mentors at the rabbinical school recommended that I take a few years working in the Jewish community between university and applying, to make sure I was on the correct path, which led me for the first time to work in the Jewish community in the UK.  I spent almost two years in the UK, working as the Oved Chinuch (Educator) for Liberal Jewish Youth / Reform Zionist Youth, from the Montagu Centre.  During this time in the UK, I made some of the strongest friendships in my life - including with my wife, Dr Jemma Helfman, a clinical psychologist.

Since my ordination, I have been serving Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto - a truly amazing community where I have had the opportunity to learn and grow under the tutelage of Rabbi Yael Splansky.  At Holy Blossom, I have helped reinvigorate the 20s and 30s program, and supported new avenues in youth education, social justice and interfaith work. I have taught some, and learned much.

I am very much looking forward to continuing my journey with the SWESRS community.  I know there are so many stories of love and affection for the SWESRS community - some tied to the music and worship - others to the legacies of the Settlement Synagogue and SWERS - and still others to the personal leadership of Rabbi Lisa and others that have come before me.  I look forward to learning your stories, as we help draw each other closer to Progressive Judaism, the rhythms of Jewish life, and all of the sorrows and joys contained within a thriving Jewish community.

I will be arriving with my wife, Jemma, our four children, Toby (9), Mollie (7), Henriette (5) and Dov (2), and our cat, Lola (13).  We are all excited to begin this new chapter of our life, to meet you and to be closer to their Grandma and Grandpa!”

We know that all of us here at SWESRS are equally excited to meet Rabbi Jordan, Jemma and the children in January.  We are also very pleased that we will get the opportunity to know each other a little before then, as Rabbi Jordan will be joining us by Zoom on several occasions towards the end of the year, so watch this space!

In the interim

Rabbi Lisa had her final farewell service on Shabbat, Saturday May 22nd, and we know how sad we all were to say goodbye to her as our Rabbi after a wonderfully productive five years together.   Council is enormously grateful to Rabbi Lisa for all the time, energy and enthusiasm she has put into supporting us to build SWESRS for a strong and successful future.   Her kindness, compassion and wisdom will be greatly missed although we are hopeful that Rabbi Lisa might join us on occasion as we wait for Rabbi Jordan’s arrival.

We have been very pleased to have had Student Rabbi Tali with us during this past year, and she will be ‘Rabbi-in-charge’ until the end of June.  Rabbi Tali has been an important and integral part of the SWESRS community and we wish her every success for her future as a Rabbi.

We are equally pleased to have another student with us for the coming year, Student Rabbi Lev Taylor.  Lev will be undertaking a full student placement with us during the next academic year, including for the High Holydays.  Lev grew up in Reading, as an active member of Reading’s Liberal Judaism community and previously worked in the charity and education sectors. He has just completed a very successful year as a student rabbi at Newcastle Reform and Edgware & Hendon Reform.   We are delighted that in addition to his studentship, Lev has also accepted an additional bursary placement with us, meaning that he will be coming to SWESRS for an additional three days a week from the beginning of July for a year, and we know he will be a very welcome asset to us.

Until Rabbi Jordan joins us in January, we will also be supplementing our rabbinic support on an ad hoc basis as it is needed, and are grateful to those rabbis who have offered to step in, including Rabbi Lisa.

The future

This all heralds an exciting time for SWESRS’ future.  Council has listened carefully to what you the community were telling us in the consultations on rabbinic recruitment and are thrilled that in Rabbi Jordan we have found the Rabbi that SWESRS is seeking.  We know that Rabbi Jordan, supported by Student Rabbi Lev, will actively help us build, develop and go from strength to strength.