Rabbi Dr Martin van den Bergh
I am an Orthodox Rabbi who has special expertise in pastoral and spiritual care. Four years ago I completed a PhD at Leeds Beckett University, on patient-centred spiritual care. My academic journey also includes a B.Ed and an MA with Merit, in healthcare chaplaincy from Leeds University.
I have been a congregational rabbi having served four communities over 36 years., having been the first to receive Semicha from the Shehebar Sephardic Center in the Old City of Jerusalem. My last posting was over the last three years in Liverpool at Childwall Synagogue, I also have a very keen interest in Jewish continuity coming from a family that were very fortunate to have survived the Holocaust. Although I did not grow up in a religious home, I knew at an early age that I wanted to go into the Rabbinate. I fully subscribe to Judaism that is firmly based on Halacha, Jewish Law and the traditions of our forefathers, and which shows the beauty and meaningfulness of a fully Jewish way of life, without being dogmatic or judgmental.
The following areas are of special interest to me:
Pastoral care issues
Individuals developing their own interest in their Jewish heritage
Initiating and building new projects
Community and personal conflict resolution.
I am happy to be a scholar-in-residence; be a speaker in your community; provide and advise of pastoral-spiritual care training; or provide confidential counselling, in person as well as via ZOOM.
This Shabbat the local garden services I have been attending during the Pandemic will be wrapping up as the synagogues around us are returning to normality following Israel’s successful handling of the Covid-19 Pandemic. These services, which have been held daily, have not only enabled us to pray together as a community and gain spiritual strength. They have shown that the strength of a synagogue does not only emanate from its bricks and mortar. The synagogue should lend itself to being a vehicle for community cohesion; community prayer; and community engagement and enabling individuals to feel that they are a part of a community.
The Jewish Community, called in Hebrew “Kehilla”, which has traditionally been centred on a Synagogue, has enabled Jews to express what the Talmud teaches, that all Israel is responsible for each other (Shevuot 39a). The Kehilla has not only facilitated communal prayer to provide spiritual succour and support. It provides communal structures to support full life-cycle events, from birth to death, from learning centres to the care of the elderly, as well as celebrating milestone events. The Talmud also emphasises the fact that Jews overcame exile following the destruction of the First and Second Temples because of the synagogues and places of learning, by being venues for spiritual and communal engagement, prayer and learning.
At the consecration of a new Synagogue, Chief Rabbi Mirvis said that with Binyan (building) you have to have Minyan (A prayer quorum of at least 10 men over the age of 13 years). A synagogue building is important, only if it as a venue for communal prayer and activity. Without Minyan, a synagogue building, no matter how beautiful, can very quickly deteriorate.
In this sense the garden and street services have kept the synagogues alive, and now that the services are relocating back to our synagogues, they are once again becoming hives of activities, and centres of spiritual and religious engagement and learning.