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 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.
I recently received a message from a former congregant whom I encouraged to attend morning services once a week. He wrote that he now attends every morning and it forms a very important part of his routine. I also know of many people who first came to synagogue on Shabbat just to fulfil their security duties, to ending up being a part of the services inside the synagogue.
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.
Like many people I am very saddened with the possibility of synagogues in Israel and other places around the world being closed on Yom Kippur because of the Corona Pandemic. As it is, we now know that they will be open with strict limitations, and even then some synagogues, including the one I had been attending until the outbreak, will move their services outside.
The synagogue plays a key part in the religious lives of Jews around the world, and especially on Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is one of the most spiritually charged days when Jews seek atonement by usually spending most of the day in prayer and fasting and engaging in the special atmosphere of the synagogue services. However, spiritual engagement is not limited to the synagogue. It permeates into our homes, streets, and our whole lives. Therefore, the restrictions we are facing on Yom Kippur, can serve as a reminder that Judaism does not limit spiritual and religious engagement only within the walls of a synagogue building.
Those of us who will not be in synagogue on Yom Kippur, but in a garden or street Minyan or even in our homes, can still feel as part of the community. Our sages teach us that if we find ourselves not being able to be in synagogue, we can still feel connected by praying at the same times as the synagogue services. Many communal rabbis and leaders are providing opportunities to still gain benefit from the sanctity of Yom Kippur, even in these trying times. It is for us to utilise these opportunities and keep ourselves connected to our community.
I pray that we may all feel the special atmosphere of Yom Kippur wherever we are. May we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life, with good health and healing.