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.
Pharaoh is a good example of trying to hide ones true essence. There are people who try to be something that they are really not, and try to hide their real self. They do this by assuming false identities, mannerisms and even different dress codes. Unfortunately throughout the generations there have also been Jews who have tried to hide their Jewish identity and portray themselves as being anything but Jewish. Yet, they have usually discovered that they cannot escape their Jewish identity. Even in Egypt there were Israelites who tried to become Egyptians, but there were those Israelites who kept their identity, and they were the ones who were redeemed. Our sages that those who were redeemed from Egypt, were redeemed because of three things – they did not change their names, their language or their dress. They remained as who they were.
When I first went to university in Manchester, I at first did not wear my Kippa. But I soon realised that I could not lead two different lives and started wearing my Kippa on Campus. I was at the time also Assistant Minister at what was then Withington Congregation of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, where I also eventually became the Rabbi. That taught me that there was no need for me to hide my Jewish identity. It also taught me that I should not try to be somebody that I really am not.