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, in person as well as via ZOOM.
Purim is one of the happiest festivals in the Jewish Calendar. It celebrates the thwarting of the attempt to destroy the Jewish people in the Persian Empire by Haman who was prime minister in the reign of Achashverosh. It is usually celebrated with the reading of the book of Esther (which tells the story of Purim); having a festive meal; giving at least two types of food to one another; and giving gifts to the needy so they can also celebrate Purim.
There is also a tradition to drink slightly more than one usually does, and dressing up, all designed to increase our sense of enjoyment. This year the Purim celebrations may be somewhat curtailed. Yet, we are still able to rejoice as much as we can. Here in Israel the Purim spirit can already be felt with the sight of children, as well as some adults, in fancy dress. Different charitable groups have been busy distributing foods especially to the needy and those impacted more by the corona restrictions. All this adds up to utilizing the occasion of the Purim celebrations to strengthen community unity, and to find relief from the strains we have all been feeling this last year.
So, let us all take this opportunity to celebrate. Many communities have found innovative ways to rejoice while protecting ourselves, loved ones, friends and community members, and we should avail ourselves of these so that we can all feel a part of the festivities, in which ever way we can.