Martin van den Bergh
Marking 50th Anniversary of the start of my personal journey
Abbey Road is famous for the Beatles crossing the road. For me Abbey Road and more specifically where it meets Carlton Hill (in London) has great significance, because it is the spot where I started my personal journey into being a religious Jew and a rabbi, exactly 50 years ago today.
I had hoped to be there to mark this personal anniversary, but my recovering from surgery has meant that this was not possible. But, that day, the 3rd September 1969 is etched into memory bank as one of my most significant life events along with my marriage to Anna. On that day I was accompanied to London to enter into Montefiore College by my mother. I said good-bye to her at the corner of Carlton Hill on which Montefiore College was situated and Abbey Road. This marked my leaving my parents; becoming religious; and starting my yeshiva studies which was eventually to lead to my becoming a rabbi.
Only after I had taken leave of my mother and had returned to the College, I learnt that I was still free. So, I launched onto my first adventure of navigating the tube from St. John’s Wood to Kensington where an aunt lived, and where my mother had gone to. That first adventure was to be the first of many adventures and challenges that I have faced since beginning my personal journey fifty years ago, and over these fifty years I have much to be grateful for to the Almighty.
Admittedly, my four and a half years at Montefiore College were not easy, and I will leave it for another day and opportunity to go into greater detail. But, perhaps the challenges and difficulties that I faced then, has enabled me to meet the other tests that I have had to contend with throughout my life. I entered through the doors of Montefiore College as a boy of 16 with only one small suitcase, and now 50 years later I have been blessed with my own family; three degrees and Semicha; having had the privilege to serve four communities; and many many other experiences. I can look back and now say those challenges were not difficulties, but were opportunities to grow.