Community Celebrates Induction of Rabbi Sturgess

Photos are at the bottom of this page

To read speeches from the day, click here

Sunday November 1st 2015 saw history being made at St Albans United Synagogue, when the city’s oldest Jewish community witnessed the formal induction of its first rabbi for more than 50 years. And in a further sequence of firsts, Rabbi Daniel Sturgess, a former director of Aish UK in Birmingham and now appointed to his first communal post, was inducted by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, making his first-ever visit to the St Albans community to perform the ceremony. What is more, it is believed that this was the first induction ever held in the city.

DSC_9914Joining the large number of synagogue members who filled the shul to its maximum capacity were distinguished guests, such as the Mayor of St Albans, Cllr Salih Gaygusuz; St Albans MP Anne Main; and Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans. Also there were district and county councillors, including old friend Cllr Sandy Walkington, who represents our ward on the Herts County Council, and new friend, Cllr Alec Campbell, who looks after our interests on the St Albans District Council. Other non-Jewish guests included Police Sergeant Jordan Fox from our local police team, and local vicars, Canon Tony Hurle and the Rev. Rosemary Fletcher, with whom our shul has often cooperated in inter-faith activities.

From the United Synagogue came US President Stephen Pack and Chief Executive Dr Steven Wilson, plus a number of US Trustees, as well as ministers and lay leaders of neighbouring Jewish communities.

Also among the honoured guests were the already familiar faces of the parents of Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Alli, Raymond and Vera Sturgess, and Robert and Glynda Ingram, as well as other members of their families. Places were reserved, too, for the friends, mentors and colleagues of Rabbi Daniel, including Rabbi Baruch Davis, minister of Chigwell & Hainault United Synagogue and chair of the US Rabbinical Council; Rabbi Malcolm Herman, Associate National Director, SEED; Rabbi Yisroel Fine, recently retired minister of Cockfosters & N. Southgate Synagogue; Rabbi Joseph Grunfeld, SEED founding director; Rabbi Moshe Mayerfeld, managing director of Aish UK; Rabbi Naftali Schiff, executive director of Aish UK; and Rabbi Yosef Solomon, education director of Tikun, together with Herman and Miriam Martyn, who helped to create SEED’s “In-School Family Education” initiative which Rabbi Daniel heads.

The total guest list approached 150 people – no more could be squeezed into the confines of our hall. Compiling the guest list was just one of the tasks undertaken by the organizing committee headed by shul chair Karen Appleby, vice-chair Lesley Marks and Board member Jeanette Grenby.

DSC_9877Considerable effort went into devising a programme that would involve as many of our regular congregation members as possible. Introductions to the speakers and to various sections of the programme were in the able and experienced hands of Nigel Marks, which did not prevent him from doubling up as a member of the choir created especially for the occasion. Their contribution to the dignity and beauty of the ceremony cannot be overstated, from the moment they sang Baruch Haba during the entry of the Chief Rabbi and Rabbi Daniel to Adon Olam at the conclusion. The members of the choir – Nigel, plus Simon Angel, Howard Joseph, Alan Cohen and John Pentel – were under the baton of Frank Weinberg, an experienced member of the Shabbaton Choir. They were accompanied by Philip Spiers on the keyboard.

Another ‘outsider’ contribution came from Rabbi Alan Garber, the minister of our neighbouring community in Shenley. In the absence of our regular service leaders Jonathan Gorsky and David Solomon, both of whom were unable to participate due to long-standing commitments elsewhere, he had kindly agreed to step in to lead the mincha service which followed the welcoming address of our chair, Karen Appleby.

The honour of opening the ark was given to Board member Martin Wise alongside Robert Ingram, father of Rebbetzin Alli; Board members Malcolm Murray and Raymond Claret held our two Sefer Torahs during the service, and Board member David Rez and former treasurer Howard Wallis returned them to the ark. The prayer for the Royal Family was read by Edward Appleby; the prayer for the State of Israel was read by Rabbi Baruch Davis, chair of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue; and the prayer for the community by Rabbi Naftali Schiff, executive director of Aish UK.

Thanks are due to shul member Maurice Selwyn, of Mydas Photography, who not only took photographs, but has also produced a souvenir book containing all of the photos. One copy has been presented to Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Alli as a permanent memento of the day; the other is in the shul for all to inspect, and will, of course, be retained for our archives.