Rabbi Thomas Salamon
I was seventeen years old, rebellious as most teenagers, though growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, when my father suggested that maybe I should consider becoming a Rabbi instead of a lawyer or film script writer. I found myself strangely attracted to the idea as it struck a chord with rebelling against Communism, a feisty approach that ran through my family. It also chimed with my desire to leave central Europe one day and head for the West, which I felt would require a profession much more universal than a lawyer trained in Communist European Law.
I therefore packed for Budapest, which was a culture shock; nevertheless I loved the rabbinic College not least because of the teaching from my Professor Scheiber. He told my parents that I would do well because my looks and voice would appeal to the Galleries (meaning the upstairs of orthodox Synagogues).
I studied hard for two years and served the Prague Jewish community as its student Rabbi. But when the U.S.S.R. invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 I was advised to leave for Britain, where I first entered Jews College. My lack of English meant I struggled there but thanks to the good offices of Henry Shaw, of blessed memory, then head of Hillel House, I met the late Rabbi Hugo Gryn and he paid for my English lessons and helped me to apply to Leo Baeck College. I entered Leo Baeck in 1969 after a six months spell in Israel where I studied Hebrew and Jewish knowledge at the World Union for Jewish Students Institute in Arad.
I was ordained in June 1972 and served first at West London Synagogue for three years and then became Deputy and later Executive Director of Norwood where I served the community for three years. Before I joined Westminster I qualified as a solicitor, worked at various law firms and one accountancy firm. I have even run my own law firm, while at the same time serving various reform and liberal synagogues on a part time basis. Some fourteen years ago I changed roles and accepted the position of Rabbi at Westminster Synagogue. I liked the idea of independence and have certainly been happy to follow in the late Rabbi Albert Friedlander’s footsteps. I did not think that I would still be here after fourteen years but the spirit, love and care of the community has kept me with them and they have continued to support me as their spiritual leader.
I believe it was my destiny to lead this particular synagogue because the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust has brought me full circle, re-forging my links to my homeland and Judaism. My hopes for the Westminster community are that it will thrive and grow. I hope to be part of that growth by continuing to perpetuate the wishes of our founders by inspiring future generations of Jews.
Rabbi Judith Levitt -- Head of Education
I was born in South Africa in a small town where we were one of only two Jewish families. We moved to London when I was seven and immediately joined Finchley Reform Synagogue. I grew up in RSY and Reform Students where I loved the spirit of questioning and wrestling with Judaism in the world.
I took an unconventional path to the rabbinate which has left me with a unique approach to congregational life. I have previously lived in Canada where I loved teaching non-denominational Jewish education to children and adults. Writing and painting are my other passions and I often explore Jewish themes in my creative work. I particularly enjoy working with young people especially when they have lots to say for themselves, which I believe is the case with Westminster youth!
My first degree was in English literature and my rabbinic dissertation explored the relationship between the Psalms and contemporary Israeli poetry. I had diverse and interesting experiences studying at Leo Baeck College where I also work as Rabbinic Admissions Advisor with a commitment to finding the next generation of rabbis.
I have a particular interest in Jewish spirituality and have led many workshops using art, literature and meditation to facilitate spiritual connection. I also have a passion for social action and using our Judaism to have a positive impact on the world at large.