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 eleven 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 eleven 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.