A day in the life of… Norwood Rabbi Stanley Coten

Rabbi Stanley Coten says that being Norwood’s Rabbi is ‘one if the most diverse Rabbinical jobs I know’.

You meet Jews who are very observant and practise all the Jewish laws, and others who are secular. Norwood supports Jewish people whatever their level of religiousness – from the most Orthodox, the mainly Chasidic, at our family centre in Hackney, to those with no affiliation. I also come into contact with frontline staff in our services, the majority of whom are not Jewish, who show enormous dedication and professionalism in supporting the people in our services.

Norwood Rabbi Stanley Coten lighting a menorah

So a day in the life of… I can tell you no two days are the same, but here’s a sample of the range of things I deal with on any given day.

Monday morning, 9.00am – I check any overnight emails, answer urgent queries and then head to Kennedy Leigh, our family centre in Hendon. As the KLBD (Certified by the London Beth Din) Licensee for Sara’s kitchen, I am responsible for making sure that our café meets the most stringent kosher standards.

This means checking the kitchen to ensure the ingredients are acceptable for kosher consumption and that the oven or hob is lit by a shomer shabbat person. I have a quick discussion with our catering manager to see everything is okay from her viewpoint. She tells me that she has sourced her supply of goods for the week.

10.30am – I have a meeting with a young lady interested in converting to Judaism. She knew Norwood was a Jewish organisation and knew a lot about Judaism already but had gaps in her knowledge. I told her to question if she really wanted to convert as it meant a lot of sacrifice. After that I encouraged her to strengthen her Jewish knowledge and agreed to meet her in three months for a further discussion (thinking to myself that if she is still interested, I’ll refer her to the conversion department at the Kosher London Beth Din).

11.00am – I contact our Jewish Cultural Adviser, Dov Richman who, despite having only been in the role for a short space of time, has done wonders. We talk about events we wish to run. Following recent inspiring visits to the Bevis Marks Synagogue we agree to focus on staff training, especially with Chanukah coming up. Dov tells me that our excellent volunteers, who take synagogue services, are not able to come next week so I agree to step in and take the service.

11.30am – I visit our supported living home in Hendon. Again, it’s my role to check the ingredients coming into the residential homes to ensure they are strictly kosher. While there, I speak to residents and staff. One of our residents tells me she is soon going on holiday to America to see her family. It’s heart warming to hear these stories first-hand.

12.00pm – I go to Northwick Park Hospital to visit a resident who has been admitted with a complicated complaint. It’s not unusual for those with special needs to have more medical needs than the typical population. While there I receive a call from our Director of Services, Ron Brown, who makes a valuable suggestion about how festivals are celebrated in our homes.

2.00pm – I eat my lunch and then visit another residential home – this time at Ravenswood in Berkshire – to check on the residents and staff, and also to inspect the home’s kitchen. I tell the staff about various ways they can obtain kosher food.

3.00pm – I meet members of our Life Long Learning team, located at Ravenswood, and two home managers, to start planning a Chanukah activity and party. We have a roster of home managers who get together with me and members of the Life Long Learning team to plan Jewish activities throughout the year.

5.00pm – Time to check the synagogue at Ravenswood. I want to see that all the items for the service and the Kiddush are in place (I see there’s a supply of grape juice available for example).

5.30pm – I then set off on the long journey back home to North-West London, where I also take a Shiva service for one of our London residents who recently lost his father.

My day ends at 9.00pm. I’m thoroughly exhausted, yet proud of my day’s work and already looking forward to the next.