In June 2017, the Honorary Officers of the St John’s Wood United Synagogue (SJWS) and the Trustees of the Saatchi Shul used the occasion of our joint Shabbat service to inform both communities of conversations taking place between our respective leadership teams. Our purpose was to increase co-operation between and growth of both communities. At the time we communicated that “ These discussions span several areas and are based on the overriding principle of maximising the benefits of the two communities coming together as one, whilst maintaining the continuation of two services”.
Our discussions have continued throughout the past nine months in an atmosphere of increasing mutual understanding, trust and optimism. We have been focused on the benefits of working together more closely in the future, whilst still maintaining the characteristics and practices of the SJWS and Saatchi services.
The Honorary Officers and Trustees, with the support and input of Dayan Binstock and Rabbi Cohen,
have agreed a framework for such a step, and this is now ready for discussion among our wider communities.
The framework proposed for discussion includes the following elements:
- We will continue with separate “Saatchi” and SJW services on Shabbat and Holidays exactly as we do now. To foster a wider sense of community, we will have joint kiddushim on those occasions when we can co-ordinate the timing of our services.
- Rabbi Mendel Cohen and Rebetzen Chai will join the Rabbinic Team, Rabbi Mendel will be a Rabbi of SJWS and continue to lead the Saatchi services. In time, both will take on wider responsibilities within the enlarged community (whilst maintaining their role with Saatchi). Dayan and Rebetzen Binstock are the Senior Rabbi and Rebetzen of SJWS. Rabbi Yoni Golker and Rebetzen Dina will continue in their current roles as Assistant Rabbi & Rebetzen.
- Members of the Saatchi Shul will be invited to become full members of SJWS, a constituent of the United Synagogue. The Saatchi/SJWS liaison committee will propose plans to align membership contributions with an appropriate transition period and not starting before the year ending March 2020.
- Members of the Trustees of the Saatchi Shul will join the SJWS Honorary Officers, and there will be Saatchi representation at the SJWS Board of Management. The Saatchi/SJWS liaison committee, which has been meeting for the past nine months, will continue in place to oversee the transition in those relevant areas.
There is so much more to our Jewish and shul lives than Shabbat and Festival services. In addition to numerous cross community events taking place each week, we have groups catering to our babies, children, young adults, young professionals, families, older singles and mature members.
We aspire to be the most vibrant and inclusive Modern Orthodox community in Central London. We strongly believe that by harnessing the strengths of our two hitherto separate communities, we will be taking a significant step towards that goal, as well as creating a platform for future growth and are looking forward to our joint future. Charles Lossos – Chairman – St John’s Wood Synagogue said: “I very much look forward to welcoming the members of the Saatchi Synagogue into the St John’s Wood United Synagogue family.
Our community has enjoyed a warm friendship with Saatchi over many years and we look forward to working with them to build our joint community on these strong foundations.
We warmly welcome Rabbi Mendel and Rebetzen Chai, as part of our superb Rabbinic Team at St John’s Wood.”