Above: Alyth’s Rabbi Hannah Kingston
Alyth is one of the largest and most dynamic synagogues in the country, with nearly 3,500 members in 1,500 households. Everything at Alyth is built together from a shared set of values and a belief that relationship is at the heart of community.
Alyth’s clergy team includes a breadth of age, interests, skills and personalities, ensuring that every member can be in a real relationship with those who accompany them on their Jewish journey. The current team is led by Rabbi Josh Levy, who works alongside Rabbi Hannah Kingston, as well as the two newest clergy team members, Cantor Tamara Wolfson and newly ordained Rabbi Elliott Karstadt. The synagogue also enjoys the part-time support of one of Reform Judaism’s most experienced rabbis, Rabbi Colin Eimer.
The clergy team works closely alongside a dedicated team of professional staff, including a full time Head of Community Care, Heads of Programming and Family Programming, and a Youth and Education team. The professional team works in collaborative partnership with the lay leadership in order to meet the needs of our diverse community. Our Board, who are our trustees, provide strategic leadership and oversight of the operational elements of the synagogue.
The team is encouraged to be innovators in the work that they do, creating a synagogue recognised as an example of vitality by the Jewish Leadership Council’s “Synagogue Vitality Project” survey. The JLC survey learned that vital congregations are unusually active, inspiring, engaging and stimulating of feelings of belonging. Alyth strives to be this as reflected in the synagogue’s full programme, much of which has moved online over the past five months.
At Alyth there is a common goal; to ensure the largest possible proportion of its members have a meaningful Jewish life. To cater for the broad needs of the community it works hard to provide a full care programme, social justice initiatives, adult and youth education, as well as other social activities, to help create a Judaism that is engaging for all, where all feel included, welcome and have a sense of belonging.
Since the first service took place in 1933, Tefillah has been at the heart of the community. In more normal times, our Erev Shabbat saw one of the largest praying communities in the UK, with regular attendance of over 300 people singing and praying together.
Every time the congregation comes together as a praying community it is driven by the words written above the Ark – Ivdu et Adonai b’Simcha, serve God with joy. So, to cater for the dynamic community, the Shabbat morning consists of diverse minyanim. Each and every week B’nei Mitzvah read Torah for their community for the first time. In parallel, the synagogue offers experimental Tefillah for both adults and families. Many of these are more informal spaces which grew out of our Tefillah Labs, a space for clergy to innovate and try new things.
Experimentation in Tefillah saw the innovation of services such as Imrei Finu, a place for people to sing and play new and familiar melodies together, and Sensory Shabbat, the Shabbat experience designed to stimulate our babies’ senses in the first years of their life.
This service is just one of the ways it invests in youth and families. It runs programming to accompany children from birth through to their adult lives, beginning with Sensory Shabbat and Baby Den, graduating into Big Bang services, which celebrated its 10th birthday this year, leaving the communit’s children equipped to join more adult services.
As well as providing education opportunities, Youth and Ed Hub run social activities such as youth camps, including the summer residential which has been providing a summer home for =hildren for at least the past 20 years. The investment in youth creates a cycle of developing its madrichim, many of its youth staying involved throughout their university careers.
In 1936 the community moved into its building on Alyth Gardens. The building is soon to be renovated and extended to enable continued creativity.