US Centre News

New Rabbinic Couple for St Albans
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Friday 11th July 2014

St Albans United Synagogue is about to get its first rabbi and rebbetzin for more than 50 years. A unanimous ‘yes’ vote from community members at a meeting last week (July 3, 2014) ratified the appointment of Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Alli Sturgess as the community’s new rabbinic team.     

To the delight of the congregation, who have endured a long wait for a spiritual leader, the couple will be moving to St Albans with their three young children in the next week or two, and will take up their duties in mid-August.   Their immediate availability comes at the conclusion of a four-year stint as co-directors of Aish Birmingham, where together they ran an educational and social branch for one of the largest and most religiously diverse Jewish student campuses in the UK, and where they were renowned for their dedication and enthusiastic organisation of attractive events  as well as their generous hospitality. 

Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Alli Sturgess, with their children (left to right), Temima, 18 months,  Leah Ora, 5,  and Yeshaya, 3.

Both originally from Essex, Rabbi Sturgess has a BSc. in Maths and European Studies (Spanish) from the University of Exeter, while Rebbetzin Alli took a degree in psychology from the University of Wales in Swansea.  Moving to Israel, they studied at various yeshivot and seminaries, and are both graduates of the Ner LeElef outreach training progamme.    Rabbi Sturgess received semicha at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem before taking up the Birmingham post.  Over the past ten years, he has also created High Holyday explanatory services for the United Synagogue.  His wife, a trained life coach and tutor in leadership skills, also has experience as an event and education co-ordinator of Aish UK, worked in Jewish film marketing in Israel, acquired qualifications in drugs awareness and counselling as well as in graphic design, and has her own business designing and making bespoke mezuzah cases. 

Karen Appleby, who chairs the 170-strong congregation, boosted in recent months by a significant influx of new young families moving into the St Albans area, is confident that the Sturgesses are eminently qualified for the job of steering the community into a bright new future.  “We believe they really are the best fit for us here in St Albans,” she said. “Not only do they seem to have an understanding of the problems faced by a small and widely divergent congregation such as ours, but they also have the enthusiasm and ideas to meet those challenges and create a structure which will help us grow in size, strength and influence over the coming years.” 

Speaking on behalf of himself and his wife, Rabbi Sturgess commented: “We are vey excited at the prospect of joining such a forward-looking community, and have been overwhelmed by the warm and friendly welcome we have received, which makes us all the more want to be part of it. St Albans is a growing community with a committed core.  We look forward to helping to strengthen, engage and inspire the existing membership, and also to be a warm and welcoming presence in the area for all those who wish to involve themselves in our increasing range of activities.” 

Added US Community Services Director David Kaplan: “We are delighted that Rabbi and Rebbetzen Sturgess are joining the US family. St. Albans and its surrounding catchment areas are a real potential growth area for the US and we are looking forward to the partnership flourishing between the Sturgess' and the local US community.”

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