The Stanmore Academy does it again
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Tuesday 27th October 2020

When synagogues had to close earlier this year due to Covid-19, a barrage of communal activity began at Stanmore & Canons Park United Synagogue. This included making sure that every member was contacted, pastoral care and food deliveries, and more. National initiatives started, such as visors for the NHS (Deborah Braham’s visor army, as featured on the BBC website) and You Donate We Deliver.

As the support developed, the need for programming became obvious, and the Community Department did not disappoint. It was Community Rabbi Daniel Fine’s ideas for an online Friday night pre-service and a ‘home Shabbaton’ during lockdown that became national features (though he claims he is equally proud of the online shiurim and whisky-tasting!). Next came the impressive array of guest speakers – Israeli marathon runner Beatie Deutsch, Uri Geller, and From the Depths’ Jonny Daniels were part of the initial group of speakers. The retirees Safire programme also continued in full flow even through the summer, with stimulating sessions on Zoom.

Then Rabbi Fine came across an idea. “I figured that people wanted something more than one-off Zoom sessions. So we created a course-based programme with concrete goals. After a quick Google to check the name had not been taken already, the programme became known as the Stanmore Academy. With four-part courses on parenting, marriage, topical Halacha and current affairs – speakers included Rabbi Herman, Rivka Zeidman, Rabbi Manning, Lord Finkelstein, Lord Pannick, and Karen Harris. The community loved it, and many re-watched sessions on YouTube.”

Now the Stanmore Academy is back again! Keynotes from MI6’s former head Sir Richard Dearlove, Mossad’s Danny Limor and Mitch Winehouse, and Jewish sessions from Ilana Epstein (the history of Jewish dress), Joel Kaye (the physiology of gratitude) and Rabbi Yehuda Pink (organ donation), this is capped off by Jasmine caterers delivering supper to those who have booked in. With over 100 people booked in, Rabbi Fine notes its success. “It’s great to see that even people who haven’t been back to Shul are engaging in our programming. I think Covid has accelerated the re-definition of ‘synagogues’ away from simply ‘a place to pray on a Shabbat morning’ and towards ‘full communities’.”

After the Stanmore Academy (which runs for three consecutive Tuesdays, ending on 10th November), Stanmore are excited to be the epicentre of the online winter Bereishit Programme with its dazzling array of keynote speakers, interviews and learning tracks – including Lord Mann and refusenik Yosef Mendelewitz.

 

By Rabbi Daniel Fine