Just two days after arriving in the UK, Rabbi Paul Strasko celebrated Shabbat with over 100 members of his new congregation at Sinai Synagogue.
A professional jazz musician, Rabbi Strasko brought a musical flavour to his first Shabbat services, sharing old melodies and new, including an original composition for Ahavat Olam. Using his guitar he brought a warmth of feeling into the lively services, encouraging real community “ruach“, or spirit.
He and his wife, Katrin Bergmann, also enjoyed a perfect British welcome of fish, chips and mushy peas followed by Eton mess at a community dinner on Friday night, followed by a lavish hot kiddush after Shabbat morning prayers.
Rabbi Strasko’s previous pulpit was Bainbridge Island, near Seattle. He has also served Jewish communities in Duisburg, Mülheim and Oberhausen in Germany as well as the Reform community in Geneva. Katrin Bergmann, an accountant, also holds an MA degree in Jewish Studies, psychology and economics, having studied at the Universities of Potsdam and Haifa.
“I have long heard about the warmth of the Yorkshire welcome,” said Rabbi Strasko, “but never imagined it was as warm as this. The Sinai community has made Katrin and I feel very, very welcome and we are looking forward to making Leeds our home for many years to come.”
Synagogue chair David J Israel commented: “Rabbi Strasko has the potential to take the engaging, welcoming and exciting way we celebrate Judaism to new heights, and the board of trustees is resolutely behind him in these efforts and excited to see what the future holds for the Sinai community.”