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Welcoming people to Judaism in Florence

The European Progressive Beit Din (religious court) has just returned from Florence where it facilitated the conversions of 33 candidates from Italy and Spain over two days. The Beit Din, based at the Sternberg Centre in London and convened by Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick, supports member communities of the European Union for Progressive Judaism in welcoming people to Jewish life.

The candidates, who have all undertaken a demanding course of study, came from communities in Calabria, Florence, Milan, Sardinia and Rome with one coming all the way from the Reform community in Valencia. Rabbis Fabian Sborovsky of Menorah Synagogue (Cheshire Reform Congregation) and Dr Andrea Zanardo of Brighton and Hove Reform Synagogue joined Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick in sitting on the court.

Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick said: “We had a very emotional and successful court in Florence. 33 candidates in two days must be a record! The standard of knowledge and commitment from the candidates was extremely high and it was a privilege to be part of this enormously significant and moving time in their lives. We heard stories of grandmothers lighting candles every Friday night in the basement and a mother-in-law beckoning the young couple into the garden on the day of their wedding so she could put a canopy over them and bless them. And of course, none of that generation understood where these family customs had originated. The group from Rome were so excited that at the end of the day, they spilled out onto the street singing and dancing.

“I would like to acknowledge the contributions and hard work of the rabbis and staff of the Beit Din and of the Shir Hadash community of Florence over two long days. The impact of their work in creating a compassionate and sensitive welcome cannot be underestimated.”

Fabio Fantini, Vice-President of Rome’s Beth Hillel community said: “What a memorable day we spent all together in Florence! We all left enriched by this beautiful and meaningful experience. Thank you for your help building our community and the Jewish Progressive movement in Italy.”

Previously the European Beit Din has held courts in Slovakia, Spain and Poland as well as in London.

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