St Albans United Synagogue has appointed its first Rabbi and Rebbetzin for more than 50 years.
A unanimous ‘yes’ vote from community members at a meeting last week confirmed the appointment of Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Alli Sturgess as the community’s new rabbinic team.
The couple will move to St Albans with their three young children in the next week or two, and will take up their duties in mid-August. They will arrive following 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.
Rabbi Sturgess said: “We are very 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.”
Both originally from Essex, Rabbi Sturgess has a degree 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 (Rabbinic Ordination) at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem before taking up the Birmingham post.
Over the past ten years, he has also provided High Holy Day 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, said she is confident that the Sturgesses are eminently qualified for the job of steering the community into a bright new future.
She said: “We believe they really are the best fit for us here in St Albans.
“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.”