Dvar Torah – The right community for a ‘Hannah-shaped’ Rabbi

Written by Rabbi Hannah Kingston — 11 June 2018

When I was ordained last summer, I likened myself to Elle Woods, the lawyer of Legally Blonde fame who turned up to her first day at Harvard clad in a hot pink suit with a hand bag sized furry companion. Whilst I did so for dramatic effect, claiming that the teachers at Leo Baeck College thought the same of me, as hers at Harvard law school did of her, my analogy was not just to prove that women with a strong sense of fashion can go on to do great things in their professional lives. My point was simple, just as Elle Woods was unique lawyer who found her own place, so too each rabbi is an individual who must have a strong sense of self and find a community where the fit is right. No rabbi can replicate another, and no rabbi can fill the shoes, heeled or flat, of the people who have been before them. For me the search was for a community that needed a ‘Hannah-shaped’ rabbi.

But what I did not realise at the time, is that a community needs to be a very special place to allow a rabbi to grow and develop into their potential. When a community opens its arms to an outsider, they put immense amounts of trust into that person, a person that will be with them in their happiest moments, and also in their hardest.  A community that really allows a rabbi to be completely themselves, that for me carved out a space for that ‘Hannah-shaped’ rabbi, is one that is exceptionally diverse and rich, that offers their rabbis freedom to grow and still holds them when they need it. A community like that is hard to find, and I feel grateful every day that I found that community in you here at Alyth. And that I have been welcomed with such open arms, that the you, has become an us.

This is just one of the things that makes Alyth such an exceptional place, a place where I now call home, with my fiancé Marc, and we hope for this to continue for many years in the future. And it is the Alyth family that makes this home a place of joy every time I enter this building. The lay leadership, guided by Noeleen and now Russell, who always believe in us and allow us to take risks, and push us to be better. My rabbinic colleagues, Josh, Mark and Colin, who have welcomed me into their team, trusted me in my role, guided me in my decisions, and are so dedicated and enthusiastic that they make me smile in even the dullest of meetings. Every member of the staff team that sits along the corridor of fun and laughter, who all genuinely care about each other as well as their community, both in a work capacity and personally, and are always generous with their time. And finally, it is every member of this community who has taken time to get to know me, who has allowed me to grow into their rabbi, and who recognizes my humanity, and has helped me develop through this past exciting and challenging nine months.

I look forward to many more years of being part of this extraordinary community. May we continue to grow, both individually and together. May we always push each other to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be. And may we never forget just how special this Alyth family is.