in European Judaism

Two rabbis played a major role at a key transitional period in the history of the Leo Baeck College. Eight years after its beginning in 1956 under the auspices of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain (RSGB) (now Movement for Reform Judaism) it was joined as a co-sponsor by the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues (ULPS) (now Liberal Judaism). Two years later Rabbi Dr Werner van der Zyl, the founder and Hon. Director of Studies retired, to be succeeded in the shared leadership by Rabbi Dr. John Rayner (1924-1995), representing the ULPS, as Hon. Director of Studies, and, in the specially created post of Hon. Registrar, by Rabbi Hugo Gryn (1930-1996), representing the RSGB. Together they oversaw the College’s development until the appointment of Rabbi Dr. Albert Friedlander in 1970. In addition to their administrative tasks, both served as teachers, Rabbi Rayner in the field of rabbinics, and Rabbi Gryn in the area of practical rabbinics. Both had refugee backgrounds but made the U.K. their permanent home, serving as the senior rabbis at the two ‘cathedral synagogues’ of their respective movements, Rayner at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St. Johns Wood, and Gryn at the West London Synagogue. Very different in temperament and personality, both made an indelible impact on their congregants, their students and the College itself.

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