US professional jazz musician, Rabbi Paul Strasko brought a musical flavour to his first Shabbat service just two days after arriving in the UK. Using his guitar, he brought a warmth of feeling into the lively service, encouraging real community spirit as he shared old melodies and new, with an original composition for Ahavat Olam.
He and his wife, Katrin Bergmann, enjoyed a perfect British welcome of fish, chips and mushy peas followed by Eton mess at a community dinner, followed by a lavish kiddush after Shabbat morning prayers.
Rabbi Strasko’s previous pulpit was Bainbridge Island, near Seattle. He has also served as Rabbi for Jewish communities in Duisburg, Mulheim and Oberhausen, 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.”
David Israel, Sinai chair, 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.”