Dearest Rabbi Elli,
It is such a privilege for all of us to be here, celebrating your simcha – thank you for providing such a lavish and lovely Kiddush for us all. After 14 years of enjoying the generosity of your spirit and compassion at all of our important life moments; it such a pleasure for all of us to help you celebrate your very proud and significant achievement of 25 years in the rabbinate.
Everyone spoke so eloquently about your many, many outstanding qualities and accomplishments, it is difficult to add to them. As we have already heard, you are and have been an exceptional Rabbi on every level.
But as a congregant, I would like draw attention to just one of the reasons why we think you are such a great Rabbi!
Your passionate pursuit to make Judaism accessible to anyone interested in it has been remarkable and inspiring. You have created a synagogue and a congregation that truly accepts and welcomes everyone. A synagogue that we are all truly proud to be part of. Regardless of how someone chooses to express their Judaism, you have ensured they are welcome here, that their form of expression is completely valid and is to be celebrated. As a consequence, our membership, friendships and profile continue to grow and we are a place for anyone to come to, and learn and participate in whatever aspects of our synagogue life they choose, without being judged whether or not one chooses to keep to kosher, to attend a service or attain some arbitrary level of knowledge or proficiency in Hebrew – you have genuinely created a sanctuary for people to simply come and be Jewish or Jew-ish and live Jewishly in our own way.
Hand in hand with this approach to making Judaism so accessible, has been your absolute resolve on being inclusive in every regard. We hear testimonial after testimonial about how welcome and comfortable people feel engaging with us – often they tell of experiences at other synagogues where they felt excluded, inferior or marginalised because they didn’t ‘fit in’, weren’t Jewish enough or didn’t practice Judaism in the ‘right way’. So many people tell of the barriers they have encountered trying explore their connection to Judaism.
This simply doesn’t happen at BHPS because of you, what you stand for and the values you have instilled in us.
I feel this alone, makes you a very rare and very special Rabbi, and in my humble opinion, the BEST Rabbi I have known. This is such an important contribution that you make to Judaism and its future. Leo Baeck made a profound decision for Judaism 25 years ago, by allowing you to enter the Rabbinate and you have affirmed the wisdom of that decision throughout your Rabbinate. All of us at BHPS are eternally grateful Leo Baeck had that wisdom.
We would like to present this book to you, with the sentiments each of us have written about how much you mean to us and why we think you are such an exceptional Rabbi.
I would also like to present you with a gift of silver, to mark this very special occasion – this is an antique dish made in 1901 by Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Company which held the Royal Warrant and later became Garrod’s, The Crown Jeweller.
And it has this inscription:
For our beloved
RABBI ELIZABETH TIKVAH SARAH
Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue
In commemoration of the
25th Anniversary of your Ordination
9 July 1989 to 9 July 2014
6 Tammuz 5749 to 11 Tammuz 5774
from your adoring Congregation
Peter Bennett Speck