(Click HERE for photos) The Gateshead Kehillah last week formally inaugurated their new Rov, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman. The historic and moving ceremony took place in the large Community Centre in Bewick Road on Monday night, in the presence of the whole community, with a top table graced by Roshei Yeshiva, Dayonim and Senior Rabbonim.
The Rov, whose parents and parents in law came from America to participate in the Simcha, entered the packed hall flanked by the Va’ad Harobonim, to the harmonious sound of Rabbi Fordsham’s choir singing “Boruch Haboh”.
Following Mincha, the Rosh Hakohol, Mr Yosef Schleider, movingly welcomed visitors and dignitaries to the historic and auspicious occasion. Mr Schleider stressed that any community will be comprised of many varied opinions and views. If all those differing perspectives are focused on a common objective, the result will be unified strength. The force that can coalesce those forces is a Rov. That was the great skill of Gateshead’s previous Rov, Rabbi Bezalel Rakow zt”l; and the great Siyato d’Shmayo in finding a successor of the calibre of Rabbi Zimmerman to continue that pivotal role.
Rabbi Falk, representing the Va’ad Harabonim, described the triple qualities required by a leader – personal example, warmth and approachability, and the power to inspire. Drawing on the Torah’s comparison of a leader to a shepherd, Rabbi Falk listed amongst his qualities the care and compassion for his flock and also the superior foresight to demand of his charges to move on when required. Rabbi Falk stressed that the Kehillah has always followed the Da’as Torah of previous Rabbonim, and would continue to do so. He then read out the K’sav Rabonus and presented it to Rabbi Zimmerman to the resounding heartfelt words of Tehillim, “Yomim al Yemei Melech Tosif”.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneebalg, Rov of Manchester’s Machzikei Hadass, welcomed the new Rov, stressing that Klal Yisroel’s demand for a new king is praiseworthy when their request is motivated with a desire to be subservient to his authority. If our contemporary kings are our Rabbonim, and his followers look to their leader for direction and counsel, then they too will be blessed with success.
Rav Ephraim Padwa, G’avad of the UOHC, extolled the virtues of Gateshead as a model Torah town, but that its continued development hinged on having a Rov. Contrasting a Rov to a general, Rabbi Padwa commented that whereas a general stays at the rear of his army where he can plan his strategy, a Rov is one who leads from the front, guaranteeing success with his won z’chusim.
Prior to the Rov’s response, Mr Feisvish Steinhaus, senior member of the Kehillah, presented the Rov with a new Tallis. The Rov’s brochoh and Shehechiyanu were in effect the highlight of the afternoon, encapsulating all the gratitude to Hashem and hopes for the future.
In a masterful and emotional address, Rabbi Zimmerman thanked Hashem Yisborach for the tremendous privilege of his appointment. Quoting the Lubliner Rov, Rabbi Zimmerman stressed that the function of a Rov is not to bask in the reflected glory of his predecessors, but to build on the foundations that they established. The Rov quoted his late grandfather, Rabbi Yonah Horowitz, the Frankfurter Rov, who explained that the reason each person has to write their own Sefer Torah, despite the great value of inherited Sifrei Torah, is that each person has to contribute his own Avodah, while being entirely loyal to the ageless Mesorah, without deviation. Gateshead will move with confidence into the future when it builds on the Mesorah of the past. In a spirit of unity and togetherness and in the merit of his great predecessors, the Rov looked forward to leading the Kehillah forward to greet Moshiach.
The inspring Hachtoroh was brought to a fitting conclusion by Mr Schleider thanking the many individuals who had literally worked day and night to produce a Kiddush Hashem of Kovod Hatorah and Achdus, the hallmarks of a unique Community.
The Kehilla crowded the top table to wish Mazal Tov, happy and grateful that once again the Torah town is blessed with a wonderful Rov to lead and inspire them.
(By Eliezer Lipman, Jewish Tribune, UK / Photos by Ezra Sassoon)