New Stoke Newington Shul (NSNS) grew out of a series of conversations in 2006-7, which revealed the desire of a handful of families in Stoke Newington and beyond to be part of a community that was true to tradition, yet modern and inclusive. When those families first met around assorted kitchen tables in 2007, there were Jewish congregations in the area which offered one or the other – but none that truly offered both. At one end stood the range of orthodox and ultra-orthodox congregations; at the other, Stoke Newington’s Liberal community. But that left a large gap in between. What was missing was a community that would combine the best of tradition – running services mostly in Hebrew, with all the familiar melodies – and yet committed to the best of modernity, ensuring men and women play a full and equal part.
Starting on Kol Nidre in 2007, NSNS has aimed to fill that gap. We do not – yet – have a building. We have put the emphasis instead on creating a community of people, one entirely led by its own members, and building that community in new and innovative ways.
We meet for Shabbat services in each other’s homes, and our services are mostly led by volunteers. The result is an informality that, we have found, makes everyone feel welcome, regardless of their prior level of Jewish knowledge or observance. On an average Shabbat morning, you will find a true mixture: young and old, families and single people, those born as Jews and those who have taken the path to becoming Jews.
We welcomed Rabbi Roni into our community, first as a visiting student in 2013, and then as our first rabbi in 2015. He has been involved in many new initiatives, and under his leadership our community has more than doubled in size.
Our priorities are community and learning, the two aims often pursued together. Among our innovations, two new approaches which are already finding imitators in the wider Masorti movement include the Chevruta study and “Shabbat under the Stars.” Our emphasis on learning expresses itself in other ways too including Children’s services and Adult learning. We have lots of opportunities to engage in learning throughout the year, whether you’re just starting out or have spent time studying at Yeshiva.
In a few short years we have seen NSNS move from a discussion over a neighbourhood kitchen table into a warm, welcoming community. We have grown steadily and become better established. We know from the numbers we have drawn in that we are meeting a real need and filling a gap in the local Jewish landscape. But we plan to grow even further.
We’d love to welcome you at one of our events. Together we can ensure Jewish life endures in this area so rich in Jewish memory and tradition, proving that it has a future as well as a past.