An essential part of the training of future rabbis is teaching the ability to reach out from the committed core membership of a congregation into the wider community.
Those living close to the Lauderdale Road Synagogue, with its differing levels of religious observance, will find this a good environment in which to develop this skill. In accordance with the terms of their scholarships, Montefiore Scholars are encouraged to devote part of their time to outreach activities into the community, whether at Lauderdale Road or in their own congregations, and to concentrate on younger members.
The Spanish and Portuguese Congregation is not a community that relishes having religion thrust upon it; and its rabbis deal with the relatively less-committed by first cultivating a sense of inclusion – in the hope that this will, in time, encourage the development of religious observance. The creation first of Young Sephardim and then of its successor, Bendigamos, which attracts large attendances for its main events, is an outstanding achievement of students of the London Montefiore Semicha Course. This group deliberately set out first to foster a sense of community cohesion – which younger members had previously identified as a specific lack in what was on offer to them; and it is believed that synagogue attendance grew as a result of this activity – which may be critical for the long-term future of this and similar communities.