EUPJ Launches New Pan-European Lay Leader Prayer Training Programme

Two students live in Finland. One originates in Porto. All are joining up in an exciting new pan-European progressive prayer leader training programme Baalei Tefillah, launched this month.

Many Progressive Jewish communities in Europe cannot afford full or even part-time rabbis. In these cases, community lay leaders must step in to lead Shabbat services and other holidays.

Baalei Tefillah aims to give graduates the tools and understanding to lead services. Rabbi Nathan Alfred leads the programme’s weekly online courses with a total of 29 lay leaders enrolled from 14 different European countries. They range in age from 21 to 75. The year long course aims, Covid-permitting, to culminate in an in-person Brussels summit.

Demand for the course surpassed initial expectations. Initially, the course was intended for 12 students. A second class was added to accommodate a surge in applications from qualified candidates.

The North London Progressive Synagogue (NLPS) Trust and other foundations are financing the project. The European Union of Progressive Judaism Brussels office and its administrator Jesse Goldberg provides management and support.

“Our goal is to create a strong pan-European network of qualified lay leaders,” says Rabbi Alfred. “The graduates will be able to return to their communities not only to lead prayer services – but to connect their members with the wider European Progressive Jewish world”

Testimonials from Baal Tefillah students:

Andre F. says:

“The challenges that our community is currently facing are daunting (as probably in most small progressive communities without a full time Rabbi) and I believe that with this course I may be able to provide a better grounded synagogue service for all our members which will be important for the establishment of our identity and confidence in the prayer services.”

Iiro J. from Finland says:

As a small though growing community, we do not always have a Rabbi to lead our services in Finland. My motivation to participate in the Baalei Tefillah Europe 2021 Jewish lay leadership training stems from my desire to gain stronger skills to support our community to grow and become increasingly meaningful to the members, and others interested in Reform Judaism, in Finland.”

Sean L. says:

“As a biology masters student from a small lay-led community in Montpellier, France, I’ve had the privilege of being able to use my plentiful free time as a student to help promote the values of Progressive Judaism through work as co-lead of our Talmud Torah, and as a member of the board. However, it is in the services that most of us come together, and I’ve seen that when well led, these can bind us together and make tefilah feel meaningful, engaging, and incredibly relevant to us. I wanted to participate in the BTE course to develop the skills to try to recreate these rich experiences with my community to enable continuity for the many occasions when we don’t have a visiting rabbi.”

Watch this space for more updates including profiles of our guest lecturers.

More News