“The pandemic has brought a great amount of loss and sadness. I would never underestimate that. There have been bereavements in my own family, let alone in the community. Although COVID has been a devastating time for us, there has been huge learning from the pandemic. It has led us to be a stronger and more tight-knit community than ever before. I hope to keep the lessons we have learnt from COVID whilst remembering the lives that were lost.”


I had the pleasure of interviewing Rabbi Miriam Berger, the Principle Rabbi at Finchley Reform Synagogue (FRS). ‘Rabbi’ means teacher, which truly is a huge part of what she does. She teaches a variety of classes to a wide range of ages, from nursery children to adults. She also officiates numerous life-cycle moments, such as weddings or funerals. 


Finchley Reform Synagogue is an incredibly inclusive community. It is clear to me that under Rabbi Miriam Berger’s influence, the community is a loving, connected one. The future looks increasingly bright for them, especially considering their current project of rebuilding their synagogue. Like many others, Rabbi Miriam Berger sees being a reform Jew as an integral part of her, and FRS is a channel to celebrate and share that side of oneself with others.  


In response to my question about the adaptations that FRS had taken in light of the pandemic, Rabbi Miriam Berger said:


“We had a drive-in for Rosh Hashanah in 2020. The service took place on a large stage in a car park for people to enjoy from the safety of their vehicles. There were also numerous screens surrounding the stage in order to give those watching a better view if required. Meanwhile, safely wrapped portions of apple and honey were passed through car windows. To combat the fear, loneliness and loss, resulting from coronavirus, we have had a group meeting every day on zoom at 11 am. This enables members of the congregation to have a drink and chat together, giving comfort in these difficult times. We have arranged outdoor activities like scavenger hunts and bonfires. We also recorded a community-wide song as a prayer for healing. 


FRS volunteers have helped by cooking for the homeless, shopping for people, giving lifts or picking up prescriptions for the community. Furthermore, there were children’s activities throughout lockdown on zoom. All our funerals, Shivas, Bnei mitzvah and baby blessings have had to take place online. However, being able to share videos and photos in a way we cannot in person has often enhanced the event. In 2021, in order to celebrate the High Holy Days together safely, we even managed to gather in the stands of StoneX Stadium.”


It has been a gift for everyone belonging to FRS, including Rabbi Miriam Berger, to be able to belong to such a dynamic community that spreads joy in hard times. Thanks to their incredible creativity and resilience, they have grown in closeness, despite the pandemic. FRS should give all people and communities hope that any obstacles (even a pandemic!) can be overcome with the power of imagination and togetherness.