Rabbi Benjamin Stanley comes to Westminster Synagogue having held Rabbinic posts at West London Synagogue, and also in a community development role with the Reform Movement in the UK having graduated from Leo Baeck College.
Benjamin Stanley was born in London in 1982, the second of three sons to artist and photographer Carol Stanley (née Joseph) of Cardiff, Wales, and ad-man and poet Jack Stanley of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. At his birth, his mother asked an astrologist to interpret his star chart. He declared that he would grow up to be a religious leader (we’ll come back to that later).
Benji grew up at Belsize Square Synagogue, and in Reform Judaism’s youth movement, RSY-Netzer, which shaped the fundamental core of his Jewish worldview: community, empowerment and social action. He spent his gap year with RSY in Israel, studying in Jerusalem and working on kibbutz. Attending St. Paul’s School affirmed in Benji a love of literature and the close reading of texts to find value and meaning, leading him to pursue an English degree at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University.
Upon graduation, and following a summer as a volunteer with Tzedek (an organisation committed to sustainable self-help development in the Global South, based on Jewish values) in Calcutta, Benji worked for Tzedek and for Westminster Synagogue as B’nai Mitzvah and Teenage Educator. At Westminster Synagogue – with Rabbis Thomas Salamon and Rebecca Birk and Chief Exec Renée Salamon as mentors – Benji’s love of Jewish community and education was confirmed, leading him to apply to the rabbinic programme at the Leo Baeck College. With LBC, he spent a further year in Jerusalem, did a yearlong Fellowship at Yeshivat Hadar, a non-denominational intensive text-study centre in New York City, and completed an MA in Jewish Studies at King’s College London, receiving a first. During this time, he met his partner Rabbi Leah Jordan, who also works in the Jewish community in London.
Benji comes to Westminster Synagogue having spent the first four years of his rabbinate as an Assistant Rabbi at West London Synagogue and as the Rabbi for Young Adults at Reform Judaism, building informal communities and empowering people in their 20s and 30s to further take on their Judaism for themselves. Along with a commitment to people, Jewish learning, and social justice, Benji completed the six-day Citizens UK community organising course and the six-month, Cambridge-run, Senior Faith in Leadership Programme – and he brings these relational community organising and leadership skills to all the work he does.
Although himself the youngest principal Rabbi of a sizeable progressive synagogue in the UK, Benji’s passion for supporting and developing people of all ages was fostered by his love and recent loss of his father, Jack Stanley (may his memory be for a blessing). Beyond his formative Jewish experiences in Israel and NYC, Benji was most Jewishly inspired by sharing essays, poems, and a love of literature and writing with his father, and by enjoying throughout his life his mother’s warm, vegetarian Friday night meals. Although he is still sceptical about the coincidence of that astrological chart, Benji has no doubt about the joy and vitality of a life-long Judaism, from birth to death, rigorous and open. He is delighted to welcome you into this at Westminster Synagogue, right in the heart of London. Please do be in touch for a chat, about anything from baby blessings, bar and bat mitzvah, weddings, services or learning, or simply about how you’re doing at firstname.lastname@example.org