Rabbi Martin Van den Bergh
Childwall Hebrew Congregation, Liverpool, England
Jul 26, 2017
Rabbi Martin van den Bergh was rabbi of Ohel Leah Synagogue in Hong Kong. Housing a young and vibrant community, Ohel Leah Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in Hong Kong and its only dedicated synagogue building. It brings together the best of both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Orthodox traditions and has members from all over the world. He also served as the halachic authority of the adjacent Jewish Community Centre.
Before coming to Hong Kong in 2006, Rabbi van den Bergh served as rabbi of the Wembley United Synagogue in London for 12 years and Senior Hospital Chaplain of the Visitation Committee, coordinating the provision of Jewish Chaplaincy Services for hospitals in the United Kingdom. He was also a member of the Chief Rabbi’s Cabinet with responsibility for welfare issues, Honorary Secretary of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, and Chairman of the Multi-Faith Group for Healthcare Chaplaincy. He was the first non-Christian chaplain to have been awarded an MA (with merit) in healthcare chaplaincy at Leeds University, and he is currently a PhD student in the same field.
Rabbi van den Bergh was involved in the development of Multi-Faith Chaplaincy and represented the Anglo-Jewish community on the National Multi-Faith Chaplaincy Consultation. He regularly lectures on the subject to chaplains of other faiths, and is called upon for advice by individual hospital chaplaincy teams who are developing their own approaches to Multi-Faith Chaplaincy. He also inspected hospitals on behalf of the Healthcare Commission.
In 1996 Rabbi van den Bergh won the Sir Whaley Cohen Scholarship enabling him to examine Jewish hospital chaplaincy in the United States.
Rabbi van den Bergh was born in Holland in 1952, brought up in Zimbabwe, and came to London in 1969 to study for the Rabbinate at the Judith, Lady Montefiore College. His late maternal grandfather was Haham Salomon Rodrigues Pereira, Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Holland.
Rabbi van den Bergh's rabbinic career began in 1974 in England as Assistant Minister at Withington Congregation of Spanish & Portuguese in Manchester. In 1977 he went to Sheffield, where he was Assistant Minister, and also to act as resident Student Counsellor at Hillel House. In 1983 he returned to Manchester as the rabbi of the Withington Congregation until 1994.
Rabbi van den Bergh also holds a B.Ed and is a qualified teacher, and has a Ph.D. in the topic Patient Centered Spiritual Care from a Jewish Perspective: Implications for chaplaincy and spiritual care. He received semicha in 1983 from the Shehebar Sephardic Center in Jerusalem, being its first rabbinic graduate. While in Israel, he also founded the Spanish & Portuguese Congregation in Israel together with Rabbi Harris Guedalia. Rabbi van den Bergh was editor of Hakshiva, a Rabbinic Journal of th
e Rabbinical Council of the Provinces; has contributed to a book Spirituality in Health Care Contexts”; wrote “Caring for a Jewish Patient” – a guide for nurses; and, compiled “Jewish Prayers for Healing” – a prayer booklet for patients.
Rabbi van den Bergh is married to Anna Leon, who was a civil servant at the United Kingdom Board of Trade International and a Justice of the Peace for the Middlesex area, having previously been a J.P. for the City of Manchester, and is now special projects coordinator for the Jewish Community Centre. They have two children, Abigail and Joshua, and two grandchildren.