Leo Baeck College

About Leo Baeck College

The College was founded in 1956 through the initiative and vision of Rabbi Dr Werner Van der Zyl, a refugee from Nazi Germany who came to the United Kingdom in 1938. He sought to model in the UK a centre of Jewish scholarship similar to the famous Berlin Hoschshule, shut down by the Nazis in 1942, where he had studied. Van der Zyl’s original intention was to call his new institution the Jewish Theological College, but when Rabbi Dr Leo Baeck, of whom van der Zyl was a devoted disciple, died shortly afterwards the College was named in his honour.

In 1964 the College became jointly sponsored by the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain(RSGB) (now the Movement for Reform Judaism) and the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues (ULPS) ( now Liberal Judaism). In 1967 a decision in principle was made to accept women candidates to the Rabbinic programme and the first woman Rabbi graduated in 1975. In 1985 Rabbi Professor Jonathan Magonet became the first full-time Principal.

In 2001 The Centre for Jewish Education (CJE) integrated with the old Leo Baeck College to become Leo Baeck College – Centre For Jewish Education (LBC – CJE).

Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein was appointed as Principal in 2006 and the combined new College adopted the name Leo Baeck College. Rabbi Professor Saperstein completed his term of office in July 2011 and continues to teach at the College as Professor of Jewish History and Homiletics.

In September 2011 Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris became Principal of the College. The College continues to be sponsored by The Movement for Reform Judaism and Liberal Judaism.

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