A SPECIAL kiddush is being held at Giffnock Synagogue tomorrow to say goodbye the Bodenheims.
Rabbi Yossi Bodenheim and wife Sarah, together with their children, Moshe, Yoheved, Yisroel, Naftali and Gavriel, are moving, with a heavy heart, to London next month, after six years in Glasgow.
The kiddush is being jointly sponsored by the shul and Jewish Student Chaplaincy Scotland.
For the first two, they were focused on being the Jewish Chaplaincy couple for Scotland and then Rabbi Bodenheim took on the additional role of Giffnock Synagogue assistant minister.
When the Bodenheims arrived in August, 2012, with three young children, including a three-month-old baby, they were venturing into the unknown.
“We had never heard of Scotland before and thought it was like a Third World country,” Rabbi Bodenheim told the Jewish Telegraph.
“We had no idea what we were coming to, nor what Scotland was like.
“When we got here, chairman Nicola Livingston and the Chaplaincy Board were exceptionally helpful and welcoming.
“The first thing we found in our fridge was our welcome pack — chicken and Irn Bru. They did so much to help us settle in and get over what was a real culture shock for us.”
Israeli-born Yossi and Sarah lived in a trailer on a moshav before heading to Scotland.
Both sets of parents had made aliya from America and therefore English was no problem to them — but Scottish was.
Sarah said: “It took time to get used to the Scottish accent. I remember us going to an appointment at the bank and we had to abandon it and return with someone who could interpret for us.
“Our first Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur here, being away from our families and with this culture shock, could have been really hard for us, but everyone was so caring and embracing.
“It was so nice to see what a vibrant community there was in Glasgow.”
Within a week of arriving, the couple attended a University Jewish Chaplaincy training centre in Manchester and the following week the Freshers’ events began.
By September they were hosting their first Friday night dinner for 40 students at Garnethill Synagogue. Since then, they have created many special memories for themselves and students.
Sarah recalled: “We held a Shabbaton in Crieff and it was one of the most inspiring events we could ever imagine. We had students from all around the country and there was a great ruach (spirit). Former students are still talking about it now.”
An Edinburgh J-Soc Burns Ball in 2017 was memorable for many reasons.
Rabbi Bodenheim explained: “Sarah had just given birth to our youngest son, Gabi and there she was, nine days later, standing and leading the cooking preparations for a four-course meal for 120 students.
“It was one of the outstanding events. I wore highland dress and sang Havdala to the tune of Scotland the Brave.”
The next evening, the Bodenheims attended the Giffnock Synagogue Burns supper, complete with baby Gavriel wearing a smart tartan outfit – which his father had found in a Build-a-Bear shop.
Rabbi Bodenheim added: “And Aberdeen has been a real eye-opener for us. When we came to Scotland, all the active students had graduated and there was no J-Soc anymore.
“I went up for freshers and there was no one around, until one girl came up and asked if I was Jewish.
“I didn’t hear from her again, but I went back up for Chanucah and five students showed up. That was the start of a process that led to more than 20 students being active in the J-Soc.
“It is really inspiring seeing them go out of their way to make it work and to be a family up there for each other.”
Mrs Livingston said: “We are really sorry to see them go. They have been a fantastic couple, loved and respected by students and community members alike.
“The Bodenheims leave behind a wonderful legacy.”
When Rabbi Eli Wolfson moved from being Glasgow Youth and Community minister to Newton Mearns Synagogue, the-then Giffnock chairman Jeremy Freedman invited Rabbi Bodenheim to take up the role of assistant minister to Rabbi Moshe Rubin.
Rabbi Bodenheim had already benefited from Rabbi Rubin’s wisdom and guidance.
Rabbi Bodenheim said: “Having Rabbi Rubin as a mentor and teacher gave me great opportunities. Right from the start, the Rubins treated us as family and he was always supporting me with the students and the chaplaincy.
“Other chaplains don’t get to do what we have been given the chance to do here in this community. We are lucky to have such a special, caring rabbi.”
The admiration is mutual. Rabbi Rubin said: “In one word, they are a phenomenon. Their skills of reaching out to students of all backgrounds and their ability to bring together the young families of Glasgow was a phenomenon that went way beyond anyone’s imagination and expectation.
“They leave a great void in both communities and they are an act that will be a challenge to follow.
“They never judge people, they are always available to help and listen and everything they do is with a smile from them and their children.”
Shul chairman Ken Gerber added: “They’ve been wonderful, not only for the younger element, but also for everyone else in the congregation and community. We are very sorry to see them go.”
The Bodenheims have been heavily involved in bringing young families in the Glasgow community together.
Sarah said: “This is one of the reasons we are having such a hard time leaving. We want to watch this vibrancy continuing. We were at the same stage of life as other families with children.
“We will miss everything about Scotland, especially the sense of community, which is very strong here. The shul meant everything to our children.
“In our hearts, this will be our home forever. It’s what has made us who we are.”
Rabbi Bodenheim concluded: “We want to say a big thank you to the Jewish Telegraph for helping us spread the word of Jewish Chaplaincy and for the positive image of the community it has portrayed.”