Kesher/The Learning Connection was founded by Rabbi Rashi and Ruthie Simon in 1997.
American-born, Rabbi Simon founded the highly-successful Jewish Learning Exchange in Little Venice, W9 in 1989 and was responsible for the introduction of the trailblazing Explanatory Services and Crash Courses to Anglo-Jewry. He has inspired and helped to set up regular Shabbat and annual High Holyday Explanatory Services in 30 synagogues around the country. Kesher also pioneered the concept of Lunch & Learn sessions in the City of London.
Ruthie Simon, a native of Los Angeles, USA, is a full partner in her husband’s work. Ruthie has run a programme of successful courses for women and couples, held in people’s homes and featuring a range of international guest speakers as well as her own insights into the Woman’s Role in Judaism.
Together Rabbi and Mrs Simon have taught many hundreds of young Londoners who are interested in finding out more about their Jewish heritage. Since opening the doors of the Kesher Kehillah at its current premises, 933 Finchley Road NW11, the Simons have created a community which is welcoming to Jews of all levels of observance in an environment that is halakhically authentic, intellectually stimulating and spiritually fulfilling.
Kesher caters to singles, couples and young families, with a variety of programs to suit everyone, from young to old(er).
Rabbi Rashi Simon
Rabbi Rashi Simon, MA, is Founding Director of Kesher/The Learning Connection and Rav of the Kesher Kehillah. Born in the Midwest of the USA, he studied in yeshivot in Israel, New York, and Milwaukee, USA. His ordination is from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate (inter alia). Rashi’s general education is from Purdue University and Touro College (USA), where he earned a BA in Psychology and an MA in Jewish History.Arriving in London in 1989, Rabbi Simon founded the Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE), before forming Kesher in 1997 as a cutting-edge outreach organisation. With the acquisition of their present building, Kesher expanded into a kehillah (synagogue community) in 2004.
Rashi’s urbane, witty, and insightful style, together with his mildly Anglicised American accent, make him a popular and memorable Torah educator. In addition to guiding and inspiring others he makes time for his own Torah study and development. As well as exploring the Torah, Rabbi Simon enjoys exercise, hiking and travel — activities which he loves to do with his wife, Ruthie and their five kids, if only he had more time in which to do it!
Rebbetzin Ruthie Simon
A native of Los Angeles, Rebbetzin Ruthie Simon exudes sparkle and warmth and has been in the forefront of Jewish Outreach since moving to London from Israel in 1989, where she directed the Beginners Programme in a women’s college of Jewish studies. Ruthie is interested in family education and developing her creativity with her trademark flair. She teaches, counsels, inspires, and organises both within and beyond the confines of Kesher. Since 2004 Ruthie has co-chaired an annual international conference in the USA for Jewish outreach professionals. Ruthie is widely admired for her California- inspired creative kosher cuisine, frequently enjoyed at the Kesher Kiddush.
Dvora Ebert – Administrator
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Dvora is Kesher Administrator par excellence. From coordinating events, planning trips, and programming the calendar, to organising mailings, publicity, emails, website, and the day-to-day details of running an organisation, she can be found daily in the Kesher office.
Zvi Kahn – Chazan
Zvi is currently a full time English, Maths and Jewish Studies teacher at Menorah Foundation School, Talmud Torah Belz in Stamford Hill, as well as teaching Bar Mitzvah boys (up to 16 a week). From a singing angle, Zvi has had a keen interest in all things musical from classical to jazz to Jewish popular music and of course, Chazanut. He has been leading services since the age of 14 in London, Europe and in Israel and has had expert voice training with retired opera singer, John Noble. He also had a year’s training in Nusach under the expert guidance of Chazan Moishe Haschel of St John’s Wood Synagogue. When davening, Zvi likes to select tunes from traditional to contemporary to keep in with the mood and desires of the congregants.
Dovid Kraus – Chazan
David doesn’t consider himelf a Chazan in the classical sense, only a “Jack (or Dovid) of all trades”. He enjoys all sorts of music – Chassidic , “Jewish Pop”, Classical, and has been known to play guitar at Kesher and elsewhere on special occasions (too many to mention). Zvi has been a regular chain at Kesher since the very first Friday night in May 2004.
Paul has been a fervent Kesher supporter since moving to the area in 2005. He is a hands-on member of the Kesher Kehillah and is actively involved with the Kesher Committee that assists Rabbi Simon in looking after the interests of the Kehillah and its social, educational, outreach and communal programmes. Paul trained under Kesher’s finest Gabbaim over the years – the legendary Eli Spitalnik (Founding Gabbai) and “Capt’” Stephen Shenkin. Paul still assists in this role when required and is also involved in the children’s Shabbat programming.
Originally Scottish and inspired by the likes of Uncle Moishy and Shooby Doob Shloimy, Stephen tries to provide a meaningful and relevant Children’s Service with songs, Tefillah , questions and Kiddush -Yum Yum. He is usually assisted by many children, amongst whom any number of his own four kids may appear.
Yocheved has been part of Kesher since the very beginning and remains part of the Kesher (and Simon!) family despite living with her husband Yehoshua and son Yitzchak Tzvi in Jerusalem. Besides for her responsibilities keeping this website up-to-date, she is a busy wife, mother and seminary teacher.