Nancy Morris

Rabbi Nancy Morris
Position Rabbi
Synagogue South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue
Began 2012
Ended 2014
Predecessor Rabbi Maurice Michaels, Rabbi Michael Pertz
Personal details
Born 2 November 1961
Montréal, Canada
Denomination Movement for Reform Judaism
Semicha Leo Baeck College

Nancy Morris (born 2 November 1961) is a Reform rabbi, who was appointed to Glasgow Reform Synagogue, formerly known as Glasgow New Synagogue, in October 2003, making her the first female rabbi in Scotland. She was Rabbi of South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue in London from 2012[1][2] until 2014.[3][4]

Morris was born in Canada where she studied and qualified in Law before choosing to study for the rabbinate in London, qualifying in 2002.


Morris gained an MA in Jewish History from McGill University in 1989 before continuing her studies to gain an LLB, also at McGill University, before completing her articles at Blake, Cassels & Graydon in Toronto.

In 1997, she decided upon a career change and left Canada to study rabbinics at Leo Baeck College in London, graduating in 2002.

In the final year of rabbinic studies, she returned to Canada where she served as Rabbi at Har Tikvah, in Brampton, Ontario and Temple Shalom, in Kitchener, Ontario/Waterloo, Ontario from 2001 till 2003.

She became the first female Rabbi in Scotland when she was appointed to the post of Rabbi of Glasgow Reform Synagogue in October 2003. During her tenure, Rabbi Morris was also a Guest Lecturer at the University of Glasgow where she lectured on Judaism.

In January 2012, Rabbi Morris returned to her native Canada to take on a temporary post of Rabbi at Temple B'nai Tikvah in Calgary.

In June 2012, South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue (often referred to by the acronym SWESRS) in London announced that Rabbi Morris had been appointed as their new Rabbi.[1] She began this position in September 2012.[2]

Role within Jewish community

Rabbi Morris strongly supports the egalitarian nature of Progressive Judaism and has spoken a number of times on issues relating to gender equality within Judaism. In particular she was strongly critical of the arrest of Anat Hoffman, head of Women Of The Wall, and publicly wrote to the Israeli Ambassador to the UK on behalf of her Synagogue community about the arrest.[5]

Rabbi Morris also called on the incoming Chief Rabbi to demonstrate his commitment to repairing divisions between different Jewish traditions by publicly criticising the detention of Emily Wolfson for wearing a Tallit at the Kotel.[6][7] Rabbi Morris conducted the Bat Mitzvah of Ms Wolfson when she was Rabbi at Glasgow Reform Synagogue and encourages girls to embrace Jewish ritual such as wearing a tallit upon their Bat Mitzvah. Consequently, Rabbi Morris felt strongly that the grounds of detention [i.e. a female wearing a tallit] were both unjustified and a dangerous escalation of attempts by Orthodox authorities to exclude women and Progressive Jews from one of the most sacred locations in Judaism.[8]

Rabbi Morris helped conduct the Purim celebrations for a group of Bnei Menashe in 2010 when she was in Mumbai, India on a sabbatical.[9]

Role as a community leader

As leader of the second largest stream of Judaism in Scotland, Rabbi Morris participated in interfaith meetings as well as speaking at various events, presenting a modern, liberal, Jewish perspective on a variety of subjects.[10][11]

On this basis, Rabbi Morris presented the Time For Reflection[12] at the Scottish Parliament on 25 June 2008.

Connections with East End of London

Rabbi Morris' paternal grandfather grew up in London's East End in the early 1900s before emigrating to Canada. This family connection partly influenced Rabbi Morris to take up the post at SWESRS as the synagogue has a strong connection with the East End. In an amazing coincidence, when researching her family history, Rabbi Morris discovered she was also related to Second Lieutenant Harry Jassby, a World War I RAF pilot who was killed on 6 November 1918 at an airfield very close to the Oaks Lane location of SWESRS. Despite being Jewish, Second Lieutenant Jassby was buried in the Christian cemetery at St.Peters church which was the closest graveyard to the airfield where he was killed. Members of SWESRS look after the grave and Rabbi Morris conducts an annual Remembrance Service at the graveside.[13][14]


Rabbi Morris was interviewed by Ian Wyatt on his BBC Essex radio programme on which she discussed her career and decision to become a Rabbi. Wyatt also explored her thoughts on the atheist arguments of Richard Dawkins concerning religion. Rabbi Morris explained she feels his arguments focus too much on disputing the literalist interpretation of scriptures as emphasized by religious fundamentalists. Fundamentalism is only espoused by very extremist groups of religious people, and the vast majority of people of faith do not necessarily take such a literalist view of Scripture. Dawkins, in her opinion, fails to address the wider social, emotional, spiritual and cultural benefits for human beings who are devoted to their religious beliefs. Rabbi Morris particularly loves the discussion and lively debate that forms such an important part of Jewish tradition and understanding of Judaism throughout its history.[15]

Rabbi Morris appeared regularly on BBC Radio Scotland's Thought For The Day slot where she presented, from a Jewish perspective, brief talks designed to cause listeners to pause for reflection.

Rabbi Morris also contributed to the BBC radio programme on Matisyahu with her predecessor at Glasgow Reform Synagogue, Rabbi Pete Tobias.[16]


Rabbi Morris studied in Vienna for a year while she wrote her Master's Thesis on the subject of Ludwig Frankl.[17] It is available to view on the McGill University website.

Rabbi Morris contributed to the book God, Doubt and Dawkins, a Reform response to Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion.

She also publishes selected Torah commentary and articles on her own website.[18]


  1. 1 2 "SWESRS website home page, retrieved 18 June 2012". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  2. 1 2 "Ilford Recorder article announcing appointment of Rabbi Morris.". Ilford Recorder. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  3. "Statement from SWESRS & Rabbi Nancy Morris". News. SWESRS. 23 June 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  4. "Synagogue bids farewell to Rabbi Nancy Morris". News and press. Movement for Reform Judaism. 16 January 2015. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  5. "'Letter To Ambassador Taub' on". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  6. "Jewish Chronicle article on arrest of Emily Wolfson.". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  7. "Google Cache of Haaretz Article on arrest of Emily Wolfson". 21 December 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  8. "Article entitled "Why We Really Weep At The Western Wall"". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  9. "Rabbi Morris sermon in which she referred to her time with the Bnei Menashe". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  10. "2004 University of Dundee Margaret Harris Lecture on Religion covering women in the rabbinate". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  11. Neill Walker. "Brief bio and link to MP3 of lecture presented at Edinburgh International Centre for World Spiritualities". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  12. Official Report Of Scottish Parliament For 25 June 2008
  13. "Ilford Recorder Article On Harry Jassby Remembrance Service". Ilford Recorder. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  14. Movement for Reform Judaism. "Reform Judaism Article On Harry Jassby". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  15. BBC Essex Ian Wyatt programme – broadcast Sunday 16 December 2012 (no longer available for download from the BBC site)
  16. "BBC Listen Again page on Matisyahu programme". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  17. "Rabbi Nancy Morris' Master's Thesis on McGill University theses library". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  18. "Rabbi Nancy Morris". Retrieved 29 October 2014.
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