Originally from London, Rav Johnny Solomon is a Jewish educator and writer with a BSc (Hons) in Math & Religious Studies, an MA in Jewish Education, and semicha from the Montefiore Kollel. Beyond this, Rav Johnny has participated in the Lookstein Fellowships for Senior Jewish Educators, the Shalom Hartman Tichon Programme for Senior Jewish Educators, the Ashdown Fellowships for Senior Jewish Educators, and the Yaakov Herzog Reshut Rabim Beit Midrash. While in London, Johnny held numerous senior positions including Head of Judaic Studies at Immanuel College (London) and Head of Judaic Studies at Hasmonean Girls’ School (London). In 2012 Rav Johnny made aliya with his wife Donna and their 5 daughters, and he divides his time between teaching at Midreshet Lindenbaum & Matan, working as a Jewish education consultant, editing Jewish books for Mosaica Press, and providing online spiritual coaching, halachic consultations and one-to-one learning to men and women around the world. Beyond this, Rav Johnny writes a popular daily Daf Yomi thought, he is a contributor to the RZWeekly podcast, he is a posek to his local shul, and he is a board member of Chochmat Nashim.
More About Rav Johnny
Born in Edgware in 1976 into a traditional Jewish family to an Ashkenazi (born in England with Polish roots) mother and Sefardi (born in India) father and many secular relatives in the UK and Israel, Johnny grew up with an understanding of multiple Jewish traditions and how different Jews experience and express their Jewish identity in many different ways.
Johnny attended a local Jewish Elementary school (Rosh Pinah) where there were few religious students but where there was a strong emphasis on Jewish culture and Zionism. However, wanting to increase his religious observance, Johnny then chose to attend Hasmonean High School, and it was through his personal endeavours towards religious growth, coupled with what he learnt in school as well as the inspirational impact of his local community Rav, Dayan Gershon Lopian, that Johnny began his journey towards increased religious observance.
In his teenage years Johnny dedicated an increasing amount of his time to Torah study while also attending many of the shiurim of Dayan Lopian, and aged 18 he decided to be the first in his family to attend Yeshiva and chose to study at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavne (KBY). Though limited to stay in Israel for just one year, Johnny maximised his time at KBY with his many chavrutot, and subsequently returned for Ellul in the following years.
Upon returning to the UK to study Maths at UCL, Johnny spent every night either learning b’chavruta, attending shiurim by Dayan Lopian, or teaching Torah to others at SEED, the BA Bayit, Sinai or Immanuel College (as part of their Sixth Form Program). It was also during this time that his love of She’elot U’Teshuvot (Responsa literature) developed. Moreover, this was when he began his formal teaching career at Belmont Cheder on a Sunday morning, and subsequently teaching in – and running – the Sixth Form Centre for Jewish Studies.While studying at UCL, Johnny took an external course in Talmud at what was then known as Jews’ College (nb. in the following years he attended, and subsequently taught, many classes at the College which was later to be known as LSJS). However, over time Johnny became disenfranchised with Maths and didn’t complete his final year at UCL – although he subsequently completed his degree with the Open University – taking courses in World Religion and Sociology of Religion.
It was at this point that Johnny was invited to teach Jewish Studies at Immanuel College. While there, he received teacher training (and received a QTS) and participated in the Lookstein Fellowships for Senior Jewish Educators and the Shalom Hartman Tichon Programme for Senior Jewish Educators. Over time Johnny became renowned as an expert in curriculum development and a respected Torah teacher, and he delivered many shiurim in shuls throughout London.
After having taught for five years at Immanuel and aged just 28, Johnny was appointed Head of Jewish Studies – a position that he held for the following two years. However, frustrated that he was unable to spend more time in Yeshiva, and determined to further increase his knowledge of halacha, Johnny left Immanuel to become a member of the first cohort of the newly re-established Montefiore Kollel.
Given his already proven skills as a Torah scholar and educator, Johnny was appointed a Major scholar at the Kollel, and along with his wife Donna at their two daughters (at the time), they moved to Maida Vale where Johnny studied in Kollel, worked at Lauderdale Road Synagogue delivering shiurim to the community and also taught part time at Naima Jewish Preparatory School, while Donna managed the Central London Mikveh.
During his three and a half years studying in the Kollel, Johnny spent a tremendous amount of time with the Rosh Kollel and Rosh Beit Din of the Sefardim (and Rav HaMachshir of Rakusens) Dayan Saadia Amor from whom he learnt Issur V’Heter, and he also worked with Dayan Amor transcribing and translating many of his teshuvot. Beyond this, Johnny also studied Hilchot Shabbat with Dayan Pinchas Toledano, and from guest lecturers Dayan Ezra Basri and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Significantly, part of his studies at the Montefiore Kollel also included courses on Chupah V’Kiddushin (requiring students to assist and lead weddings), Avelut, Niddah, community leadership, public speaking and pastoral counselling. Beyond this, it was while in Kollel that Johnny – with the rest of his colleagues – went to study at the Kollel of Dayan Basri for two weeks, during which time he received brachot from Rav Ovadia Yosef and Rav Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv.
It was early in his Kollel studies that Johnny and Donna had a third daughter. However, while Johnny planned to join the Rabbinate after leaving Kollel, just two months before departing his wife Donna contracted bacterial meningitis. From then on and over a period of 5 weeks when Donna was in hospital and the months that followed when she required physical therapy, Johnny juggled his communal duties with his rabbinical studies and his need to care for three young children. As a result of this, upon leaving Kollel he decided to prioritise his family ahead of everything else, and having received semicha and having thereby been awarded a Rabbinical title from Rabbi Abraham Levy, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Dayan Ezra Basri and Dayan Saadia Amor, Johnny – with Donna and their three daughters – returned back to Edgware, while Johnny worked as the Secondary Team Leader for the Jewish Curriculum Partnership while also teaching many shiurim and also attending shiurim of Dayan Lopian as well as spending time with him observing and learning about the art of pesika (halachic decision-making). Around this time Johnny received a further Yoreh Yoreh semicha from Rav Doniel Chanan, and this was also when he forged a more meaningful relationship with Rabbi Sacks who, as guest speaker at the Sixth Form Conference which Johnny coordinated, gave Johnny a book with the inscription ‘in great friendship and admiration. You have great achievements ahead of you – may Hashem be with you all the way.’
At this point Johnny was still considering the rabbinate, but he was then offered the position of Head of Jewish Studies at Hasmonean Girls School. Unsure what to do, he sought the advice of Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg who was in London at the time and who advised him that, for the moment, staying in Chinuch was probably better for the family. This Johnny did, and he therefore took the position at Hasmonean working alongside some of the teachers who taught him as a student while also delivering many shiurim within the community. It was also during this time that Johnny participated in the Ashdown Fellowships for Senior Jewish Educators where he learnt NLP and numerous coaching skills.
Johnny and Donna were then blessed to welcome their twin daughters – who were born at 32 weeks through emergency caesarean. Clearly this was both a wonderful but challenging time. However, it was at this point that Johnny came to the conclusion that notwithstanding the positive changes he had made at the school, Hasmonean wasn’t quite the right fit for him or his daughters, and having not chosen the path of becoming a community Rabbi, when their eldest daughter was eight years old and their twins had just turned one, Johnny, Donna and their five daughters made Aliyah.
Since then, Johnny has taught Tanach, Halacha and Hashkafa at numerous Midrashot including Machon Ma’ayan, Midreshet Torah Chessed, and currently Midreshet Lindenbaum and MTVA, and numerous adult education centres including LSJS and Matan. He also completed an MA in Jewish Education for which he received a distinction.
Beyond this, Johnny has worked as a Jewish Education Consultant for schools around the world, and has visited numerous communities in Israel and Europe as an independent scholar-in-residence and through organisations such as Amiel BaKehillah and Mizrachi – during which his halachic knowledge, wisdom and counsel has been sought by community members and Rabbanim alike. Some years ago, Johnny was invited to answer a number of halachic questions received by and on behalf of the Office of Rabbi Sacks, and as an editor for Mosaica Press, Johnny has reviewed and also translated many Torah books including those of Rav Asher Weiss. Beyond this, and aside from numerous articles written by Johnny and featured in Conversations and Lehrhaus, Johnny also writes a daily Daf Yomi insight which can be found on Sefaria.
Given his passion for halacha, his expertise in She’elot U’Teshuvot, and the shimush he received from Dayan Amor and Dayan Lopian, Johnny’s depth of knowledge and sensitivity in paskening (rendering halachic decisions) has led many men and women, as well as numerous rabbanim, to turn to him for advice and psak. Over a number of years Johnny provided this in an informal basis while, more recently, he was appointed as joint posek to the Minyan Ashkenaz in Even Shmuel.
Nevertheless, recognizing how many men and women around the world do not have a Rav, while also aware of the need for psak to emerge from a deep understanding of a questioner and their religious context, Johnny launched his Virtual Rabbi service where he provides online spiritual coaching, halachic consultations and one-to-one learning.
Unlike regular ‘ask the rabbi’ websites, this model – blending the traditional role of a Rav with the modern tools of technology – enables questioners to book time with Johnny, to tell him ahead of time about themselves and their question, for Johnny to prepare for their online session, and for them, together, while using the coaching tools that Johnny has both learnt and developed, to find an appropriate solution or psak for their situation.
Having grown up in a home blending both Ashkenazic and Sefardic traditions, having himself become more religious (which subsequently prompted many in his family to increase their religious observance), being sensitive to the role of women in Judaism, and given his broad mix of friends and family including Rabbanim as well as those identifying as Mesorati (traditional) and Chiloni (secular), Johnny is well placed to guide, advise a broad range of people. At the same time, there are numerous areas of halacha where Johnny still doesn’t feel qualified to pasken on, and when this occurs, he makes this very clear to those who seek his advice and recommends others who are qualified in this area. Beyond this, while Johnny is prepared to give advice, he is emphatic that he is not a therapist and should not be considered a replacement for one, and often recommends those who turn to him for guidance to seek assistance from a professionally trained therapist.
Undoubtedly, Rav Johnny’s inspiration as a posek is, and will always be, his Rav Dayan Gershon Lopian zt’l whose depth of Torah and sensitivity in psak was fused with a love and humanity for all. Dayan Lopian’s primary concern was less about what the question was, than who the questioner was and what their needs and situation demanded in terms of what he paskened. And while Johnny does not claim to be even close to the level of his Rav and mentor, what he learnt from Dayan Lopian, as well as from his other wonderful teachers, continues to inspire him while offering guidance as a Virtual Rabbi to his virtual community.