Rav Johnny Solomon is an Orthodox Rabbi, Teacher, Spiritual Coach & Halachic Consultant.
Born in Edgware in 1976 into a traditional Jewish family, with an Ashkenazi mother, a Sefardi 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 his local Jewish Elementary school (Rosh Pinah) with 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 inspired Johnny to begin 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) where he developed his Torah study skills and his passion to share the Torah he had learnt.
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, or Immanuel College (as part of their Sixth Form Program), and this was also when Johnny began his formal teaching career at Belmont Cheder. Over time Johnny became less interested in formal Maths, and 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 recognized 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, 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 Montefiore Kollel, Johnny spent significant 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 (Kashrut) and whom he assisted by transcribing and translating many of his teshuvot (responsa). Beyond this, Johnny also studied Hilchot Shabbat with Dayan Pinchas Toledano, and from guest lecturers Dayan Ezra Basri and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Significantly, further aspects of the Montefiore Semicha curriculum 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.
While studying at the Montefiore Kollel, Johnny and Donna had a third daughter. However, though Johnny planned to join the Rabbinate after receiving Semicha, just two months before departing, Donna contracted bacterial meningitis. As a result, Johnny decided to remain in the field of Jewish education (working as the Chumash Team Leader for the Jewish Curriculum Partnership, and later, as Head of Jewish Studies at Hasmonean Girls School) during which time he forged a more meaningful relationship with Rabbi Sacks. 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 completed an MA in Jewish Education for which he received a distinction, he has participated in the Yaakov Herzog Reshut Rabim Beit Midrash, he has received training from Tzohar to conduct weddings under their auspices, and he has attended the Ma’agalei Nefesh Halacha and Mental Health training course. He currently teaches at Matan, he writes a popular daily Daf Yomi thought, he is a lecturer at Herzog College, the London School of Jewish Studies (LSJS), and the Melton School for Adult Jewish Learning. Beyond this, he is a contributor to the RZWeekly podcast, he is a posek to his local shul.
However, in addition to all this, 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 #VirtualRabbi 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 coaching skills – has been created to enable questioners to book time with Rav 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.
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.