Does Finchley Reform have the X Factor?

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Does Finchley Reform have the X Factor?

Three teenagers at the same synagogue have achieved national recognition with their creative talents

We’re not sure what they put in the Palwins down at Finchley Reform Synagogue (FRS) but it seems to have made the shul a bit of a breeding ground for extremely talented Jewish youngsters, with three 17-year-old members shortlisted for national awards in literature and music in recent weeks alone.


JCoSS pupil Isaac Reuben wrote a 40-minute play called ‘Last Resort’ that was one of half-a-dozen shortlisted for the National Theatre’s New Views competition. It received a professional rehearsed reading at the famous institution and although he didn’t end up winning, he was more than happy to have got that far. The play follows a woman who is in therapy because she has tried to kill herself at a climate protest. “It explores the psychology of grief and the mentality of power,” he says. The National allocated a director and cast three actors for the rehearsed read-through. “We spent a full day there. I got to really contribute to the directing process,” says Isaac, who wrote Last Resort after attending a play-writing course at school.

While the mechanics of the play came from class, the idea behind the script came at least in part from Isaac’s civic engagement. He is in one of two Barnet seats on the Youth Parliament, which he describes as “a kind of pressure group that holds conferences, lobbies cabinet, assists in the House of Commons… it’s the political voice for youth in the UK”. He cites the Youth Parliament’s influence in the introduction of mandatory sex education in schools a few years ago. “At the moment there’s a lot of work around mental and physical health, things like ending conversion therapy, modernising education… things that impact youth.”

What next for Isaac? Could he be the next Howard Jacobson or Harold Pinter? “I am looking at writing further plays,” he says. “I’d like to write a full-length play next. This feels like just the start, to be honest. I’ve learnt that if you develop good characters, they almost end up writing themselves. Also, that dialogue can draw on real people – people who you know.”

What does he think the secret to a good play is? A long pause. “For me, it’s to get you thinking about something you weren’t already thinking about, to leave you asking questions.” Bravo. Encore!


Dora Fidler is obsessed with notebooks. A self-confessed “big reader”, she was never far from a novel, nor from a notepad, pen to-hand. “I’d write random things down. I can still remember some of the storylines,” she says. “I was always reading and always writing. I think if you’ve read lots of books when you’re younger, you probably think it’s quite normal to write a book.”

She’s made a start, as one of five shortlisted candidates for this year’s BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University, chaired by BBC Radio 1’s Katie Thistleton. Entrants were asked to write a story in up to 1,000 words and Dora wrote The Poltergeist in the style of a diary, about a mysterious knocking heard at the family home. It was voice-recorded, uploaded to Radio 1’s Life Hacks as a ten-minute production, and certainly keeps your interest, exhibiting a daring turn of phrase, such as regards the alternative aunt who “smells of rosehips and bullsh*t”.

She wrote The Poltergeist with no competition in mind, and when she heard about the BBC Young Writers’ Award, she had to cut it down substantially. “That’s when I shared it with my mum,” she recalls. “It’s really weird sharing your writing for the first time, not just because it’s personal but because it’s entirely yours, unlike acting for instance, where you’re saying someone else’s lines. Thankfully, my mum liked it, so I shared it with my dad, then my grandma, and they all encouraged me to enter.”

A Drama, English Literature and Psychology student at Mill Hill County High School, Dora wants to head to London when she goes to university next year, hopefully to study Creative Arts and Humanities at UCL’s new Stratford campus. Have they made this budding author an offer yet? “No, I still need to write my personal statement,” she says, guiltily. Well, Dora, don’t forget to mention that you got shortlisted for the BBC Young Writers’ Award – it ought to look quite good on paper.


If you’re a classical music fan, remember the name Jaren Ziegler. He cleared a path to the Grand Final of the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year 2022 last weekend after winning the Strings Final in September, a feat that brought him fame and fortune, not to mention a photo in the Ham & High.

Jaren, who attends University College School, said: “It’s been an ambition of mine just to get on the programme. I auditioned two years ago and didn’t even get past the first hurdle, so this is amazing!” His mum, Lana, first got him interested in music when he was only two. Then, at the age of six, he picked up a viola and a love affair with the instrument began. “There are so many gifted Jewish musicians,” he says. “It is a real ambition of mine to make performing a professional career. I think our Jewish communities are encouraged to love music. And we’re brought up with so many inspiring tunes. It’s got to be a factor.”

Jaren already performs in major cities around the world as a member of the LGT Young Soloists group (sponsored by LGT Private Banking) and has recorded at the famous Abbey Road studios. He’s a busy lad, with trips to Vienna and Sydney to look forward to in the coming weeks, but argues that the perception of classical music as a relaxing tool is all wrong. “There’s a stereotypical view about classical music, that it’s kind of posh and relaxing, which is completely false in reality. You have to be patient, listen to it closely, and appreciate what it’s all about. I think it should be introduced to young children as a matter of course.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: