Ev­ery chief needs a rich pa­tron

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis - GE­OF­FREY AL­DER­MAN

‘WHILE the Chief Rabbi pre­pares to don his er­mine… spec­u­la­tion is grow­ing over who is likely to suc­ceed him as main­stream Or­tho­doxy’s spir­i­tual supremo.” So ran the in­tro­duc­tion to Si­mon Rocker’s re­flec­tions ( JC, Septem­ber 25) on the gos­sip now beginning to gather mo­men­tum, trig­gered by the re­al­i­sa­tion that Pro­fes­sor Lord Sacks has only three­and-a-half years re­main­ing of his con­tract as Chief Rabbi of “the United He­brew Con­gre­ga­tions”. Who — if any­one — will suc­ceed him?

Si­mon’s re­port men­tioned five pos­si­bles but, be­fore I con­sider th­ese wor­thies, I must point out a ba­sic yet of­ten over­looked fact. Those who are se­ri­ous about play­ing the game of iden­ti­fy­ing the next ten­ant of the chief rab­bini­cal abode in Hamil­ton Ter­race, Lon­don NW8 would be well ad­vised to con­cen­trate not so much on the con­tenders for the job as on their pa­trons — the mega-wealthy in­di­vid­u­als who are pre­pared to fund the of­fice and pay for its up­keep.

For­get all the hype (and there will be hype-a-plenty in the next three­and-a-half years) about the Chief Rabbi be­ing “demo­crat­i­cally elected”. The of­fice costs a great deal of money. Some­one has to sign the cheques and pay the salaries not only of the in­cum­bent but of the of­fice staff, the trou­bleshoot­ers, the first-class travel, the se­cu­rity etc. Find the signer of those cheques and you are likely to find the pro­tégé.

Af­ter all, it was the then Lord Roth­schild (Nathan Mayer, never short of a bob or two) who chose Joseph Her­man Hertz in 1913. It was the in­dus­tri­al­ist Robert Wa­ley Co­hen who chose Hertz’s suc­ces­sor, Is­rael Brodie, in 1948. Hertz and Brodie were both rab­bini­cal lightweights. But the for­mer ap­pealed to Roth­schild as a Bri­tish patriot (Hertz had been im­pris­oned by the Bo­ers) whilst the lat­ter was con­sid­ered a fine English gen­tle­man, Ox­ford ed­u­cated to boot.

Im­manuel Jakobovits was, ad­mit­tedly, an eru­dite, tal­mu­dic scholar. But even eru­dite tal­mu­dic schol­ars need pa­trons if they are se­ri­ous about con­tend­ing for the top job and Jakobovits was lucky enough to have one in the per­son of Sir Isaac Wolf­son.

As for Jonathan Sacks, as he dons the er­mine he may per­chance find a mo­ment or two to re­flect on the fact that he would prob­a­bly not be where he will be on that day had it not been for the pa­tron­age of Lord Kalms.

True, in 2004 Kalms called pub­licly for Sacks to step down. But re­mem­ber, way back in 1990-91 it was the sup­port of Stan­ley Kalms that guar­an­teed Sacks the Hamil­ton Ter­race job. Kalms ap­peared to have been mes­merised by the “in­clu­sivist” agenda that Sacks once pro­fessed but has long since aban­doned. Will Lord Kalms be tempted once more to act as the king­maker? If so, who might he want to put on the throne?

Naf­tali Brawer (Bore­ham­wood) seems to have some of the cre­den­tials Kalms might ad­mire (left­ish-of-cen­tre, strong on out­reach). Me­dia friendly Yitzchak Scho­chet (Mill Hill) has a rep­u­ta­tion as be­ing… well, me­dia friendly. Har­vey Belovski (Gold­ers Green) re­cently re­ferred to Re­form leader Tony Bay­field as “rabbi,” which puts Belovski to the left of Sacks (who, could only bring him­self to re­fer to the late Hugo Gryn as “Mr” Gryn) but might make him per­sona non grata with the Charedim. Shaul Robin­son and Yaakov Ker­maier both en­joy the ad­van­tage of cur­rently oc­cu­py­ing pres­ti­gious New York pul­pits.

The fash­ion­able Fifth Av­enue Syn­a­gogue (Ker­maier) has al­ready pro­vided one Bri­tish Chief Rabbi (Jakobovits). Shaul Robin­son (Lin­coln Square) has im­pres­sive sec­u­lar as well as rab­binic cre­den­tials — his MBA dis­ser­ta­tion was en­ti­tled: “The Work­ing Lives of Rab­bis.”

But of course Lord Kalms may no longer be the king­maker. That po­si­tion might well turn out to have been re­lin­quished to — say — Ger­ald Ron­son, or some as-yet uniden­ti­fied bil­lion­aire.

The Rus­sian-Jewish plu­to­crat Ro­man Abramovich is of course based in Lon­don (where he is build­ing him­self a home cost­ing ap­prox­i­mately £150 mil­lion) and might well be tempted by the pos­si­bil­ity of putting one of his Lubav­itch friends into Hamil­ton Ter­race.

Or, even more rad­i­cally, given Mr Abramovich’s own­er­ship of Chelsea Foot­ball Club, he could of­fer the post to Rabbi Blue.

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