Re­form re­ject chance to choose Chief Rabbi

US leader sug­gests giv­ing non-ortho­dox a say, as JC calls for next chief to be elected

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY SI­MON ROCKER

THE MAN head­ing the search for the next chief rabbi wants to give the non-ortho­dox com­mu­nity a say in the ap­point­ment, in a bold ges­ture in­tended to se­cure com­mu­nal con­sen­sus over the po­si­tion.

Stephen Pack, the new pres­i­dent of the United Synagogue, says he would like to of­fer re­li­gious groups both to the right and left of cen­tral Or­tho­doxy a role in choos­ing Lord Sacks’s suc­ces­sor.

Ex­plain­ing his think­ing, Mr Pack said that he was con­scious that the chief rabbi was a “fig­ure­head in An­glo-Jewry. If we stretched our hand to other groups in go­ing through the [se­lec­tion] process, then that would make it eas­ier for the new chief rabbi to have a role in An­glo-jewry.”

He added that while mak­ing the of­fer seemed “the right thing to do”, he would not be sur­prised if the Pro­gres­sive move­ments de­clined it. “If they chose not to take it up, I would re­spect that,” he said.

Mr Pack says he in­tends to make the sug­ges­tion in a con­sul­ta­tion pa­per about choos­ing the next chief rabbi to suc­ceed Lord Sacks in Septem­ber 2013.

His plan is to set up two se­lec­tion pan­els with the aim of agree­ing an ap­point­ment by Rosh Hashanah 2012; an in­ner cir­cle of around seven peo­ple to draw up a short­list, in­ter­view can­di­dates and rec­om­mend a name; and then a larger rep­re­sen­ta­tive group of around 30 peo­ple who would be asked to rat­ify the choice.

It is on the rep­re­sen­ta­tive group where he sug­gests Charedi and nonOrtho­dox par­tic­i­pa­tion, along­side del­e­gates from Ortho­dox groups un­der the au­thor­ity of the Chief Rabbi and from other cen­tral Ortho­dox bod­ies such as the Fed­er­a­tion and the Span­ish and Por­tuguese Jews’ Con­gre­ga­tion.

But even if his ideas are ap­proved by his United Synagogue col­leagues, the non-Ortho­dox de­nom­i­na­tions ap­pear un­likely to jump at the of­fer to take part.

Re­form move­ment chair­man Stephen Moss said the ap­point­ment of the chief rabbi had been dis­cussed with Mr Pack’s pre­de­ces­sor, Si­mon Hochhauser, at a re­cent meet­ing of the com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tive com­mit­tee, a li­ai­son fo­rum for US and non-Ortho­dox lead­ers.

“We had a short dis­cus­sion on the per­sonal qual­i­ties any se­nior re­li­gious fig­ure should have, but other­wise all agreed that this was an in­ter­nal mat­ter for the US,” Mr Moss said.

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Lib­eral Ju­daism, said: “I can­not imag­ine any cir­cum­stances in which a Lib­eral Jewish rep­re­sen­ta­tive would be au­tho­rised to sit on a panel to se­lect the United Synagogue chief rabbi.”

But he added that “good, friendly and re­spect­ful” re­la­tion­ships had been built up with Dr Hochhauser. “If I were asked, I would rec­om­mend the US find some­body with an un­der­stand­ing of the plu­ral­ist na­ture of the Bri­tish Jewish com­mu­nity.”

Michael Gluckman, Ma­sorti ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said: “Un­til we have a chief rabbi ap­pointed by the whole com­mu­nity, who will gen­uinely val­i­date all Bri­tish Jewry, such a con­sul­ta­tion, while cour­te­ous, will serve no pur­pose.”

Be­fore Lord Sacks’s ap­point­ment in 1990, the Lib­eral move­ment asked the US whether there would be any con­sul­ta­tion but this was re­fused. In re­tal­i­a­tion, the Lib­er­als is­sued a state­ment to say that the Chief Rabbi would not “rep­re­sent us or speak on our be­half”.

Aaron Biber in his Tot­ten­ham bar­ber’s shop that was ran­sacked last week­end

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