THE CHIEF Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth — to give the post its full title — has sometimes been seen as our equivalent to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Just as the archbishop heads the Church of England, the state’s official church, so the chief rabbi leads UK’S largest Jewish denomination.
But with the growth of both non-Orthodoxy on the left and Charedi Judaism on the right, his position as the Jewish community’s pre-eminent religious spokesman has increasingly been called into question. Nonetheless, the Progressive movements have resisted the idea of setting up an alternative chief rabbinate, describing it as alien to their ideology.
There are three reasons why Reform Judaism does not need such a post, according to Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, principal rabbi of London’s North-western Reform Synagogue and chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK.
“Firstly, every Reform Jew is responsible for his or her own Jewish decisions. They look to their rabbis for guidance in the light of Jewish tradition, but not to decide for them,” he said.