Only two went to the vote

The Jewish Chronicle - - News -

health, re­ceived unan­i­mous sup­port for his el­e­va­tion to the post in his own right. Nonethe­less, this ap­point­ment high­lighted the dis­in­cli­na­tion to sup­port any sort of democ­racy in the elec­tion process of chief rab­bis. Al­though the re­cently formed Fed­er­a­tion was in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in the 1890 ap­point­ment — and ac­cept chief rab­bini­cal au­thor­ity — their rep­re­sen­ta­tives were not of­fered any sort of in­flu­ence over pro­ceed­ings. A blue­print of US dom­i­nance was es­tab­lished over the chief rab­binate at this junc­ture.

At the time of its for­ma­tion, the Lon­don-based US had ac­cepted re­sponsi- bil­ity for the chief rab­binate as part of its man­date. As­sum­ing the pri­mary fi­nan­cial bur­den for the post, a pre­sump­tion of broader con­trol fol­lowed. By 1913, when Joseph Her­man Hertz was ap­pointed as suc­ces­sor to the Ad­le­rian dy­nasty, the ex­tent of US con­trol over the process was demon­strated by the al­lo­ca­tion of just seven votes to all Manch­ester Jewry while Hamp­stead Synagogue was given 35.

Al­though an elec­tion was re­quired to se­cure Hertz’s ap­point­ment, de­spite pleas to al­low a unan­i­mous se­lec­tion to grant him the una­nim­ity that Her­mann Adler had en­joyed, the re­sult was a fore­gone con­clu­sion. Lord Rothschild, as US pres­i­dent, ap­pears to have felt that it was en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate for him to act as king­maker, and he pro­ceeded ac­cord­ingly. Iden­ti­fy­ing Hertz as a suit­able chief rabbi, it was Hertz who was duly elected.

The three sub­se­quent ap­point­ments of 20th-cen­tury chief rab­bis en­abled Robert Wa­ley Co­hen, Isaac Wolfson and Stan­ley Kalms to en­sure the se­lec­tion of their pre­ferred can­di­dates. Wolfson re­peat­edly as­sured the US that he would find some­one suit­able. Adamant that an elec­tion be avoided, he de­layed the se­lec­tion process while per­suad­ing his pre­ferred can­di­date to ac­cept the post. Fol­low­ing his rat­i­fi­ca­tion, though, Isaac Her­zog had to with­draw due to poor health, leav­ing Wolfson again to take com­mand, per­suad­ing Im­manuel Jakobovits to ac­cept the post.

One of the notable fea­tures of our cur­rent Chief Rabbi has been the pub­lic loss of faith his chief backer came to ex­press, which il­lus­trates just one of the many prob­lems of au­to­cratic ap­point­ments. Dr Freud-Kan­del lec­tures at the Ox­ford Cen­tre for He­brew and Jewish Stud­ies

PHOTO: JAMES GOURLEY

Lord Sacks: se­lected

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Her­man Adler: se­lected

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Joseph Her­mann Hertz: elected

Lord Jakobovits: se­lected

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