Only two went to the vote
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
Lord Sacks: selected
Herman Adler: selected
Joseph Hermann Hertz: elected
Lord Jakobovits: selected