Jews the world as the Chief Rabbi

The Jewish Chronicle - - News -

Rabbi Si­don is a for­mer anti-Com­mu­nist dis­si­dent. On one oc­ca­sion a brawl broke out be­tween sup­port­ers of the two rab­bis in the Alt­neu. Com­mu­nity mem­bers started a cam­paign to oust Mr Jelinek and suc­ceeded, lead­ing to Rabbi Si­don’s reap­point­ment in 2005.

The Nor­we­gian chief rab­binate was cre­ated in 1999 when long-time Oslo min­is­ter Rabbi Michael Mel­chior, who com­muted from Is­rael, was elected to the Knes­set and there­fore un­able to oc­cupy a reg­u­lar pul­pit.

In­stead, the Nor­we­gians cre­ated a chief rabbi post — un­paid as Knes­set mem­bers can­not have a sec­ond job — es­pe­cially for Rabbi Mel­chior. Though he of­fi­cially serves four-year terms, it is the con­sen­sus that he will re­main in the post as long as he has time to con­tinue vis­it­ing.

In France, the chief rabbi is elected by the Con­sis­toire, the na­tional body which over­sees re­li­gious ser­vices to the main­stream Ortho­dox com­mu­nity. The ac­tual elec­torate is small – just 300 rab­bis. Lay rep­re­sen­ta­tives took part in the bal­lot in 2008 that saw Gilles Bernheim oust Chief Rabbi Joseph Sitruk from the post he had oc­cu­pied for the pre­vi­ous 20 years. But the process is far more open than in the UK. The con­test be­tween the two men was a pres­i­den­tial-style cam­paign with ad­verts in the Jewish press, in­tense can­vass­ing and vi­ral mar­ket­ing on so­cial me­dia.

At one point the cam­paign grew so heated that other Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions had to is­sue a state­ment call­ing for calm.

When it comes to real democ­racy, Tur­key sets an ex­am­ple to larger Jewish com­mu­ni­ties. In 2002, the gov­ern­ment changed the method of choos­ing the chief rabbi, re­garded as the Jewish com­mu­nity’s of­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive, from ap­point­ment by a Beth Din, to na­tional elec­tions.

Any male or fe­male mem­ber of the Jewish com­mu­nity over the age of 18 is el­i­gi­ble to vote. When Chief Rabbi Izak Hal­eva was re-elected last year, nearly 5,000 Turk­ish Jews cast their vote in syn­a­gogues around the coun­try.

Italy does not have a na­tional spir­i­tual leader, but each city chooses its own chief rabbi. Ric­cardo di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome, was cho­sen in 2001 by the 28-strong board of the city’s Jewish com­mu­nity.

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