CHIEF RABBI WILL CON­TINUE TO BE COM­PRO­MISED BY LON­DON BETH DIN

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment & Analysis -

Only some­one ig­no­rant of the Bri­tish Chief Rab­binate’s his­tor­i­cal re­la­tion­ship with the non-Ortho­dox move­ments could pos­si­bly be­lieve –— as United Synagogue pres­i­dent Stephen Pack ap­par­ently does — that these move­ments would re­spond pos­i­tively to be­ing given “a say” in choos­ing Lord Sacks’s suc­ces­sor, or in any way ac­cept the re­li­gious au­thor­ity of that in­cum­bent once he is elected.

It mat­ters not whether the new Chief Rabbi is elected, se­lected, self­s­e­lected or ap­pointed, nor whether the process is demo­cratic or au­to­cratic. Your ar­gu­ment ( JC, Au­gust 12) that an elec­tion would “re­move all the prob­lems at a stroke” is fal­la­cious if only be­cause, as spir­i­tual leader of the United Synagogue, Lord Sacks’s suc­ces­sor will re­main as be­holden to the Lon­don Beth Din as Lord Sacks is to­day.

The US’s claim to rep­re­sent “main­stream Ortho­dox” (though largely non-ob­ser­vant) mem­bers of the com­mu­nity runs counter –— and, willy-nilly, will con­tinue to run counter — to its prac­tice of look­ing over its shoul­der so as not to ap­pear any less Ortho­dox than those to its right.

The “re­li­gious direc­tion of the US,” to use Si­mon Rocker’s phrase, will be dic­tated more by that prac­tice than by any “greater in­flu­ence” that the new Chief Rabbi — like Lord Sacks be­fore him — might seek to wield.

Whether this is as it should be is an­other ques­tion but it nev­er­the­less re­mains a fact of con­tem­po­rary Jewish life. (Dr) Meir Per­soff Sh­muel Hanagid Street, Jerusalem, Is­rael.

One of the ar­ti­cles ( JC, Au­gust 12) con­cern­ing the se­lec­tion of the next Chief Rabbi re­ferred to the cur­rent con­sul­ta­tion process which I was in­vited to at­tend. It was clear from this process that it is the in­ten­tion that Rabbi Lord Sacks will con­tinue to rep­re­sent the com­mu­nity to the out­side world from his po­si­tion as a mem­ber of the House of Lords.

Lord Sacks has done a magnificent job in this re­gard; it is hard to imag­ine any­one who could do it bet­ter. How­ever, know­ing that these are the pa­ram­e­ters, will it de­ter some can­di­dates from ap­ply­ing? And what will hap­pen if the new Chief Rabbi and Lord Sacks can­not agree on an is­sue? We should not set our­selves up for any more com­mu­nity dis­agree­ments.

An­other ar­ti­cle re­ferred to the po­si­tion of women. De­spite this be­ing a burn­ing is­sue in the US, there was no sug­ges­tion that can­di­dates’ at­ti­tudes to the part to be played by women would fea­ture in the se­lec­tion proc- ess. It is es­sen­tial that more than a to­ken woman should be in­cluded on the ini­tial se­lec­tion com­mit­tee.

A third ar­ti­cle re­ferred to the part king-mak­ers have played in se­lect­ing a Chief Rabbi in the past. If the US elec­tions are any­thing to go by, it might ap­pear that Peter Shel­don, chair of the Chief Rab­binate Trust, may be po­si­tion­ing him­self for this role. I have noth­ing against Peter but, while I am not in favour of elect­ing the new Chief Rabbi, I do ob­ject to king-mak­ers.

I urge your read­ers to write to the US with their views on these and any other mat­ters that they feel should be con­sid­ered. Anne God­frey Hamil­ton Ter­race, Lon­don NW8

We have to find a way to re­place a Chief Rabbi if we find that we’ve cho­sen the wrong man. UK em­ploy­ment law is mov­ing to­wards no en­force­able re­tire­ment age.

One ben­e­fit of an elected Chief Rabbi is that the suc­cess­ful can­di­date could be sub­ject to re-elec­tion and be re­placed. The only other so­lu­tion is to ap­point an old man in the hope that the Almighty will in­ter­vene if he goes rogue. They’ve been do­ing this in Rome for years. Gabriel Her­man news.search@vir­gin.net

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