CHIEF RABBI WILL CONTINUE TO BE COMPROMISED BY LONDON BETH DIN
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 email@example.com