Let­ter from Mirvis seen as at­tack on fem­i­nist

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

A CON­FI­DEN­TIAL warn­ing by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis for rab­bis not to in­vite “in­ap­pro­pri­ate speak­ers” has been widely seen as a veiled at­tack on the ap­point­ment by one of his syn­a­gogues of an Ortho­dox fem­i­nist.

In a let­ter sent to United Syn­a­gogue rab­bis and chair­men this month, the Chief Rabbi stressed the im­por­tance of not host­ing speak­ers whose out­look “en­cour­ages prac­tices which run con­trary to our nor­ma­tive United Syn­a­gogue ap­proach”.

While the let­ter did not men­tion any names, a num­ber of rab­bis said they be­lieved it was a re­sponse to Hamp­stead Syn­a­gogue’s re­cruit­ment of Dina Brawer as scholar-in-res­i­dence.

Mrs Brawer, the UK am­bas­sador for the Jewish Ortho­dox Fem­i­nist Al­liance (Jofa), is the first stu­dent from Bri­tain to en­rol at Yeshi­vat Ma­harat in New York, which or­dains fe­male spir­i­tual lead­ers for Ortho­dox com­mu­ni­ties.

One US rabbi com­mented: “I don’t think that there is much doubt that the back­ground is what hap­pened in Hamp­stead.”

But he did not be­lieve the let­ter was an at­tempt to “quash the au­ton­omy of lo­cal rab­bis. Some­times that au­ton­omy has to be used ju­di­ciously.”

When asked to clar­ify if the let­ter was not di­rected at Mrs Brawer, the Chief Rabbi’s Of­fice de­clined to com­ment.

In the let­ter, the Chief Rabbi said he had is­sued the warn­ing in the wake of “a num­ber of re­cent de­vel­op­ments in our com­mu­ni­ties, which have caused me great con­cern”.

Hamp­stead’s rabbi, Dr Michael Harris, and Mrs Brawer would not com­ment.

Jofa’s UK branch has pub­lished a kit on recit­ing kid­dush to celebrate the Chief Rabbi’s Shab­bat UK next week­end.

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