Letter from Mirvis seen as attack on feminist
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.