Picking the Chief


By Simon Rocker
November 17, 2011
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The United Synagogue has, predictably, decided not to take the radical step of holding a ballot to elect its next Chief Rabbi after Lord Sacks retires in September 2013.

But it has set up an tripartite structure to make the selection process more representative of the Chief Rabbinate’s constituents and, notably, women will play a greater role than they did in previous years.

But there are two comments made by US president Stephen Pack, who also chairs the Chief Rabbinate Trust, when he announced how the Chief would be chosen this week which are worth noting.

Following a consultation exercise within the US and the regions, it emerged that the quality people most want in a Chief Rabbi is to be “a fantastic communicator” – someone, Mr Pack said, who could not only address the Orthodox sector but “be able to communicate on behalf of Anglo-Jewry”.

This is no great surprise but it does suggest that the selectors of the next Chief see him as a figurehead for the community as a whole. The non-Orthodox reaction will be interested.

There has been a lot of talk about having “a rabbis’ rabbi”, a phrase which is capable of meaning anything but, to some at least, suggesting someone more focused on internal Orthodox affairs than national issues.
Naturally, the next Chief will be expected to be someone the rabbis look up to.

But Mr Pack said: “We are not going to appoint someone who thinks it’s their job to override the dayanim because that is not the way the Beth Din works…We are not looking for wholesale revolution.”

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