By Simon Rocker
September 17, 2013
Now that Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has taken the decision to go to the Limmud conference himself, it will be interesting to see how many of his rabbis follow suit.
The dearth of central Orthodox rabbis at British Jewry’s most celebrated education event has long been a gripe among United Synagogue Limmud-goers.
While the floodgates might not quite open, expect an increasing Orthodox rabbis now to make the trip to Warwick University in December.
The London Beth Din clearly retains its doubts about the cross-communal event and is not about to give Limmud its blessing.
But, critically, the dayanim have indicated that they respect the chief rabbi’s viewpoint, even if they don’t share it.
Not that the boycott of Limmud by many rabbis has deterred US congregants from flocking there.
Some years ago, even the London Beth Din was willing to explore options that might allow them to approve the participation of Orthodox rabbis. It was suggested, for instance, that some special Orthodox-only speaker programme could be timetabled within the conference – a kind of Orthodox zone. But Limmud leaders at the time were unwilling to play ball, regarding that as against the open spirit of the event.
The details of Rabbi Mirvis’s appearance have yet to be finalised – when and on what he will speak.
I would be surprised if he were to go so far as to share an educational platform with a non-Orthodox rabbi.
When asked, for instance, in a BBC interview if he would set foot in a non-Orthodox synagogue, he trod cautiously around the question. “There are many ways in which we can express friendship and togetherness," he replied, "and as the incoming chief rabbi, I extend a hand of warmth and friendship to my colleagues who are in movements outside of the Orthodox movements.”
In his installation address he talked of the need for greater Jewish unity. His presence at Limmud will be widely welcomed as a step in the right direction.