US consults members on next Chief

March 24, 2011
Just joking or statement of intent? Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet at Mill Hill shul’s Purim party

Just joking or statement of intent? Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet at Mill Hill shul’s Purim party

A former FA executive who was prominent in England's bid for the 2018 World Cup has been called in to assist consultations over the role of the next Chief Rabbi.

Simon Johnson, vice-chairman of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, will administer the consultation process on behalf of the Chief Rabbinate Trust, which is responsible for Lord Sacks' office.

United Synagogue president Simon Hochhauser, who is president of the trust, said a special meeting of the US Council in May would discuss the type of Chief Rabbi members wanted to see. A meeting would also be held in Manchester in the same month.

Discussions were additionally being held with leaders of Orthodox congregations and groups representing women, young people and rabbis.

"Interestingly enough, in the past the rabbonim weren't part of the election procedure for the Chief Rabbi, which is rather strange," Dr Hochhauser told a US Council meeting at Sutton Synagogue on Monday.

Lord Sacks is due to retire in two-and-a-half years, a few months after reaching his 65th birthday in March 2013.

He was elected by a body known as the Chief Rabbinate Council, composed of delegates from the United Synagogue, regional synagogues and Orthodox communities in the Commonwealth which recognise his authority. But the council was superseded by the trust, which has yet to decide exactly how his successor will be chosen.

In the past rabbonim weren't part of the election procedure

Dr Hochhauser said his own role was to draw up "a job description" for the next Chief Rabbi before he leaves office as US president in July after a maximum two three-year terms.

But he would not be involved in "discussion about candidates or put out feelers about candidates", he stressed.

That duty would be left to his successor. A contested election for US leader is already assured as both US vice-presidents, Peter Zinkin and Steve Pack, have thrown their hats into the ring.

Mr Pack, a former chairman of Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue, is a chartered accountant who works in the advisory business of PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Mr Zinkin, an ex-Golders Green Synagogue chairman, is a senior director with construction company Balfour Beatty.

Last updated: 2:41pm, March 24 2011