Plea for incoming Chief Rabbi to be British

By Jessica Elgot, December 15, 2011

Community representatives are keen to see a British rabbi take over from Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks when he resigns from the office in 2013.

The new chief rabbi will be a "spiritual leader", a "religious spokesman for Orthodox Judaism and on all matters affecting the Jewish community" and be an "advocate for Israel", according to the role's new job description.

It describes a new chief rabbi as having "courage of convictions and strong emotional intelligence" and "a warm, welcoming and engaging personality".

Overall, "it is recognised that the personality, background and experience of the successful candidate will heavily influence the manner in which the role and responsibilities of this important position are exercised."

More than 100 representatives from United Hebrew Congregations, United synagogues, and chairs of governors of Jewish schools debated the role of the Chief Rabbi at a meeting at Central Synagogue last week.

Representatives of Jewish Chaplaincy, London School of Jewish Studies and the London Board for Shechita, were also present, as were observers from the Federation and Spanish and Portuguese synagogues, Alan Finlay and Adam Musikant.

Chief Rabbinate Trust president Stephen Pack described the selection process and took questions from members. Key qualities representatives suggested included a focus on interfaith work and particular attention to Jewish education. Many of them expressed a desire to see a British rabbi take the pulpit.

Representatives from Plymouth, Bournemouth and Norwich synagogues expressed a desire to see the next chief rabbi take a close interest in small communities.

Mr Pack said: "We are delighted that so many people attended this meeting which forms a crucial governance role in the appointment of the next Chief Rabbi. We welcome the many insightful observations that were made and we have listened carefully to every contribution."

The position of the Chief Rabbi will be advertised in January. Nominees have been put forward to join the consulting group for the next stage of the selection process.

Nominees include Scottish supreme court judge, Lady Hazel Cosgrove; the former chair of the Jewish Marriage Council, Judge Dawn Freedman; treasurer of US Women, Dr Claire Lemer; Hendon Synagogue chair, Marc Meyer; and chair of LSJS Professor Anthony Warren.

Mr Pack added: "We are delighted that these excellent candidates have put themselves forward. We have here ample talent, young and old, and from a variety of constituencies."

Last updated: 2:43pm, December 15 2011