Non-Sephardi could be next Sephardi religious leader

Members of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation are to be asked whether their next religious leader needs to be Sephardi.

Britain’s oldest Orthodox community will shortly renew its attempt to find a new spiritual head following the imminent retirement of Rabbi Abraham Levy, who has led it since 1980.

Rabbi David Bassous, the London-born head of a Sephardi synagogue in New Jersey, had been recommended to fill the post by the Spanish and Portuguese lay leadership. But he withdrew earlier this year after the result of a members’ vote to approve him was challenged.

The mahamad (executive) plans to hold meetings at three of its synagogues next month to gauge views on the way forward.

Members will be canvassed on whether they believe all candidates for the post should be Sephardi, or already possess knowledge of the customs and liturgy of the community.

One question will be whether the “religious background” of candidates matters.

Some objectors to Rabbi Bassous’s appointment believed that he was too right-wing for the job — although the leadership denied that was the case.

The mahamad has also announced plans to hold a series of events in the latter half of this year and 2013 to honour Rabbi Levy for his “long, dedicated and selfless service”.

Last updated: 5:19pm, June 21 2012