Sephardi leaders select new senior rabbi

Sephardi leaders have picked the man they want to be their new senior rabbi – 15 months after the previous candidate for the top pulpit post pulled out amid bitter rifts in the UK community.

Rabbi Joseph Dweck, 37, who has led Congregation Shaarei Shalom in New York since 1999, studied in Jerusalem and received his ordination from former Israeli Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

To clinch the job, he must secure a two-thirds majority in a ballot of members of the four synagogues of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation to be held next month.

In January 2012 the executive’s choice to be spiritual head of the congregation, Rabbi David Bassous, from New Jersey, withdrew his candidacy after an extraordinary dispute.

Although he just polled the necessary majority – by 268 votes to 134 – objectors argued that one spoiled ballot paper was actually a no-vote, which would have deprived him of his mandate.

Rabbi Dweck, who was born in Los Angeles of Syrian extraction, will arrive here at the end of the month for a week-long visit ahead of the members’ vote.”

Alan Mendoza, who led the selection process, said that Rabbi Dweck had “shown himself to be a leader of vision, substance and charisma over the course of his career in the US. His communal and educational building achievements speak for themselves and are testimony to the high regard in which he is held.”

Rabbi Dwek is married to a granddaughter of Rabbi Yosef, Margalit, and they have five children.

As well as leading an 800-member community, he is also a chazan and the head of the Barkai Yeshivah school in Brooklyn.

David Ereira, a trustee of the Spanish and Portuguese, said; "It will be down to his performance on the day whether he attracts the vote. But I'd be very suprised if he doesn't.

"He is charming, young and understands the Sephardi community internationally.He will certainly understand the Sephardi community in the UK and I hope he will be able to unite a lot of the Sephardi congregations which are currently independent."

Dr Mendoza hoped that members would share the belief the selectors that Rabbi Dwek "will be able to write a glorious new chapter in our community's history”.

Rabbi Abraham Levy retired as spiritual head of the congregation in July but the leaders decided appointing anyone with the same title and opted for a “senior rabbi” instead.

Last updated: 11:03am, April 10 2013