Chief Rabbi Mirvis expected to attend Limmud

By Simon Rocker, August 30, 2013

Incoming Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has been consulting with his rabbinate over whether he should attend the Limmud winter conference.

Rabbi Mirvis, who will be installed as Chief Rabbi on Sunday, held talks with his rabbis on Limmud and other issues last month, although he is keeping his decision close to his chest.

If he should attend, it would be a significant break from his predecessor Lord Sacks, who refused to attend the cross-communal education event during his 22 years of office.

One United Synagogue rabbi, who did not want to be named, believed that Rabbi Mirvis is ready to set a precedent.

“I think he will go, although whether it is this year or not, I don’t know. There are strong feelings on both sides among rabbis but the balance has shifted in favour of going.”

Last week, Lord Sacks, when asked if he would now be willing to attend after leaving office, said that he had not given the question serious thought but added that he wanted to “leave the arena clear for my successor”.

So far only a minority of United Synagogue and regional Orthodox rabbis have been prepared to appear at the event. Those who object to it do so because of the presence of non-Orthodox rabbis teaching Torah.

One Limmud regular, Rabbi Michael Harris, of Hampstead United Synagogue, said: “It’s a place we need to be and I hope Rabbi Mirvis will be there.”

Another US rabbi, Barry Marcus, of Central Synagogue, saw no problem with Rabbi Mirvis attending. “I don’t see that Judaism has collapsed because Orthodox rabbis have gone to Limmud,” he said. “It’s become such a major issue whereas it shouldn’t be an issue at all.”

In 1995, Lord Sacks said that rabbis could attend Limmud at their own discretion but stayed away himself to avoid an open show of difference from his Beth Din, who opposed the participation of Orthodox rabbis.

Last updated: 8:45am, August 30 2013