Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis' to-do list
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Three members of the community outline priorities for the new leader:
Rabbi Sybil Sheridan
Chief Rabbi Mirvis has been installed in office on a tide of goodwill from the wider Jewish community. It is to be hoped he will not squander it by being drawn into petty politicking and pointless stands on principle.
The first thing he should do is announce his intention to go to Limmud, and encourage his rabbis to do the same. Limmud has proved itself over three decades to be the mainstay of Jewish learning and authentic religious inquiry in this country. His congregants are there — it is time to show them some leadership.
In addition, the lack of a religious outlet for women looks increasingly medieval. Israel and the United States have had women’s prayer groups for decades, while the little that happens here appears underground and furtive. Celebrate women’s learning, appoint more women as halachic experts and allow each shul to have a women’s minyan.
Finally, he should use his influence to ban metsitsa. There are other ways of drawing blood after circumcision. It is unnecessary, a serious health risk and puts Judaism into disrepute.
B’hatslacha, Rabbi Mirvis, Good luck.
Rabbi Sybil Sheridan is chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK
The United Synagogue faces the challenge of making traditional religion relevant in modern society.
Chief Rabbi Mirvis needs to turn his focus a little more inwardly to strengthen his own US constituency, while still maintaining dialogue with the Charedi and Progressive movements and encouraging inter-faith accord.
In the past few years, we have seen some excellent young rabbonim coming through and the United Synagogue’s intern programme has been very successful.
The Chief Rabbi needs to work closely with the rabbinate to ensure that they all, whether they have many years’ experience or are just starting off in their careers, obtain the support, mentoring and resources they need.
It is gratifying that so many of our children are now attending Jewish schools and the Chief Rabbi should foster a partnership between schools, synagogues and homes to encourage parents to understand what their children are learning and so have the ability to extend their Jewish education to family life.
Frances Grossman is chair of Belmont United Synagogue
Dr Ben Elton
I hope the new Chief Rabbi will make rabbinic education a priority. Jewish schools are becoming ever stronger in Torah studies. More and more young men will be drawn towards a life of learning and teaching in the rabbinate.
At the moment, they go abroad to study, to Israel and New York, where there is a good chance they stay, and British Jewry loses their talents.
The London School of Jewish Studies now enjoys dynamic leadership. The Montefiore Semichah Programme has made a great start in reviving rabbinic training in London. There are substantial scholars in the London Beth Din and United Synagogue who could teach rabbis-to-be.
The foundations are in place to make semichah in London a realistic option. It could go beyond basic ordination to include training in management, organisation and counselling.
Such opportunities would make the rabbinate far more attractive.
Dr Ben Elton is a historian of the British chief rabbinate and is studying for semichah in New York