Sephardi leaders dismay over rabbi split

Sephardi leaders have reacted with “dismay” to attempts to block the appointment of Rabbi David Bassous as their next rabbinic head.

The London-rabbi who heads a Sephardi congregation in the USA polled 268 votes in favour to 134 against in a ballot of members of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation three weeks ago – exactly the two-thirds majority needed to secure the post under its rules.

But those who oppose the choice of Rabbi Bassous say that one of two ballot papers classed as spoiled or doubtful actually indicates a no-vote, which if counted would deprive him of his necessary majority.

At a meeting last night, the S and P’s Board of Elders – which had unanimously recommended Rabbi Bassous to succeed Rabbi Abraham Levy as spiritual head – stood behind their choice.

In a resolution passed on Wednesday, they expressed “dismay” at “the arguments being put forward by a minority of the kahal [congregation] to derail the appointment of Rabbi David Bassous to our congregation despite the support of the overwhelming majority of the yehidim [members] in the ballot of 1 December already three weeks ago.

“We view with concern the possibility that the hiatus in appointment will encourage yehidim desirous of change to take matters into their own hands in a more radical way, as has already been intimated to us.”

They went on: “To avoid growing disharmony in the community the Board therefore requests Rabbi Levy – as our spiritual leader – to publicly urge both sides of this disagreement to enter into a dialogue before the end of the month to agree arrangements that will allow Rabbi Bassous to begin serving our community in conditions of harmony and co-operation, and to play a leading role in ensuring that this eventuality occurs.”

Last updated: 2:12pm, December 23 2011