Louise Mensch backs Shmuley Boteach for Chief Rabbi

Supportive: Louise Mensch

Supportive: Louise Mensch

Conservative MP Louise Mensch has joined magic man Uri Geller in backing the American rabbi Shmuley Boteach to take over from Lord Sacks as chief rabbi.

Mrs Mensch, who is married to Jewish music manager Peter Mensch, said she owed Rabbi Boteach her "lifelong love of, and appreciation for, the Jewish faith".

Rabbi Boteach, who ran Chabad in Oxford for 11 years, is one of many names who have been tipped for the post when Lord Sacks retires next year. Last month at the Limmud conference he joked that it would be a step down because he had recently been voted "Intergalactic Chief Rabbi of the Milky Way".

Rabbi Boteach is unlikely to win support should he want the chief rabbi position, but Mrs Mensch said his candidacy "would add immensely to a vibrant debate within the UK as to the challenges and opportunities faced by British Judaism".

The Corby MP, known also as the author of several novels under her maiden name of Bagshawe, recalled that as a non-Jewish student at Oxford University, she went to see Rabbi Boteach. She asked to be allowed to join the Chabad L'Chaim Society - which invited speakers and held meals on Shabbat and festivals - and became its first non-Jewish member.

"He would be a strong challenge to the virulent bias against Israel, and the at times antisemitic minimising of Jewish suffering from terror attacks, that is perhaps the strongest challenge to the UK's Jewish community," said Mrs Mensch, in a letter to the JC.

She credited Rabbi Boteach with her first "concrete encounter with antisemitism", after hearing about an attack on his family home. Mrs Mensch, who last year was vocal in her criticism of the media coverage of the murder of an Israeli family, added: "At the time I was naive enough to be shocked that this was still a problem in modern Britain. No longer."

Last updated: 10:30am, January 13 2012