United Synagogue 'don't want Chabad'

One of the United Synagogue's most high-profile rabbis, Yitzchak Schochet, says he has not applied to be chief rabbi, claiming that the US would not accept a Lubavitch candidate.

The Mill Hill Synagogue minister, in an article in today's JC, doubted whether he would even have got his present job today because of his Lubavitch background.

Rabbi Schochet questioned whether Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks would have been overlooked for the job if he had been "black" - a shorthand way of identifying Lubavitch followers.

"By virtue of my Chabad [Lubavitch] identity, a badge I wear with honour, I am black," he wrote. "Having served as chairman of the Rabbinical Council for three years, and vice-chair for three years prior, I am very aware of a definite bias against Chabad, both from within the Beth Din as well as the lay leadership."

A non-Chabad colleague had commented to him about the lack of Chabad candidates being selected for US congregations in the past few years, he said. "I've been told it's because there has not been anyone of substance forthcoming. I know that not to be true. I maintain it's because we're 'black.'"

Rabbi Schochet, who also argued that the establishment considered him too outspoken, has backed Finchley Synagogue's Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis to be the successor to Lord Sacks next year.

The deadline for applications for chief rabbi closed last week, with the first list of interviewees due to be drawn up by the end of the month. The chief executive of the United Synagogue, Jeremy Jacobs, has recently visited Israel and the USA to encourage rabbinical recruitment - although he would not say if he met any potential candidates for chief rabbi.

In 1994, the then president of the US, Seymour Saideman, acknowledged that there was concern within US ranks about the number of Lubavitchers entering the pulpit, saying that recruits from outside the Chasidic group were necessary for a more balanced rabbinate.

Last updated: 3:31pm, March 15 2012