US rabbi out of chief race

By Simon Rocker, November 6, 2012
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Rosenblatt

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Rosenblatt

The odds on the next chief rabbi coming from Britain shortened after an American rabbi tipped for the post said this week that he was not in contention.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Rosenblatt, of the Riverdale Jewish Centre, New York, who had met the selection panel, said on Monday that he was “not involved in the chief rabbi search”.

He added: “Like everyone else I will be waiting with interest to learn who will fill the gargantuan shoes of my mentor and friend, Lord Sacks.”

Two United Synagogue rabbis, Ephraim Mirvis of Finchley Synagogue, and Harvey Belovski of Golders Green Synagogue, are thought to remain in the running, while Rabbi Alan Kimche of the independent Ner Israel community of Hendon has also been interviewed for the job.

The Chief Rabbinate Trust hopes to announce a successor to Lord Sacks, who is due to retire next September, by the end of the year.

Asked whether it was now a foregone conclusion that the next chief would be a local rabbi, Stephen Pack, chairman of the Chief Rabbinate Trust, said: "As before, I am not commenting on any candidate but you can't assume that."

He said that he was "more concerned to get the right candidate than to adhere to an imposed timetable. But it is quite possible that we will get there by the end of the year."

In a poll of United Synagogue rabbis carried out by the JC earlier this year, Rabbi Mirvis emerged as the most popular candidate. But some rabbis also hoped that South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein could be persuaded to accept the role.

But last month Rabbi Goldstein told the JC: “I have not applied for the position of chief rabbi of Britain, nor do I intend to do so. My responsibilities and duties as chief rabbi of South Africa are my focus. The South African Jewry is one the world’s great Jewish communities and it is an exciting privilege to continue serving and as its chief rabbi.

“I look forward greatly to working closely with whoever is appointed as the new British chief rabbi as I have done for many years with Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, who has led British Jewry in such an inspiring manner.

“I look forward to continuing to foster the close ties between the South African and British Jewish communities, who share so much in common. May our two wonderful communities continue to work closely together in to strengthen world Jewry and, of course, the State of Israel.”

Last updated: 2:12pm, November 6 2012