United Synagogue undecided on Chief Rabbi successor

By Simon Rocker, December 6, 2012
Rabbi Lapin: in and out

Rabbi Lapin: in and out

United Synagogue rabbis are concerned about the delay in appointing a chief rabbi to succeed Lord Sacks next autumn.

It is two years since Lords Sacks’s planned retirement was announced and more than a year since the Chief Rabbinate Trust officially launched the recruitment process.

The question of the succession was discussed at a meeting of the Rabbinical Council of the US on Monday.

RCUS chairman Rabbi Baruch Davis, who has acted as an adviser to the search committee set up by the trust, said that his colleagues “would like the process brought to a speedy conclusion”.

While some members of the committee are thought ready to recommend Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis of Finchley Synagogue as chief rabbi, others have been in favour of continuing to scour the globe for other potential candidates.

I am ideally positioned for this office

- Rabbi Lapin

Although Rabbi Mirvis’s name did not crop up at Monday’s meeting, Rabbi Davis ventured: “He would enjoy a lot of support, I am quite sure of that.”

One of the world’s best known modern Orthodox rabbis, Shlomo Riskin, asked whether he had been approached by the US, would only say this week: “I can only tell you that I am extremely fulfilled in my present position as Chief Rabbi of Efrat and Chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Institutions.”

But while the search committee pondered its next move, one rabbi did announce that he had thrown his hat into the ring.

Rabbi David Lapin, 62, who served in South Africa before moving to the USA, told followers of his website, iawaken, last Friday: “A number of colleagues and communal leaders urged me to allow my name to be put forward. Their view was that there are few rabbinic leaders today who can span the very wide spectrum both of the community and of issues that face the community, and that considering the needs of the Jewish people in English-speaking countries at this point in time, I am ideally positioned for this office.”

He added: “Knowing that some exceptional rabbis who applied for the position and having other commitments at this time, I initially declined. Later however, after being advised that an application from me would be welcome even though the process was already near completion... I reflected for a long time and after Succos put allowed my name to go forward.”

Rabbi Lapin — a cousin of a member of the search committee, Manchester’s Shimmy Lopian — said that his recent meeting with United Synagogue leaders had been “warm and generated a high level of interest”, although he did not yet “know officially whether they want to put a hold on their process to explore my candidacy fully.”

But this week he indicated that his offer to serve was not being pursued.

Last updated: 6:45pm, December 6 2012