United Synagogue president Stephen Pack said this week that no decision had been taken on the future of the Chief Rabbi’s residence in Hamilton Terrace after being quizzed on whether it would be put up for sale.
At a US Council meeting on Monday, St John’s Wood Synagogue representative Ronnie Lossos called for the retention of the premises in the prestigious St John’s Wood street.
Chief Rabbis have lived in Hamilton Terrace for more than a century, and at the current address since 1948.
But there has been speculation that Chief Rabbi-elect Ephraim Mirvis might opt to live further north-west in the Hampstead Garden Suburb-Hendon area, while the US would like to sell the St John’s Wood site and invest some of the proceeds in other projects.
Mr Lossos said after the meeting: “Hamilton Terrace is a particularly good address. It’s a lovely home with good entertainment rooms.
“In the same way, the Archbishop of Canterbury has Lambeth Palace and the Prime Minister Downing Street. They wouldn’t sell Buckingham Palace and say, ‘Your Majesty, you are going to have to move to Pimlico.’”
Mr Lossos said that while Hamilton Terrace was within walking distance of several United synagogues, it was still able to provide the Chief Rabbi with some degree of privacy to receive high-level guests. That might not be the case if he was based in a more populous Jewish locality. “If David Cameron came to dinner, everyone would know,” he said.
Mr Pack said on Wednesday: “We are still considering all the options, including the sale, retention and development of Hamilton Terrace.”
Several years ago Mr Lossos helped to raise around £4.5 million from donors to buy the freehold of the Hamilton Terrace residence and to renovate it shortly before the lease ran out it.
Conrad Morris, one of those donors, said the address was “the trademark for the Chief Rabbinate. It is important for the Chief Rabbi to have a West End address.”
Few of the Chief Rabbi’s meetings took place at his North Finchley offices, Mr Morris argued. “It would be a mistake from every point of view to give up ownership of the Hamilton Terrace site. I can’t see people shlepping to Totteridge or Hendon to have meetings.”
He said it had also been a mistake not to have put the St John’s Wood property into a separate trust to preserve it for the Chief Rabbinate.
Meanwhile, the United Synagogue has this week advertised for a chief executive to run the office of the next Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis.
The candidate will be expected to bring “diplomacy and discretion” to the position as well as “personal gravitas which commands respect”.