A meeting of the committee responsible for finding the next Chief Rabbi broke up this week without being able to agree a name.
The six men and two women who have been conducting interviews on behalf of the Chief Rabbinate Trust met on Monday night to consider their options a year after the search officially began.
While the trust has steadfastly declined to discuss candidates, only one name is believed to be currently under active consideration: Finchley Synagogue’s Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, a former Chief Rabbi of Ireland.
The search committee’s choice, when they eventually make one, will still have to go for approval to a wider “consulting group”, which consists of 15 other representatives of central Orthodox communities.
A spokesman for the United Synagogue, which holds most of the seats on the committee, said: “There was a long and constructive meeting that reflected the importance of the decision. The committee will proceed to work through further stages of the process before making a recommendation to the consulting group. They propose to meet again shortly.”
But the time already taken to choose Lord Sacks’s successor was questioned at the weekend by a former chairman of the US Rabbinical Council, Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet. In an article on his Mill Hill Synagogue website, he declared: “Considering the great publicity this whole process has attracted, if the committee doesn’t make an imminent appointment, then this will weaken the very position of the future Chief Rabbinate. Indeed, should a present candidate get selected at a later point, it will also, by default, weaken his position…
“If a new Chief Rabbi is not announced very soon, then this selection committee is no longer credible.”
But one long-serving US rabbi, Barry Marcus, of Central Synagogue, said that there was “not a time issue”, given that Chief Rabbi Sacks was not due to retire until next autumn. “The process is difficult and complex,” he said. “We need to give the people entrusted with finding the right candidate support and encouragement in the hope that they will do so. They need to be absolutely certain they are doing the right thing.
“I don’t think there will be a vacancy. They know that in September next year there has to be someone in situ.”
Lord Sacks was appointed a year before his predecessor Lord Jakobovits was due to stand down.