Chief Rabbi steps in to take charge of Dweck affair

Sephardi leader in Israel backs Ephraim Mirvis in 'bringing this episode to a suitable conclusion'


Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has taken over responsibility for resolving the Dweck Affair and says he will bring the episode to "a suitable conclusion". 

In assuming control of what he termed "an urgent communal priority", Rabbi Mirvis has received the full backing of Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel.

The JC understands that Rabbi Mirvis has been working behind the scenes to achieve a settlement of the crisis in the community.

The affair was sparked last month when Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the senior minister of the S&P Sephardi Community, provoked outrage after making positive commments about homosexuality.

A spokesman for the Chief Rabbi said: “At the request of the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Chief Rabbi Mirvis, who considers this an urgent communal priority, will take responsibility for bringing this episode to a suitable conclusion.

“As such, in the coming days, he will establish a dignified and appropriate format which will allow for concerns relating to a wide range of Rabbi Joseph Dweck’s teachings and halachic rulings to be considered and for a way forward to be set.”

A letter sent by the office of the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel confirmed that Rabbi Yosef had “asked the Chief Rabbi of England to take it upon himself to settle this according to his understanding.

“And if he needs to he should appoint a Beth Din, or whatever else he feels appropriate – whatever he decides will be acceptable.”

Rabbi Yosef, who is Rabbi Dweck’s uncle by marriage, had previously asked Dayan YY Lichtenstein, head of the Federation of Synagogues’ Beth Din, to form a panel of dayanim to examine Rabbi Dweck’s views.

However the JC has learned that neither the Chief Rabbi or the London Beth Din were prepared to co-operate with the proposed panel.

The controversy began in late May, when Rabbi Dweck gave a lecture at Hendon’s Ner Israel synagogue. 

He told his audience that the Torah had very little to say about homosexuality, and that, although sexual intercourse between men was forbidden, men could love each other in other ways. He also said: “I genuinely believe that the entire revolution of feminism and even homosexuality in our society… is a fantastic development for humanity”.

However, the crisis subsequently deepened as critics challenged some of Rabbi Dweck's other halachic views.

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