Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said he is “extremely concerned” at the public dispute that has erupted after last month’s controversial lecture on gay love by the senior rabbi of the S&P Sephardi Community, Rabbi Joseph Dweck.
His statement follows the intervention of one of the strictly Orthodox community’s most influential figures, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, who has suggested that Rabbi Dweck is not fit to serve as a rabbi.
Breaking his silence on the affair, Rabbi Mirvis said he was concerned “about the public fallout from the dispute concerning Rabbi Joseph Dweck which has been deeply divisive and damaging for our community”.
Sephardi leaders have also announced that Rabbi Dweck will step aside from any day-to-day involvement in the Sephardi Beth Din while they try to resolve the situation.
He said it was for the executive of the SPSC to “appropriately examine the broad range of issues which have arisen, while giving Rabbi Dweck the opportunity to address all matters directly and they must try to do this away from the glare of publicity which has already proved so harmful”.
He called on "all concerned to approach this issue with all due sensitivity and dignity, and to exercise responsible leadership in the best interests of the Jewish community.”
Rabbi Dweck was denounced a few weeks ago as “dangerous” by Rabbi Aaron Bassous, head of a Sephardi synagogue in Golders Green affiliated to the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.
The debate over Rabbi Dweck has been fuelled by vitriolic attacks on him made by rabbis abroad which have been broadcast online.
One London rabbi critical of Rabbi Dweck’s has said that objections go beyond the lecture on homosexuality but cover other issues including his discussion of Jewish law and approach to Torah interpretation.
In a letter to members of the SPSC on Wednesday, Sabah Zubaida, lay head of the congregation, said "a great deal of the criticism has been based on misunderstandings, some deliberate, and some not. However, Rabbi Dweck accepts that some of the criticism is justified and needs to be addressed within the wider rabbinical world."
Rabbi Dweck said he would "step aside" from the Beth Din "whilst we resolve the matter".