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New course aims to train dayanim to be moderate

    A new course to train dayanim for diaspora communities is to launch in London next month, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

    Two of British Jewry's best-known Modern Orthodox rabbis, Michael Harris and Naftali Brawer, are among a dozen students from around the world who have signed up for the five-year part-time programme.

    Specialising in the areas of marriage, conversion and divorce, it will be run jointly by the Montefiore Endowment and Eretz Hemdah Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

    Rabbis from the United States, Australia and Holland are taking advantage of online learning to register as international students.

    Rabbi Harris, from Hampstead Synagogue, said: "It's a fantastic initiative for professional development and the more further qualifications rabbis have, the better. It raises the bar for the rabbinate."

    It's a fantastic initiative which raises the bar for the rabbinate

    Rabbi Brawer said "two drivers" prompted him. "One is to immerse myself in rigorous study in a structured format. The other is the opportunity to be of use and service to other Jews."

    Lucien Gubbay, chairman of the endowment, said it had "long aimed to create rabbinical leaders who are moderate and clear-headed in their approach. It follows Sephardi custom… approaching halachic decision-making with mildness and adopting the traditional view which stresses the middle way and avoids extremes."

    Another British participant is Rabbi Mendel Cohen, the Lubavitch-trained minister of the Saatchi Shul in London.

    The programme will operate under the leadership of Rabbi Yose Carmel, head of the kollel at Eretz Hemdah.

    Students will be expected to grapple with a detailed learning unit every week and while there will be face-to-face sessions for the UK participants, those from abroad will have an intensive week's study in Jerusalem each year.

    The endowment, which is funded from the estate left by the great Victorian philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore, is providing scholarships to help with tuition.

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