Rabbi Tony Bayfield, the head of the Movement for Reform Judaism, is to step down six months earlier than expected at the beginning of January.
The leader of the movement since 1995, he had been due to retire at the end of June shortly before his 65th birthday, with executive director Rabbi Shoshana Boyd-Gelfand becoming chief executive - and the first female rabbi to be professional head of a British synagogue body.
But Rabbi Bayfield told members of the Reform council yesterday that the handover had gone so smoothly that he felt able to leave earlier.
“I’m ready and excited to get on with the next phase of my life,” he said.
Reform chairman Stephen Moss said that Rabbi Bayfield had been “itching” to get on with his post-retirement plans, which include devoting more time to writing,
especially on Reform philosophy and the theology of interfaith relations between Jews, Muslims and Christians.
But he will retain formal links with the movement with plans for him to become its honorary president in spring, representing it in particular on interfaith occasions.
Mr Moss said that Reform had made “tremendous strides thanks to the vision, commitment and leadership of Rabbi Bayfield”.
Rabbi Bayfield also pledged to help the movement with fundraising. “You will gather that I’m neither riding off into the sunset nor being sent to the knackers’ yard,” he reassured members.