Rabbi David Bassous, the centre of a disputed election for the next spiritual head of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, has pulled out of the race.
Sephardi leaders announced last night that the London-born rabbi, who heads a congregation in New Jersey, had "requested that his name be withdrawn from consideration…at this stage".
A group of 20 members of the congregation, who harbour reservations about his suitability to succeed Rabbi Abraham Levy as head of Britain's oldest Jewish community, have contested the result of an election held last month for the position.
In a ballot of members of the S and P's four synagogues, Rabbi Bassous – who had been unanimously recommended by the executive and board of elders - polled 268 votes in favour to 134 against, exactly the two-thirds majority required by the constitution.
However, one of two ballot papers originally declared invalid indicated a no-vote, according to the rabbi's opponents, thus depriving him of his mandate.
In a statement to members, the mahamad [executive] of the congregation said: "After much deliberation, he has decided that the continued, public and very vocal animosity towards him by a small minority of the kahal [congregation] would make it very difficult for him to take our position, and would harm attempts at creating shalom in the community."
They also denounced "the vicious campaign" against Rabbi Bassous. "The contention – which some members of the group have made – that Rabbi Bassous was part of a 'charedi plot' to take over the community is a slur on the character of a good man and should be a cause of shame for all associated with the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation, " they said.