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Author(s): Freud-Kandel, Miri
Date: 2015
Abstract: Extract:

A striking feature of the debates associated with appointing a new chief rabbi in Britain at the end of the term of Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was a clear sense of the contribution the role makes to Jewish life both in Britain and more broadly. This was widely noted, also, in the specific praise and reflection on the achievements of the outgoing chief rabbi which accompanied his retirement. On both a national and international plane, the British chief rabbinate is perceived to have acquired a wide-ranging voice and influence. The reach of the office is seen to extend both to Jewish communities outside Britain and in a British context to the wider society beyond the Jewish community. The possibility of abolishing the post and replacing it with some sort of body that could serve in its place was given only the most cursory consideration.1 This was despite the fact that it is a role that has its origins in nineteenth-century Victorian Britain, when it was designed under Anglican influences to serve a very different community with markedly different needs.2 The instinct to retain the post in its current form also ignores the fact that the chief rabbinate itself has rather limited real powers, a product of its evolutionary development rather than being a particularly clearly thought out office from the outset. Moreover, the reality of the British chief rabbinate is that notwithstanding the varied types of “success,” however we may choose to define this notion, that different chief rabbis have enjoyed in Britain, it has also consistently been a cause of division and disagreement—as much a source of controversy as it has been a source for leadership and representation.
Author(s): Freud-Kandel, Miri
Date: 2006
Abstract: In 1991, just as Jonathan Sacks was acceding to the post of Chief Rabbi, the United Synagogue, the largest synagogal institution in British Jewry, commissioned a report entitled "A Time for Change". This report identified the significant difficulties in which many of the Orthodox institutions of British Jewry found themselves: the United Synagogue itself, the Chief Rabbinate, and the Bet Din - its religious court. It suggested that the root cause of the problems was a shift away from 'minhag Anglia, a celebration of the twofold blessing of being Jewish and British'. This work examines the thought and influence of the three Chief Rabbis whose terms in office have begun and ended during the twentieth century. It follows the theological shifts that have occurred amongst the religious leadership of Orthodox Judaism in Britain and assesses the influence of factors such as immigration and the so-called 'Jacobs Affair' in effecting these changes. The Jewish community in Britain provides a model of a religious minority group's attempt to secure its survival in the midst of a host society that espouses alternative values derived either from secularism or an alternative religious system.
Through an in-depth analysis of the theology of Chief Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz, this work identifies a paradigm that was established for Jews in Britain of a strong and confident Orthodoxy that champions interaction in the host society. The Chief Rabbinates of Israel Brodie and Immanuel Jakobovits were each influenced in different ways by the burgeoning influence of alternative models for Orthodox Judaism. This work considers how this facilitated the displacement of the community's fervour for unity with religious polarisation; and analyses how its religious leadership adopted a theology which seemed to call on Anglo-Jewry to forsake its ideology of meaningful interaction to secure its religious identity.