The UK’s United Synagogue announced Monday that Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, a
long-serving communal rabbi in Britain, has been selected by the Orthodox
communal association to be its new chief rabbi.
Mirvis – who was selected
in a unanimous vote by some 30 members of the Consultative Committee of the
Chief Rabbinate Trust – will take over from current Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks,
who has held the post since 1991.
The UK’s chief rabbi, whose full title
is Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth,
represents the 65 member-synagogues of the United Synagogue association of
Orthodox communities in London, as well as some 80 provincial Orthodox
communities around the UK that recognize the authority of the chief rabbi but
are not formal members of the association.
Mirvis, 55, has served as the
communal rabbi of Finchley Synagogue in London for the past 16 years, and held
the position of chief rabbi of Ireland from 1984-1992.
Born and raised in
South Africa, Mirvis, a qualified shohet (ritual slaughterer) and mohel (ritual
circumciser), has spent much of his professional life in the UK and will take
office in September 2013 when Sacks steps down.
Peter Sheldon, chairman
of the Chief Rabbinate Trust and a former president of the United Synagogue,
told The Jerusalem Post that Mirvis would be a big gain for the Jewish community
in the UK, but a big loss for Finchley Synagogue.
“Rabbi Mirvis has had
an enormous impact in Finchley; he transformed what was frankly a dispirited and
ailing community into one of the most exciting and dynamic communities in the
UK,” said Sheldon.
He added that Mirvis’s skills as a communal rabbi
would help him strengthen the communal aspect of Jewish life in the UK, and that
he would seek to emulate his achievements in Finchley on a national
Regarding the challenges facing contemporary Jewish life and
Orthodox Judaism in the UK, Sheldon said that Mirvis has a modern Orthodox
outlook and would be able to deal with such issues with compassion and
understanding, while firmly applying the tenets of Jewish law.
criticized by several public figures within the UK Jewish community earlier this
year for opposing gay marriage.
He is, however, expected to maintain his
public presence and will continue to play a part in communal Jewish
Sacks is greatly respected by the Jewish community in the UK as
well as wider society. He is a member of the House of Lords, the upper house of
the UK’s parliament, has written numerous books on Judaism, religion and
society, and is a frequent guest on radio and television.
that there is no concern that Mirvis might be overshadowed by Sacks’s legacy,
explaining that the new chief rabbi would bring “a new perspective and abilities
to the public role.”
Mirvis’s previous position as chief rabbi of Ireland
and his experience liaising with government officials as well as church and
other faith leaders, is expected to keep him in good stead with regard to the
more public aspects of his new role.