UK Chief Rabbi warned Dweck affair could split Orthodoxy

Dweck found himself in the middle of controversy last month after arguing that Judaism allows for two men to love each other despite its prohibition in the Torah.

July 1, 2017 17:01
2 minute read.
Britain's chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Britain's chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. (photo credit: TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS)


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The United Kingdom's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has been warned by a number of British rabbis that if he fails to remove a controversial rabbi from his position "he will be responsible for the splitting of Anglo-Orthodoxy."

Mirvis reportedly received a letter from “several Sephardi as well as Ashkenazi Rabbanim of London” Friday morning urging him to sack Rabbi Joseph Dweck following controversial comments he made regarding homosexuality, according to The Jewish Chronicle. 

The letter stated that “If Joseph Dweck is maintained in office as a rabbi, whether it is fully or even partially, in spite of all the letters received from highly respected Orthodox Rabbinical authorities in Gateshead and in Israel and worldwide, Chief Rabbi Mirvis should realize that he will be responsible for the splitting of Anglo-Orthodoxy and lose his credibility as a Chief Rabbi to a large consensus of Orthodox communities."

Dweck, leading rabbi of the S&P (Spanish and Portuguese) Sephardi Community in London, found himself at the center of a communal tumult last month after delivering a lecture in which he argued that Judaism allows for two men to love each other despite its prohibition in the Torah.

The senior rabbi latter sought to clarify his statements, saying that although some of his phrasing may have been “exaggerated,” he stands by his belief that a change in social attitudes had brought benefits by helping “society be more open to the expression of love between men,” The Jewish Chronicle reported.

Dweck's lecture was swiftly denounced by leading Sephardi rabbis in Britain and abroad. Rabbi Aaron Bassous, head of a Sephardi synagogue in Golders Green, called his comments "dangerous."

Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, who is Dweck's uncle by marriage, also stated that such views were "heretical" to Jewish law after responding to concerns raised by rabbis in America.

After weeks of attempting to mitigate the situation behind closed doors, a Mirvis spokesperson said that the UK chief rabbi would be assuming full "responsibility for bringing this episode to a suitable conclusion."

“As such, in the coming days, he will establish a dignified and appropriate format which will allow for concerns relating to a wide range of Rabbi Joseph Dweck’s teachings and halachic rulings to be considered and for a way forward to be set,” the spokesperson added.

That decision came after Yosef ceded responsibility to Mirvis in a letter published Thursday, writing “if he [Rabbi Mirvis] finds it necessary, he may appoint a Beth Din, or any other suitable format, which will enable him to bring the matter to a final resolution."

Mirvis has described the Dweck affair as "an urgent communal priority."

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