The mainstream Orthodox community in Britain is starting the process of finding a new Chief Rabbi, to replace Lord Sacks who retires in 2013. The job only comes up every 20-30 years and a new Chief Rabbi is usually 40-50 when he takes office, so many potential Chief Rabbis are disqualified by being the wrong age when the post is available. Usually when the office does become vacant there are a number of realistic candidates, and it’s interesting to speculate about the might-have-beens. When R Nathan Marcus Adler became Chief Rabbi in 1845 another candidate was R Samson Raphael Hirsch. In fact R Hirsch was at one point agreed upon as a compromise candidate. If R Hirsch had gone to London instead of Frankfurt both Anglo-Jewish and German-Jewish history could have been very different. R Hirsch would never have become involved in the question of Austritt – it simply was not an issue in London where the Jewish community was not a state institution but a voluntary association. Without R Hirsch in Frankfurt German communities might have remained united and R Hirsch would be known primarily for his commentaries, philosophy of mitzvot and Torah im derekh erets.

British Chief Rabbis Who Never Were

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Guest post by Ben Elton

Dr Ben Elton is a Civil Servant in the British Government and the author of Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the Religious Character of Anglo-Jewry 1880-1970 (Manchester University Press 2009). In 2011-12 he will be a Visiting Scholar in the Hebrew and Judaic Studies Department at NYU.

The mainstream Orthodox community in Britain is starting the process of finding a new Chief Rabbi, to replace Lord Sacks who retires in 2013. The job only comes up every 20-30 years and a new Chief Rabbi is usually 40-50 when he takes office, so many potential Chief Rabbis are disqualified by being the wrong age when the post is available. Usually when the office does become vacant there are a number of realistic candidates, and it’s interesting to speculate about the might-have-beens.

When R Nathan Marcus Adler became Chief Rabbi in 1845 another candidate was R Samson Raphael Hirsch. In fact R Hirsch was at one point agreed upon as a compromise candidate. If R Hirsch had gone to London instead of Frankfurt both Anglo-Jewish and German-Jewish history could have been very different. R Hirsch would never have become involved in the question of Austritt – it simply was not an issue in London where the Jewish community was not a state institution but a voluntary association. Without R Hirsch in Frankfurt German communities might have remained united and R Hirsch would be known primarily for his commentaries, philosophy of mitzvot and Torah im derekh erets.

R Adler created an acculturated Orthodoxy in London to attract Westernised members of the community, and it is likely that R Hirsch would have done the same, just as he did in Frankfurt. R Hirsch would not have created Jews’ College as a Wissenschaft inclined institution for training ministers, because unlike R Adler he was firmly opposed to Wissenschaft. In Germany, this caused a split between Independent Orthodoxy in Hirschian, anti-Wissenschaft Frankfurt, and Berlin, where intellectual life focused on the Wissenschaftlich Rabbinerseminar. Those ruptures would have been prevented.

Another candidate for the Chief Rabbinate in 1845 was R Benjamin Tsvi Auerbach, who also opposed much Wissenschaft activity. He attempted to refute R Zacharias Frankel’s Darkei HaMishna in Hatsofeh al Darkhei HaMishna. Had either R Hirsch or R Auerbach come to London a leading agitator against Wissenschaft would have been removed from the German-Jewish scene.

There was no doubt that R Hermann Adler would succeed his father in 1890, but there was an open race when R Adler died in 1911. The job went to R Joseph Herman Hertz, but there were a number of fascinating alternatives. Solomon Schechter sounded Mordecai Kaplan out about the post. Kaplan had yet to make his heterodox views know, and Schechter said later he would not have encouraged Kaplan had he been aware of them. In any case, Kaplan declined to enter the race. The mass of Anglo-Jewry was never particularly theologically inclined, but Kaplan’s radical views would have been too much, even in phlegmatic England. It would likely have been a short incumbency.

Another American candidate was R Bernard Drachman. R Drachman was a graduate of R Frankel’s Seminary in Breslau and a founder of the JTS who later broke with the institution and taught for many years at RIETS. R Drachman alienated almost everyone on his visit to London by refusing to eat the food in a home of a United Synagogue minister and disdaining to speak Yiddish in the East End.

The leading British candidate was R Moses Hyamson. When he lost, he took R Hertz’s job at Congregation Orach Chayim in New York and became Professor of Codes at the JTS, where he remained until 1940. He gave some Orthodox credentials to the Seminary even as Conservative Judaism emerged as something distinctive and the JTS became its intellectual centre. Had R Hyamson not been around and the Seminary faculty become more homogenously non-Orthodox from an earlier date the JTS and the Conservative Movement might have developed in a different way.

Hertz died in 1946 and was succeeded by R Israel Brodie in 1948. R Brodie had the advantages of modern and traditional scholarship, oratorical skills and two good wars as a Chaplain. He was also helped by the other major candidate, R Louis Rabbinowitz, comprehensively blotting his copybook. R Rabbinowitz came from a distinguished rabbinical family, was already Chief Rabbi of South Africa and had also been a British Army Chaplain. But as a fervent supporter of Zev Jabotinsky, he publicly threw away his medals in 1947 in protest at the policies of the British government in Palestine. It was a courageous act, but one that would prevent him from ever becoming part of the British Establishment, unlike the Oxford educated R. Brodie.

Another name mentioned was R Joseph Soloveitchik, but when word reached London that he could not use a knife and fork properly (i.e. he ate in the American manner), he was ruled out as ineligible.

When R Brodie retired in 1965 he was succeeded by R Immanuel Jakobovits, but just a few years earlier R Jakobovits was far from the most likely candidate. Ten years before, many others would have been much the better prospect. R Kopul Rosen, graduate of the Mir, brilliant preacher and charismatic leader had been considered too young in 1946. Tragically, he died of Leukaemia in 1962.

Louis Jacobs, star of the Gateshead Kollel, outstanding teacher and popular rabbi of the New West End Synagogue revealed his non-Orthodox views in increasing detail from 1957, and by 1964, as the Jacobs Affair reached its climax, had set up his own congregation outside the United Synagogue. Had he kept quiet for another 10 years, until he was safely ensconced as Chief Rabbi, Anglo-Jewry might have become an outpost of American Conservative Judaism.

R Joseph Soloveitchik was more seriously considered in 1965 and would have transformed Jewish intellectual life in London, but made it clear he was by this point profoundly uninterested in the post. The search settled on Yaakov Herzog, son of Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, non-practising rabbi, senior Israeli civil servant and diplomat. Herzog accepted, but when he too was struck down by an illness he withdrew. He died in 1972. It had been hoped that his diplomatic skills would help heal the community after the Jacobs Affair. As it happens, R Jakobovits’ decision to end open hostilities did the job just as well.

R Jonathan Sacks was the outstanding and effectively unchallenged candidate in 1991. He was the Principal of Jews’ College and the favourite of Stanley Kalms, a major financial backer of the United Synagogue. The situation today is different. Half a dozen names have been mentioned, from Britain and further afield. Whatever man the Chief Rabbinate Council chooses they will create a whole new series of counter-factuals as the disappointed candidates return home to think about how they would have done the job.

About Ben Elton

90 comments

  1. I found the views of the author in his recent JC piece to be more interesting and germane for a country with fewer than 300,000 Jews (of which no more than 60% affiliate with the Chief Rabbi’s United Synagogue).

    http://www.thejc.com/judaism/judaism-features/50017/what-do-we-want-next-chief-rabbi

    Most particularly:

    “The new Chief Rabbi should work with the London Beth Din so that their rulings are tailored to the community, understanding the need for leniency whenever possible, so that halachic observance is a realistic option for people who do not consider themselves frum, even if others wish to be more strict.

    Finally, he should be able to articulate his vision for the community and to others in the Jewish world, from the most to the least traditional. We no longer need to maintain boundaries so watchfully, because in today’s Anglo-Jewry we are not going to confuse what is Orthodox, Masorti, Reform and Liberal, and which body stands for which theology. That means we can deepen relationships of mutual respect between the religious and lay leaderships without fear of betraying our principles. In that way, he will gain the confidence of Anglo-Jewry, strengthen Orthodox Judaism and gain the respect of the wider world too.”

    Indeed, this is sound advice for the US and Israel as well.

  2. as i read the post i couldn’t stop thinking back to the “What If” series of comic books

  3. It’s definitely not sound advice for the U.S. For Sephardic communities in Israel, maybe; probably not for the other 17 different sects. For Britain, well, they have a very different community than the U.S, to say the least.

  4. Burden of proof is on you here, actually. But for the sake of not being irritating, the number one reason why that advice is important for Britain’s Chief Rabbi is because the British community is far, far smaller. That means that being Halakhic is much harder, and that maintaining cooperation across denominations is much more important. Similarly, religion is under attack in Britain, which means interfaith work is very important. Finally, non-Orthodox Judaism is very very weak in Britain, so most of the reasons not to follow such advice aren’t really applicable. Now keep in mind, all of that is just one reason. I didn’t go into the specific state of US Orthodoxy, which comprises something like another 5 reasons.

    Now, I suspect that your reason why such advice *is* important involves the phrase “fetishization of Halakha” a lot. That’s not a reason to adopt that policy – that’s a Hashkafic argument. But even someone who agrees with Steve Brizel most of the time (and I can assure you he doesn’t think that stuff would be good for the US) can agree that Britain is suited for a Chief Rabbi described in that paragraph.

  5. Mordechai Kaplan as chief rabbi? Why would anyone think this was an actual possibility. He had only been given smicha in 1908 and was a very young rabbi. As Ben says himself this job generally went to someone in their 40s-50s, not someone who was just 30.

  6. Rabbi Harvey Belovski will most likely be the next Chief Rabbi, and he’s a great candidate. Learned, educated, articulate, sensible. One of the rare people that can be appreciated by all sectors.

  7. Shachar Ha'amim

    Great post! – but why didn’t you mention the alternate candidates when Rabbi Sacks was elected? e.g. Rabbi Norman Lamm was one of them.

  8. Whoever replaces R’ Sacks, will the BBC let him speak for twice as long as the Queen and Archbishop of Canterbury (the only other two people given the chance to address the nation yearly via TV)?

  9. IH, I want to introduce you to a line from the gemara which you presumably have never seen before, because every single comment of yours contradicts it.

    לעולם הלכה כבית הלל והרוצה לעשות כדברי בית שמאי – עושה, כדברי בית הלל – עושה; מקולי בית שמאי ומקולי בית הלל – רשע; מחומרי בית שמאי ומחומרי בית הלל – עליו הכתוב אומר (קהלת ב,יד) ‘הכסיל בחשך הולך’, אלא אי כבית שמאי – כקוליהון וכחומריהון, אי כבית הלל – כקוליהון וכחומריהון

  10. Shachar Ha’amim: Thank you. In 1991 R Lamm was only one year short of the retirement age for Chief Rabbi, so was not a realistic candidate.

    Shlomo: Your objection to IH is really to my line ‘need for leniency whenever possible’. The ‘whenever possible’ part is important, i.e. leniency within the limits of halakhic propriety.

  11. I think a more interesting question is where R’ Sacks is headed. Some signs indicate to me that he may me headed to Norman Lamm’s position. Isn’t he leaving five years before he must?

  12. Ben – No, the gemara’s example of “leniency whenever possible” is Beit Hillel.

  13. Shlomo — Here’s another on the same subject:

    שלוש שנים נחלקו בית שמאי ובית הלל
    הללו אומרים הלכה כמותינו
    והללו אומרים הלכה כמותינו
    יצאה בת קול ואמרה
    אלו ואלו דברי אלוהים חיים הן
    והלכה כבית הלל
    וכי מאחר שאלו ואלו דברי אלוהים חיים
    מפני מה זכו בית הלל לקבוע הלכה כמותן
    מפני שנוחין ועלובין היו
    ושונין דבריהן ודברי בית שמאי
    ולא עוד שמקדימין דברי בית שמאי לדבריהן

    מסכת עירובין י”ג ע”ב

  14. “Another name mentioned was R Joseph Soloveitchik, but when word reached London that he could not use a knife and fork properly (i.e. he ate in the American manner), he was ruled out as ineligible”
    Purim Torah?

    “R Joseph Soloveitchik was more seriously considered in 1965 and would have transformed Jewish intellectual life in London,”

    Cmon how much did the Rav transform life in Boston-he added a lot like his Saturday night lectures but what percentage went to them-a few hundred-maybe 1 in every 400 Jewish Bostonians.

  15. Shlomo – Uh, no. That’s the example in that context. To say otherwise makes little sense since Beit Hillel/Beit Shammai actually only talk about a relatively limited range of subjects. Believe it or there were actually Tannaim (and even Amoraim!) after Beit Hillel.

  16. Shachar Ha'amim

    Ben – as far as I can recall, R. Lamm did travel to the UK to “interview” for the position. It was taken a bit more seriously than the recent nomination of Stanley Fischer for the head of the International Monetary Fund when he was already over the maximum age, and the board of deputies were at least willing to consider changing the requirement. In the end, age did play a factor in the decision, but it wasn’t something that didn’t let the candidacy get off the ground

  17. Jon — the challenges to Modern Orthodoxy in Britain, the US and Israel are more similar than dissimilar. Few are moving from Orthodoxy to a more liberal denomination, they are becoming unaffiliated with any denomination.

  18. IH: Presumably you are hinting that I should accept the legitimacy of your position just as you accept the legitimacy of mine. But that’s exactly the point – I accept the legitimacy of both BH and BS (or more to the point, of this generation’s equivalents), but not your position, since you are neither BH nor BS, but you choose between their opinions based on convenience.

    Jerry: That’s the example in that context.

    I don’t understand – please explain what your “thats” refer to.

  19. Shlomo — tachlis, where do you follow Beit Shammai using normative halacha — since you raised this issue?

  20. FTR, I have no issue with someone taking on Chumrot for themselves (within the bounds of halacha). Judaism even tolerates Nezirut, after all.

    What I object to, is when people mandate their chumrot on everyone else and de-legitimize the “Beit Hillel” approach (e.g. on conversion, as per our recent debates).

  21. Shlomo — finally, to put your (unattributed) Masechet Chullin quote from 5:37am in context, see: http://www.shemayisrael.com/dafyomi2/chulin/insites/ch-dt-044.htm. The appropriate volume of Chiddushai Ran is available on HebrewBooks (pp. מה bottom and continuing into מו).

  22. “What I object to, is when people mandate their chumrot on everyone else and de-legitimize the “Beit Hillel” approach (e.g. on conversion, as per our recent debates.”

    Not to poison the well…well, to poison the well, I note your constant refrain of Beit Hillel has Judith Hauptman echoes. Interesting.

  23. Actually, Rafael, I would recommend R. Telushkin’s newish Hillel: http://www.thejewisheye.com/jt_hillel.html

  24. IH: The new Chief Rabbi should work with the London Beth Din so that their rulings are tailored to the community, understanding the need for leniency whenever possible, so that halachic observance is a realistic option for people who do not consider themselves frum, even if others wish to be more strict.

    From what I understand, due to the makeup of the London Beth Din no chief rabbi will be able to accomplish this. I would not support such a “no frills” Judaism, kal va-chomer a beis din that follows Rav Elyashiv.

  25. In all fairness, the LBD are caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand there is the desire from the left/centre for them to push a more accomodative line – on the other, they get it over the head from the right whenever they even hint at doing so. Part of me thinks that they should stop paying attention to critique from the right, although this is not only unfeasible, due to the fact that the dayanim are themselves denizens of those rightist communities, but it is probably also undesirable, because some semblance of communal unity is worth a bit of annoyance, and there are often ‘get-out’ clauses for those who need them (eg the CR’s statement on organ donation/brain death – “We feel the best way forward is that we should inform the community there are voices this way, there are voices that way. If they want the view of the London Beth Din, it is this, but ultimately there’s a matter of individual conscience”).

    Additionally, there are many who are in between the two communities who have benefit tremendously from the LBD’s services, whether in terms of hechsherim or eruvin; a shift to the left by the LBD would make them easier targets, and thus diminish their credibility amongst the ‘gray’ middle, who would probably have the most to loose. This is not merely a matter of convenience – it plays a crucial role in holding the balance within Anglo-Jewry, although admittedly it is very useful for those in that ‘gray’ middle, when seeking to justify why they either use a particular eruv or frequent restaurants under the LBD hechsher, to be able to point to long-bearded Brisk/Ponevezh educated rabbi under whose auspices such things are run.

  26. Erratum: in the “Rav Soloveitchik and the Jacobs Affair” thread I mentioned that I do not recall any reference to this [Yaacov Herzog] in the excellent biography of Yaacov Herzog by Michael Bar-Zohar. Now that I see a second reference here, I manually checked and found it on pp. 258-262 and it is an extraordinary story indeed!

  27. regrding the comments above of beis hillel = meikil and beis shamai = machmir, r. steinzaltz frames it differently in book his “talmudic images” as beis hillel = realistic and beis shamai = perfectionist (or idealistic?). after thinking about it for a while i’m not sure if his depiction is really substantively different than our way, or a matter of semantics. but it was a good read and pause (many) for thought

  28. not that anonymous

    IH on July 4, 2011 at 8:31 am
    “Shlomo — Here’s another on the same subject:”

    And as those who follow this blog know, this quote describes IH perfectly!

  29. IH wrote:

    ” I have no issue with someone taking on Chumrot for themselves (within the bounds of halacha). Judaism even tolerates Nezirut, after all”

    That’s wonderful-but the Talmud and Rishponim are replete with many instances where taking on chumros are praised, became normative halachic practice and are indeed seen as as a manifestation of Ahavas HaShem because one goes beyond what is required MeIkar HaDin. As far as Nezirus is concerned, Chazal describe the same either as a Choteh or a Kadosh. RMR offered the following reconciliation in a shiur on Chanukah on why the well known heter of Tumaah Hutraah BTzbiur wasn’t relied upon-in a normal atmoshere where the Derech HaMemutzah is operative, one can rely on such a principle. However, when starting from scratch and trying to rebuild from a religiously contaminated atmosphere which was the case after the rededication of Bayis Sheni, taking on Chumros is the only acceptable way of getting back to the status quo ante.

  30. See R Zevin’s Lor HaHalacha Pages 202-210 for a discussion of the views of BH and BS, as reflecting what is the potential vs the actual.

  31. not that anonymous

    Dan on July 4, 2011 at 12:53 am
    “Rabbi Harvey Belovski will most likely be the next Chief Rabbi, and he’s a great candidate. Learned, educated, articulate, sensible. One of the rare people that can be appreciated by all sectors.”
    I thought R’ Belovski is just a Shul Rabbi. Not that there’s anything wong with that; I just thought that to be considered for the job one had to be more of a public figure.

  32. Interestingly, R. Belovski is a graduate of the profoundly charedi Gateshead yeshiva (in addition to his degree from Oxford). He seems to have a good relationship with its leadership too, as noted here: http://www.rabbibelovski.co.uk/a-torah-haven-in-the-geordie-heartlands

    It will be extremely interesting to see how the appointment of such a man to the position of CR will impact the relationship between ‘mainstream’ orthodoxy and the ‘right wing’. I’m not sure that the right wing is too interested in having anything but a ‘kiruv’-style relationship with the organisations to the left of it, and the fact that R. Belovski comes, to a certain extent, from the yeshiva world, may lead to greater tension when he inevitably disappoints them by doing something awful like acting respectfully towards a non-orthodox rabbi.

  33. Well, R. Belovski seems to have a nice retort to Steve Brizel on July 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm:

    “Although we no longer have the vow of the nazir, its principles are certainly germane today. Stringencies – in Hebrew, חומרות – are very much in vogue in the religious world. While in the right circumstances, the implementation of carefully-selected stringencies can stimulate genuine spiritual growth, it is regrettably common for them to little more than a type of destructive halachic one-upmanship. The passage of the nazir provides a stark lesson – one must always question one’s motivation when adopting voluntary religious responsibilities. The Torah requires us to develop the self-awareness needed to distinguish between a genuine desire for spirituality and ‘keeping up with the Cohens’.”

    http://www.rabbibelovski.co.uk/sermon-notes-030611-naso

  34. Steve b. – you realize that it’s pure derash – on the tumah part- nothing to do with reality. The rest is the philosophy of r’ kotler and the CI – the charedei world- and not normative judaism.

  35. R. Belovski is not the guaranteed next chief rabbi. There are a number of candidates.

  36. Rafael Araujo

    What about Rabbi Y.Y. Rubin?

  37. A couple of comments:

    While not challenging Ben Elton, who is the authority on the subject:

    a) In 1948 Rabbi Dr Alexander Altmann was the foremost rival to Israel Brodie. Brodie – who was hardly learned at all- got the job because a) in the immediate post-War atmosphere it was impossible to consider a German (Dr Altmann), and Brodie spoke a mellifluous English with an Oxford accent b) while the UK was embroiled in Palestine, Brodie’s British Military credentials were all-important.

    b) Regarding Louis Rabbinowitz– are you (and Wikipedia!) correct??? I am not sure, but I believe that the ‘medals incident’ was in 1956, as a protest at Suez policy,(not1947) and he was a candidate after Brodie. His champion was the late Freddie Landau, and at a mtg of the Chief rabbinate Commisssion FL drew out of his pocket with a flourish a letter that LR had wrtten to the Queen apologising. The non-committal reply, presumably from a lady-in-waiting, drew hoots of laughter from those present, and signified the end of his candidacy. A friend of mine from S Africa claims that he was instructed by LR before the rally to watch for where his medals would land and retrieve them (the rally was in some sort of stadium).

    c) It should be recorded that there was one other serious contender to succeed Lord Jakobovits – Rabbi Cyril Harris, z”l, a foremeost (and muchloved) community rabbi in the UK who went to S/Africa as Chief Rabbi — thought by many to have been a deliberate ‘positioning’ with the succession to the UK post in view. Without giving any judgement – they were two very different models — Rabbi Sacks had the advantage of being on the spot, and also had a major backer/sponsor, as noted.

  38. Rav Soloveitchik didn’t know how to hold his fork and knife properly? Or, up to the British standards?

    What kind of nonsense? Do you have a real source for this? Why would you publish hearsay?

  39. Rafael Araujo

    Sorry, meant Rabbi Y.Y. Rubinstein.

  40. IH: Shlomo — tachlis, where do you follow Beit Shammai using normative halacha — since you raised this issue?

    I don’t follow BS (except in the few cases where it’s normative). I used BH/BS as a prototype for all future machlokot – the same issues of intellectual honesty apply there too.

    What I object to, is when people mandate their chumrot on everyone else and de-legitimize the “Beit Hillel” approach (e.g. on conversion, as per our recent debates).

    If you recall, I never argued the conversion issue with you. I don’t know the subject well enough to say if your (and others’) approach has a traditional basis or not. But on other subjects, you consistently pick and choose authorities based on convenience, or present opinions backed by no authority whatsoever.

    I object to mandating chumrot just as much as you do, but for different reasons. I object to distortion of halacha whether from the right or the left. You seem simply to object to whatever halachic opinions are at odds with your worldview.

    RA: Not to poison the well…well, to poison the well, I note your constant refrain of Beit Hillel has Judith Hauptman echoes. Interesting.

    There’s nothing wrong with liking BH. My whole point is that people should not claim they’re following BH while rejecting BH’s opinion in the cases where it seems less attractive.

  41. PJS:

    You are correct about Altmann. A lacuna now remedied.

    I always understood the Rabbinowitz medal incident took place in 1947. Why would he protest in 1956 when Britain was on Israel’s side? It was during the last days of the Mandate, when Bevin closed the door to further Jewish immigration, that feelings
    against Britain ran highest in some Jewish quarters. LR as a follower of Jabotinsky was likely to be angry and not afraid to show it.

    R Harris was a possibility in 1991, but R Sacks was streets ahead, for the reasons you and I mentioned.

    RabbiDude: Bernard Homa ‘Footprints in the Sands of Time’ p. 127. Homa was at the meeting when this reason was brought up.

  42. Abba: regrding the comments above of beis hillel = meikil and beis shamai = machmir, r. steinzaltz frames it differently in book his “talmudic images” as beis hillel = realistic and beis shamai = perfectionist (or idealistic?).

    Or BS=heftza BH=gavra
    http://www.etzion.org.il/dk/page.php?year=5771&issue=1266&page=1266maamar2.html

    But perhaps no such characterization explains 100% of their differences.

  43. Shlomo — Argue to the point, or don’t pick the fight.

  44. Rafael Araujo: No, it is not remotely likely that he will be the next chief rabbi.

  45. The mention of R. Rabinowitz (who was the Rabbi of my mother’s shul before he left for SA) reminded me that the newsletters of the Association of Jewish Refugees in Great Britain have recently made its archive available online (http://www.ajr.org.uk/pdfjournals). The issues in 1965 through 1966 chronicle the selection of R. Jakobovits:

    In September 1964:

    “Next Chief Rabbi
    A committee of synagogue and communal representatives has been appointed by the Chief Rabbinate conference in London to select the successor to Dr. Israel Brodie. The committee will also consider the duties, privileges and emoluments of the new Chief Rabbi, as well as the procedure for his election. The committee, consisting of 35 members, which will begin its work in October, is to present its report to the full conference.”

    In October 1964:

    “Chief Rabbi’s Retirement
    On April 4, 1965, his 70th birthday, the Chief Rabbi is due to retire. There is now some doubt as to whether the Chief Rabbinate Conference convened for the election of a successor will be able to carry out its purpose by that time. It is rumoured that Dr. Brodie has indicated his desire to continue in office to allow more time for the choice of a suitable successor and to enable him to dispose of a number of communal matters.”

    In March 1965:

    “Chief Rabbinate
    The special committee of the Chief Rabbinate conference met again to consider a draft report on the committee’s deliberations concerning the mode of appointing a new Chief Rabbi and the problems of his office. Dr. Israel Brodie is due to retire in April. The stage of drawing up a short list of candidates has not yet been reached.”

    In July 1965:

    “New Chief Rabbi
    Dr, Yaacov Herzog has accepted the invitation to become Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth of Nations. He will take up his duties in October. The invitation was conveyed to him at his home in Jerusalem by a seven member delegation from the Chief Rabbinate conference. Dr. Herzog, who is 43, resigned from his post as deputy director-general in the Israeli Foreign Ministry to take up the appointment.”

    In October 1965:

    “Chief Rabbinate Problems
    A statement issued “with deep regret” in London by the Chief Rabbinate Council, says that Dr. Jacob Herzog, the Israeli diplomat who was to have become Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth in November, will not take up the post. He is seriously ill in a Swiss hospital and his doctors advised him to withdraw. Dr. Herzog, who is 44, was appointed Chief Rabbi last May. His appointment ended a ten-month search for a successor to Dr. Brodie, who retired in May at the age of 70 after holding the position since 1948. Although steps to fill the office are to be taken soon after the High Festivals, it will be some time before a newly convened Chief Rabbinate conference would complete its task and the post will not be filled this year.”

    In November 1965:

    “Search for Chief Rabbi
    The process is to start again to find and appoint a new Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The duties of the Chief Rabbi are being carried out in the meantime by the dayanim of the London Beth Din, acting as the Chief Rabbinate-in-Commission.”

    In December 1965:

    “Chief Rabbinate
    The name of Rabbi Dr. Alexander Altmann, Hungarian-born former communal rabbi of Manchester who left for the United States in 1959 to become Professor of Jewish Philosophy at Brandeis University, has been added to those mentioned for the office of Chief Rabbi. Dr. Altmann was a candidate for the British Chief Rabbinate in 1948, when his name was on the short list of three rabbis from whom the final choice of Rabbi Dr. Israel Brodie was made. Prior to his emigration to England, Dr. Altmann was a rabbi in Berlin.

    The United Synagogue Council are also considering Dr. Louis Rabinowitz (Israel) and Dr. Solomon Goldman, minister of the St. John’s Wood Synagogue.”

    In April 1966:

    “Chief Rabbinate
    Reports of a world tour by a sub-committee of five British Jews to seek a Chief Rabbi have been discounted. At present no rabbi, either here or overseas, can be regarded as a serious contender. Two honorary officers of the United Synagogue have stated that ” the field is wide open for the right man”.”

    In October 1966:

    “Chief Rabbinate Centre
    Sir Isaac Wolfson and his brother Charles are to establish a ” Chief Rabbinate Centre ” in London, consisting of offices, library and meeting rooms. Rabbi Jakobovits has stated that this was one of the ” supplementary terms ” of his agreement to accept the post, although the Centre would be a gift to the Chief Rabbinate Council and not to him.”

  46. Chaim Bermant (Lord Jakobovits, p. 76) places the Rabinowitz medal incident in 1947.

  47. Another name mentioned was R Joseph Soloveitchik, but when word reached London that he could not use a knife and fork properly (i.e. he ate in the American manner), he was ruled out as ineligible.

    If there is any truth to this, then it is cause to turn the Chief Rabbinate into a laughingstock.

    Imagine the same committee deciding whether to pick Moshe Rabbenu as the leader of the Jewish people. (“Yes, he is the most humble man ever, has the clearest level of prophecy ever, God himself called him his “faithful servant,” but sorry, he doesn’t know how to hold a fork and knife the way we do here in Her Majesty’s Kingdom. So terribly sorry, just won’t do.”)

  48. I assume that the comment about the fork was really about his being Eastern European. A lot of the names on the list were Americans, but none were Eastern Europeans.

    Why does it turn the Chief Rabbinate into a laughingstock? It probably makes sense.

    RYBS had a tremendous impact on his talmidim who were American, who then went out and transformed the community. But he himself was culturally Eastern European and as such probably not a good cultural fit for the Chief Rabbinate. He was a towering gadol and intellect, but that is not the job description.
    He was not a leader of the greater community in Boston and his impact at YU was focused on teaching. It would be hard for such a person to represent or impact the American or British lay community of the 50’s or even the current day.

  49. “RYBS had a tremendous impact on his talmidim who were American, who then went out and transformed the community. But he himself was culturally Eastern European ”
    don’t underestimate the influence of Berlin on the Rav-remeber he taught philosophy at YU before he became a RY

    .
    “He was not a leader of the greater community in Boston” really? “and his impact at YU was focused on teaching.”
    but don’t ignore his impact on the rest of North American Orthodox Jewry

    “It would be hard for such a person to represent or impact the American or British lay community of the 50′s”

    IN the 50s he was crucial to the whole existence of a committed MO community in North America

    .

  50. “Few are moving from Orthodoxy to a more liberal denomination, they are becoming unaffiliated with any denomination”

    If true and I suspect it is true it is sad.

    “Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth of Nations”

    Where in the British Commonwealth does anyone care about the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of England?
    You’ll have to spend as much time as Diogenes did looking for an honest man.

  51. Lous Rabbinowitz:

    Seems as though a) the medals incident was in 1947 but b) he was indeed a candidate for the C/Rabbinate after Brodie, not after Hertz.

  52. IH: Shlomo — Argue to the point, or don’t pick the fight.

    I’ve made the same point about six times by now. Still waiting for a reply.

  53. Shlomo — no, you’ve made a series of snarky comments reflecting your opinion of my hashkafa (which is your problem). When you respond to point, I reply appropriately, as I did in this thread.

  54. I knew that R. Rabinowitz was heavily involved in the Kindertransport effort in Britain, but it seems he carried on his humanitarian efforts in South Africa to some degree of controversy. To see:

    “SOUTH AFRICAN JEWRY’S REACTION TO SHARPEVILLE
    In Johannesburg, South Africa, a call by Chief Rabbi L. I. Rabinowitz for prayers to be recited in synagogues under his jurisdiction for “political prisoners “, was vetoed following strong objections raised by members of the Jewish community and representations by them to the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the Federation of Synagogues.

    In a sermon at one of Johannesburg’s oldest synagogues. Rabbi Dr. Kossowsky said that he thoroughly disapproved of involving the synagogue and the Jewish community as a whole
    in activities which in any way bear a political character. There was no such thing as a Jewish community political attitude, said the rabbi, every South African Jew was entitled to hold whatever political views he wished.

    Rabbi Rabinowitz had, previously, commented on the Sharpeville shootings in a Friday evening sermon, deploring the wanton loss of life. He prefaced a further sermon at his synagogue by stating that the ” pulpit stultified itself if it did not comment on topical events in the light of what the preacher believed to be the word of God”. South Africa, said Rabbi Rabinowitz. was now a Police State ” in the full sense of that sinister phrase”, and the gap between law and justice yawned wider than ever before. He deplored the idolatry of ” the completely unnacceptable doctrine of the superiority of one man over the other simply on account of the colour of his skin . . . when our idolatry brings confusion and no profit, blindness and ignorance, at last We hear the authentic voice of God . . . and then, and only then, not as a result of the expression of our ethical attitudes but as a result of nard and sober facts . . . the voice of God penetrates the husks which have surrounded our souls “.”

    http://www.ajr.org.uk/journalpdf/1960_may.pdf

  55. On the medals story, there seems to be a footnoted reference in the South African Jewish Board of Deputies’ periodical “Jewish Affairs” in Volume 53 (1998) on Page 39 (bottom). The Google Books snippet view does not provide enough context to see the year in which this incident occurred.

    Perhaps someone with easy access to the journal can look this up?

  56. IH – I’ve repeatedly described how your halachic recommendations are incompatible with Jewish tradition. Rather than offering a rebuttal, you’re apparently trying to pretend you didn’t hear what I said.

  57. Shlomo — When you comment seriously, I respond. “Have you stopped beating your wife lately?” does not count as serious.

  58. I stopped by the library to look up the reference. It’s from a referred paper by David Y Sacks in the Winter 1998 Jewish Affairs (Vol 53 #2) titled “The Orthodox Right Wing and Zionism in South Africa” (p. 39):

    “Rabbi Landau was succeeded by Rabbi Dr. L I Rabinowitz, who in 1946 launched a blistering and unusually bold attack on the British Government for its pro-Arab policies during the mandate years. Rabbi Ben Issacson, who studied for the rabbinate under Rabbi Rabinowitz during the 1950s, later claimed that he had helped to smuggle arms to the Irgun and the Etzel [sic] during World War 2. Rabinowitz, who had served as chaplain in the British armed forces during the war, publicly declared that it was no longer an honour for him to wear his British Army service ribbons on his breast and dramatically cast his medals to the ground in protest against British pro-Arab policies in Mandate Palestine. 23

    Footnote 23: Menorah, July-August 1946; Suttner, I. (ed) “Cutting Through the Mountain: Interviews with South African Jewish Activists” (Sandton, 1997 Pages 571-572).”

  59. refereed paper (not “referred”), of course.

  60. Mycroft,

    RYBS had an impact on MO because of his intellect and teaching. He had talmidim who became rabbi’s across the country and those rabbi’s were American born and able to relate to American lay leadership. Can you name one instance where RYBS was involved as a communal leader for the masses as opposed to an intellectual giant?
    He was not the type to make political small talk or appearances. Those things were and are very important for a Chief Rabbi, but was not important for a rosh yeshiva like him.

    I do not think any of this is a slight to RYBS, he was a giant of Torah and as such it is likely he accomplished more for the Jewish people than he could have as Chief Rabbi.

    The Gemara ofen makes reference to the Reish Galusa, who I am sure was an important person in his time, but ultimately Abaye and Rava are more significant for our tradition.

  61. IH – I realize I am wasting my time bringing up considerations that you are deaf to.

  62. “Can you name one instance where RYBS was involved as a communal leader for the masses as opposed to an intellectual giant?”

    Hashgacha-in both Canada and the US he was the point man in fighting and getting around serious challenges to shechita, the Ravs dealings with leaders of other faiths etc. This is a canard by thoise who know the Rav as RY par excellence forget that even more than a great talmid chacham/intellectual is the loss of a communal leader.

    “He had talmidim who became rabbi’s across the country and those rabbi’s were American born and able to relate to American lay leadership. ”
    BTW a non trivial porportion of the earlier talmidim were not American born.

  63. ” On the one hand there is the desire from the left/centre for them to push a more accomodative line – on the other, they get it over the head from the right whenever they even hint at doing so.”

    A possibility: Almost the entirety of observant Jewry in the UK is Charedi. I heard Rabbi Sacks himself say at the Riverdale Jewish Center a few years ago that there was only one congregation like it in all of Britain. Could it be that the LBD is appropriate to the community?

  64. Charlie Hall – I’m not quite sure what you mean by observant, although there is a significant proportion of Jews here who are shomrei shabbat and non-charedi. We have a thriving Bnei Akiva, as you can see here http://bauk.org/ – I don’t think anyone can accuse them of being charedi. However, it is indeed the case that there are few shuls comprised of a majority of shomrei shabbat members which are ideologically MO (a handful in London, compared to the hundred or so charedi shuls), although there are more where the congregants are behaviorally MO and the rabbi is tolerant of their lifestyle. At the higher levels (i.e. those who deal with non-standard galactic questions), the rabbinate is also almost entirely charedi. This is partly due to the fact that we lack a ‘YU’ style institution, and also because it is hard to change a status quo, especially when it would likely lead to ongoing tension, when there is no great desire to do so.

    What’s interesting is that despite the rock-solid charedi credentials of the LED dayanim, their initiatives have been the target of attack by the organised official charedi community (the OUHC in London), although the cynic in me believes that it is precisely because they are charedi talmidei chachamim in otherwise good standing that certain rightist rabbis see them as a threat. The prime example of all this is of course, the NW London eruv, carrying in which, the UOHC never ceases to remind its constituents, is ‘chillul shabbos’ (despite the fact that many of their rabbis are chassidim who are in favour of the Boro Park eruv). Due to the fact that there is a growing ‘middle’, who have no particular allegiance to either the LBD or the UOHC, communal dynamics are likely to change in the future.

  65. Sorry, first sentence in 2nd para should say ‘LBD dayanim’, not ‘LED dayanim’.

  66. More to the point (besides for the fact that the word ‘galactic’ in my original post was spellcheck’s substitution for ‘halachic’), due to the fact that large swathes of UK Jewry (I think it is still the majority) associate with Orthodoxy, even though they are not behaviourally or even ideologically Orthodox, and the LBD is ‘the’ halachic authority for this community, setting policy on all halachic matters, such as interfaith and interdenominational issues, end-of life matters and issues relating to conversion and marriage (agunot, pre-nups etc), the outlook of the LBD has a huge impact on Anglo-Jewry in general. There have been huge controversies in the past over a state-funded community school’s (which is associated with Orthodoxy, but has largely non-orthodox pupils) refusal to accept children whom the LBD did not regard as Jewish, due to deficiencies in the conversion etc. Thus, it is not merely the rigorously observant who have an interest in the LBD’s makeup.

  67. Having worked for an American company in the UK, I lost count of the number of times I had a conversation with one of my colleagues in the US who would inevitably say: ~”I don’t understand why you can’t just do it our way”~. 🙂

  68. Ruvie wrote:

    “Steve b. – you realize that it’s pure derash – on the tumah part- nothing to do with reality. The rest is the philosophy of r’ kotler and the CI – the charedei world- and not normative judaism”

    Ruvie-I quoted from R M Rosensweig, hardly a Charedi RY-the Chanukas Beis Sheni after Channukah was not predicated on Tumaah Hutrah BTzibur. I would not call the same either “pure drash” or having “nothing to do with reality”, and would invite you to conduct your own research where you will easily see many positions within Chazal and Rishonim , especially after the time of the Maharam MeRottenburg, where Chumros were adapted as mainstream Halacha as evidencing Ahavas HaShem.

  69. Shlomoh-I disagree with much, if not of all IH’s halachic, hashkafic and political views. However, I think that he realizes that the presentation of the same and the many links that he provides, some of interesting or dubious value, generate a response from those who differ, and reinforce the truism that freedom of speech and expression are by no means a freedom from criticism.

  70. Nachum-last year, CR Sacks spent a Shabbos as a Scholar in Residence at SCW and LSS, spoke at YU , and marched in the Salute to Israel parade. I still think that upon the choice of his successor, that CR Sacks may be a visiting scholar of sorts at YU.

  71. As he is now? I’m thinking more Chancellor, to succeed R’ Lamm.

  72. “Can you name one instance where RYBS was involved as a communal leader for the masses as opposed to an intellectual giant?”

    see Bernard Rosensweig, “The Rav as Communal Leader,” Tradition 43:4 (1996),

  73. steve b. – no doubt you are right about chumrot being adopted through the ages as normative halacha as well as kulot as well. i was not objecting to that or RMR explanation of chanukah’s well known derash on tumah – just i do not think its a historical reality(can you show other chumrot being adapted immediately post chanukah?). the charedei comment was on (although i did not specify) your comment of:

    “However, when starting from scratch and trying to rebuild from a religiously contaminated atmosphere which was the case after the rededication of Bayis Sheni, taking on Chumros is the only acceptable way of getting back to the status quo ante.” any evidence?

    i believe that was and is the charedei theology of post w.w.II. but i could be wrong (it may be post chanukah – please provide examples). throughout history we see also kulot being accepted to help the community deal with the world at large.

  74. “He was not the type to make political small talk or appearances”

    Not in shiur-but he certainly knew how to raise money, deal with other leaders and did that.

  75. At the end of the day, it is hard to see a Chief Rabbi of Britain who is not culturally British. Then or now.

    By dint of history, the role is as much a State ceremonial one, as a one of parochial religious leadership for the United Synagogue.

  76. Ruvie-Acceptance of a larger shiur to obligate oneself in Birkas HaMazon, Zayin Nekiyim, and Tekias Shofar in its present format according to R Avahu, and the present day observance of YT Sheni Shel Galiyos are at least four chumros rooted in their being acceped as normative halacha. See also the discussion in RH re the meaning of Larev es HaSatan.

  77. Steve b – any connection to your statement vs a vs Chanukah and tuma – is there any rebuilding in any of these cases and when were they effective? does one fulfill ones’s obligation with less? is tom Tov shenei considered a chumrah? Source please.

  78. Ruvie-I think that all of the halachos that I cited were all chumros that are now normative halacha. Zayin Nekiyim AFAIK, has always been the subject of ShuT, especially in our generation of kulos for women having difficulty conceiving. As far as Birkas HaMazon, and Tekias Shofar, the chumra has been accepted as normative Psak in determining the minimum shiur to be obligated in Birkas HaMazon and what defines Tekias Shofar-even though RS Gaon hotly disputed where there was such a Safek. All of these practices were accepted already within the Talmud. The question as to why Tummah Hutrah Btzibur was not utilized by the Chashmonaim is dealt with by many Acharonim.

    I would tend to doubt that fulfills either Mitzvah with the definition Min HaTorah prior to the acceptance of the more Machmir position. YT Sheni-especially given our knowledge of the Luach today-is a Chumra Al Pi Din.

  79. Ruvie wrote:

    “throughout history we see also kulot being accepted to help the community deal with the world at large”

    Sure-Tikun Olam is used for many such halachos, as is a Heter Iska, Prozbul, as are many similar halachos as Safek Mamzer, relaxed evidentiary requirements for women because of Agunos, etc. Yet, one cannot deny the presence of Chumros within Halacha, especially in those areas where either in cases of a Safek DOraissa or an area of Halacha where there is a tendency to be so-Masecta Yevamos is replete with the same because of the Issur Eshes Ish and Pesachim has similar concerns re Chumra DeChametz.

  80. steve b. – the discussion is not about the fact that we sometimes have chumrot in halacha (we also have kulot as well). i was reacting to the derash of chanuka story that tries to explain the oil and why we take the mehadrim mim hamehadrim position in lighting candles. its reading into the story theology which may have come much later. either way your statement of:

    “However, when starting from scratch and trying to rebuild from a religiously contaminated atmosphere which was the case after the rededication of Bayis Sheni, taking on Chumros is the only acceptable way of getting back to the status quo ante.”

    is questionable and probably not factual of jewish history – please show some facts that this happened – ever. chanukah is questionable at best (that we took on chumrot – maybe hiddur mitzvah if you wish) and that is why i say it was derash (polemics or a nice rabbi’s derash – just not historical reality).

  81. Nachum,
    The Chancellor of YU is simply the President Emeritus, which is why there was none between the death of Dr. Belkin and the retirement of R. Lamm. The next chancellor will be Richard Joel, if they choose to honor him thus.

  82. Ruvie wrote:

    “the discussion is not about the fact that we sometimes have chumrot in halacha (we also have kulot as well). i was reacting to the derash of chanuka story that tries to explain the oil and why we take the mehadrim mim hamehadrim position in lighting candles. its reading into the story theology which may have come much later. either way your statement of:

    “However, when starting from scratch and trying to rebuild from a religiously contaminated atmosphere which was the case after the rededication of Bayis Sheni, taking on Chumros is the only acceptable way of getting back to the status quo ante.”

    is questionable and probably not factual of jewish history – please show some facts that this happened – ever. chanukah is questionable at best (that we took on chumrot – maybe hiddur mitzvah if you wish) and that is why i say it was derash (polemics or a nice rabbi’s derash – just not historical reality”

    We have discussed and “debated” the issue of the sources for Channukah outside of Chazal ad nauseum here and I don’t think that any purpose is shown in redredging that issue since it is obvious that you have at least view the same as “questionnable”, and like many with that POV, demand verification of a Nes, or the rededication of Bayis Sheni as opposed to accepting the Mesorah that the same happened. If that is so, why do you celebrate Channukah since the entire basis for the same lacks any verifiable basis-as do many critical events in Jewish life? Why recite Tefilos and Brachos that state the basis for our being commanded to observe Mitzvos-which also cannot be historically verified?! Obviously, you did not check out the Mareh Mkomos in the Talmud that referenced voluntary acceptance of Chumros-since that would challenge your preordained conclusion that no such process happened.

  83. Ruvie-here’s yet another Chumra that was voluntarily accepted as an obligation-Tefilas Maariv. IIRC, the Talmud tells us this explicitly.

  84. Steve b. You avoided my criticism of your comment again. I did not question the oil story as you suggest- reread my comment. I not stating any pov. Please show that we took chumrot post chanukah story without reading later theology into the story. It is a simple request as well as verifying your claim as an historical truth- that we take chumrot on post a “religiously contaminated period” – some proof please.

  85. Steve, of course the rededication happened, and with it, reason enough to celebrate Chanukka. The reference was to oil. You’re the one insisting he throw out the baby with the water, not him.

    MDJ, “Chancellor” means what they want it to mean. Currently, R’ Lamm is called “Rosh HaYeshiva,” and I imagine they’d want someone with semikha, at least, to take the spot. I see no evidence that Richard Joel is trying for that. 🙂

  86. Ruvie-this is what I read and commented on, and see no further need to comment on, in view of the fact that you did not discuss my other examples of Chumros that were voluntarily accepted by Klal Yisrael-regardless of the Nes Pach Shemen and Chanukas Bayis Sheni:

    “is questionable and probably not factual of jewish history – please show some facts that this happened – ever. chanukah is questionable at best (that we took on chumrot – maybe hiddur mitzvah if you wish) and that is why i say it was derash (polemics or a nice rabbi’s derash – just not historical reality”

  87. I am not sure what RYBS role in hashgacha was, but even today Boston does not have a consistent source of kosher meat, so while RYBS may have supervised shechita in Boston in some form, he did not build a strong kashrus infrastructure at all.

  88. Jacobs, was not a star at Gateshead Kolel he learnt with Reb Moshe Schwab (MAshgiach at Gateshead Yeshiva)who apprentaly was vey weary of him.

  89. More articles on the historic evolution of the British Chief Rabbinate can be found on the website of Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple, who was a congregational rabbi in the UK and Australia for many years and is a historian who has published widely on the history of the rabbinate in Britain. He was also on a first name basis with several chief rabbis, including Brodie, Jakobovits and Sacks (he was the mesader kiddushin for Rabbi and Mrs Sacks):

    Overview of the Chief Rabbis – http://www.oztorah.com/2009/02/the-british-chief-rabbinate/

    Saul Berlin – http://www.oztorah.com/2010/06/saul-berlin-1740-1794-heretical-rabbi/

    Solomon Hirschell – http://www.oztorah.com/2010/06/solomon-hirschel-high-priest-of-the-jews/

    Nathan Marcus Adler – http://www.oztorah.com/2009/08/nathan-marcus-adler-chief-rabbi/

    Hermann Adler – http://www.oztorah.com/2010/03/london-jewry-in-the-1890s-the-religious-controversies/

    Hermann Gollancz and the title of rabbi in British Jewry – http://www.oztorah.com/2010/06/hermann-gollancz-the-title-of-rabbi-in-british-jewry/

    Israel Brodie – http://www.oztorah.com/2008/02/kovno-oxford-israel-brodie-his-rabbinical-career/

    New chief rabbi – a tough choice – http://www.oztorah.com/2012/04/a-new-chief-rabbi-tough-choice-for-british-jews/

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