Author Archives: Ben Elton

British Chief Rabbis Who Never Were

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.

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