Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Who are you supporting for Chief Rabbi?

Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, for all the majesty suggested by the title, isn't really all that important. The job has more in common with being head of a very large Vaad than it does with being Pope. Your main duty is overseeing a board of squabbling Ultra Orthodox Rabbis who generally ignore you, while attempting to serve as some kind of spiritual leader for the nominally observant members of the United Synagogue's 60 some shuls. (Members of the more right and left wing shuls ignore you, too.)

Also, one does not have to be British in order to qualify. According to the great Miriam Shaviv two Americans are on the short list, along with two Brits. The current candidates are: Michael Broyde of Atlanta, Meir Solivetchick of New York. and Harvey Belovski and Ephraim Mirvis both of London.

Of the three, Mirvis is the only one I know nothing about -- though I know close to nothing about Belovski. He (Belovski) and I used to tweet each other and though he came across as knowledgeable, polite, friendly and kind, I didn't gain a super high opinion of him. This is an entirely unfair comment, of course, as its impossible  to be augustly rabbinical when limited to 140 characters. Sacks, the incumbent, is known to me through long essays and thick books, so its rather unfair to judge the man who'd like to follow him on the basis of a few tweets, but there it is. Plus, I have a beef with him for translating the Shem MiShmuel. The world didn't need another work of mysticism, and the morons in my shul don't need another book they don't understand 

Broyde is known for his big brain, and my amateurish readings of one or two of his treatises suggest the reputation is deserved. Unfortunately, his noble work legitimizing the Female OJ Rabbi makes him ineligible for high religious office in America. I don't know if the same holds true for Britain, but I imagine the Ultras who control the London Bes Din aren't going to kowtow to someone they perceive as a swishy modern.

Which brings us to Solivetchik. I have three reasons for rooting against him. First, I perceive that his candidacy rests primarily on his glorious last name, and I don't like Yichus. Second, when he appeared before Congress last year he managed to reduce Judaism to just another Christian sect. And third, well third is a petty, personal, irrelevant reason so I shan't reveal it.

So, I guess we're left with Mirvis, though, honestly, Belovski would  likely be an excellent choice as well.


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