Britain’s Chief Rabbi Embraces Limmud, Despite Protest From Ultra-Orthodox

Ephraim Mervis Will Attend December Gathering

Winds of Change: Rabbi Ephraim Mervis (above) will be the first British chief rabbi to attend a Limmud gathering.
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Winds of Change: Rabbi Ephraim Mervis (above) will be the first British chief rabbi to attend a Limmud gathering.

By Jennifer Lipman

Published October 23, 2013.
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In an interview with the Forward, Rabbi S.F. Zimmerman, one of the signatories of the anti-Limmud public letter, stressed that the missive was “not personal to Mirvis.” He said he remained willing to work with the chief rabbi despite “a difference of opinions” on the issue. Zimmerman called the statement “a clarification of a long held opinion.”

Mirvis’ status as chief rabbi renders him “in a sense untouchable,” said Alderman. But the same is not necessarily true of other Orthodox rabbis. As a communal pulpit rabbi, Mirvis himself never attended Limmud, reflecting his own inclination then to toe the line.

Now, Orthodox rabbis less insulated than Mirvis will be under increased pressure, caught between the ultra-Orthodox rabbis’ opposition to Limmud and the chief rabbi’s embrace of it. The pressure can get quite personal.

“They will be thinking, if I support this will my children get shidduchim?” said Alderman, using the Hebrew term for a marriage match in traditional Judaism.

Added Barry Frankfurt, chairman of the minyan at Kinloss, Mirvis’ former synagogue: “It’s highlighted the very narrow path that those of us who consider ourselves Modern Orthodox walk.”

In his installation address, Mirvis vowed: “We shall not seek to impose our traditions on anyone.” His attendance at Limmud appears to be a concrete manifestation of that commitment. His challenge now will be to also maintain the respect and support of everyone as he does so.


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