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Fallout For England’s Top Sephardic Rabbi Over Statements About Homosexuality

(JTA) — The United Kingdom’s top Sephardic rabbi has “stepped aside from the day-to-day activity” of the country’s Sephardi rabbinical court amid a furor over his statements about homosexuality.

Rabbi Joseph Dweck, who serves as senior rabbi at London’s S&P Sephardi Community, came under fire after saying at a lecture last month that societal acceptance of homosexuality is a “fantastic development.”

The rabbi still has the “full support” of his synagogue board and membership, S&P President Sabah Zubaida said in a statement. Zubaida said “a great deal of the criticism has been based on misunderstandings, some deliberate and some not.” He also said that Dweck “accepts that some of the criticism is justified and needs to be addressed within the wider rabbinical world.”

Meanwhile, one of the British Orthodox community’s most influential figures, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman of Gateshead, said in a message to fellow rabbis that Dweck “is not fit to serve as a rabbi,” the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.

Zimmerman also said that after listening to recordings of past Dweck lectures, “it is clear he is not equipped to rule on halachah, due to his limited knowledge, weak halachic reasoning skills and lack of training.”

Dweck, who grew up in Los Angeles, received rabbinic ordination from Ovadia Yosef, the late Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel.

British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said Wednesday that he is concerned “about the public fallout from the dispute concerning Rabbi Joseph Dweck, which has been deeply divisive and damaging for our community.”

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