An open letter from senior British Jewish community leaders has taken to task a group of haredi Orthodox Jewish leaders for publicly calling for a boycott of the upcoming Limmud conference.
The boycott call by the haredi rabbis, including the former head of the London Beth Din, Rabbi Chanoch Ehrentreu, is seen as a condemnation of new British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. Mirvis’ office last month announced that he would attend the conference, becoming the first sitting British chief rabbi to participate in Limmud, which features lectures, workshops and debates on Jewish issues.
The letter, which is backed by Board of Deputies of British Jews President Vivian Wineman, said the signatories “deeply regret the publication of a formal Gilui Da’at (Declaration of Opinion) by a number of Orthodox rabbis which claims that those who attend Limmud will, by implication, not be viewed favorably by God.”
“To seek to dissuade Orthodox rabbis and others from taking the opportunity to articulate the classic Orthodox Judaism which has sat at the heart of this community for over three centuries is a shocking failure of leadership,” the letter said.
The haredi rabbis’ letter condemned anyone who attended Limmud for blurring “the distinction between authentic Judaism and pseudo-Judaism” and said that attendance would “bring about tragic consequences for Anglo Jewry,” according to the Jewish Chronicle.
In a statement issued last month announcing his participation in Limmud, Mirvis wrote: “One of my primary functions is as teacher of the community. I see Limmud as an opportunity to teach Torah to large numbers of people who want to learn.”
The chief rabbi’s office said Mirvis consulted on the issue of his attendance at Limmud with his rabbis along with the rabbinical judges of the London Bet Din and the leadership of the United Synagogue Movement.
The statement also said that Mirvis “will welcome any rabbi who chooses to attend Limmud but believes it is for each rabbi to decide on attendance for themselves and those decisions, whatever they may be, should be respected by all.”
By virtue of his position, Mirvis is officially the head of the Orthodox United Synagogue movement.
Registration for the conference is higher than usual at this point in the registration period, with the chief rabbi’s participation believed to be one of the factors, according to the Jewish News.