Britain’s new Chief Rabbi Mirvis faces task of uniting UK Jewish community
Britain’s new chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, who has vowed to remain traditional by barring women rabbis and same-sex marriage, was sworn in on Sunday to face the challenge of uniting the nation’s polarized Jewish community.
About 1,400 guests, including Britain’s heir apparent Prince Charles, attended a ceremony at a north London synagogue as Mirvis replaced the respected Jonathan Sacks after 22 years as the leading spokesman for British Jews.
“A warm welcome to new @chiefrabbi Mirvis & my thanks to Lord Sacks for special contribution he made to our whole country as #ChiefRabbi,” Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted.
South African-born Mirvis, 56, becomes head of Britain’s largest Jewish denomination, but his synagogue network and other mainstream Orthodox make up only half of the 260,000-strong UK Jewish community, the world’s fifth and Europe’s second largest.
As titular head of British Jews, Mirvis faces the same problems confronting the Church of England, such as falling congregations and the challenge of making traditional religion relevant in a modern consumer society.
He signaled the orthodox United Synagogue would retain its traditionalist stance on single-sex marriage, which is at odds with rabbis in the Liberal and Reform synagogues at the forefront of the campaign for same-sex marriage.
“We have a clear Biblical definition of marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman, and through that we value traditional family life,” Mirvis said in a BBC interview ahead of Sunday’s ceremony.