Rift Between Two British Rabbinic Bodies Healed in New Agreement
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Rift Between Two British Rabbinic Bodies Healed in New Agreement

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An unprecedented agreement aimed at coordinating the activities of the Orthodox rabbinic and congregational bodies in Britain was announced here today by the office of the Chief Rabbinate. The pact, which was signed by Dr. Immanuel Jakobovits, newly-elected Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, and Rabbi Eliezer Kirzner, newly-appointed principal rabbi of the Federation of Synagogues of Britain, heals a rift that developed a year ago when the Federation withdrew from the Beth Din (religious court) that served all of British Jewry.

The agreement calls for the recognition of the Chief Rabbi as the spokesman and authority of the entire British Ashkenazi community, with the Chief Rabbi agreeing to consult with the head of the Federation on all matters affecting that body. The pact also calls for the setting up of a “unified and departmentalized Beth Din, in which the Sephardi Haham of the Spanish and Portuguese community was also invited to participate. The “departmentalized” structure of the Beth Din would ensure the preservation of the individualized character of each of the participating communities. The agreement also provides for the “eventual representation of the Federation of Synagogues on the Chief Rabbinate Council,” which would be another unifying innovation in British Jewry.

The large majority of British Jewry are Orthodox, with some 75 percent of these affiliated with the United Hebrew Congregations. The Federation of Synagogues comprises some 50 congregations. Both Dr. Jakobovits and Rabbi Kirzner were named to their respective posts last fall. Dr. Jakobovits, spiritual leader of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York, will take up his post in March. Rabbi Kirzner, of Sons of Judah Congregation in Brooklyn, will assume his post later this year.

The agreement was negotiated between Dr. Jakobovits and Rabbi Kirzner to heal the split that developed when Federation officials charged that an understanding providing for their representation on the Bath Din was not being carried out. The new “departmentalized” Beth Din will include such representation.

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