Stockholm Jewish community to replace Conservative Rabbi David Lazar


(JTA) — The Jewish community of Stockholm said it will replace David Lazar, a chief rabbi in the Swedish capital, following a breakdown in contract renewal talks. 

Lazar, the rabbi at the city’s Conservative Great Synagogue, was given a given a three-year contract in 2010; it expires in August. The community’s board has offered a three-year extension, but Lazar, a U.S.-born Israeli, is demanding tenure.

“Consensus could not be reached in negotiations with regard to the form of employment and compensation. As a result, Rabbi Lazar and the Synagogue will go their separate ways after the current agreement expires,” according to a statement posted this week on the website of the Jewish community of Stockholm.

Lazar, 55, told JTA, “The only thing I’ll say is that this has been a question about a permanent position. At my age, I feel the only way I can stay here is to have some job security. This is what it’s all about.”

Community and board members have said the reluctance to offer tenure was connected to complaints about Lazar’s behavior.

“He is perceived as very confrontational and totally lacking in humility,” Thomas Bab, the community’s administrative director, wrote in a recent email to community members.

Twenty Swedish Jews and non-Jews have published a petition in Expressen, a Stockholm tabloid, demanding the community offer tenure to Lazar, who is known for his outreach programs to homosexuals.

One of the signers is Bernt Hermele, a caretaker at the synagogue, who published on his blog a list signed by hundreds of Lazar supporters. Hermele said Lazar “rejuvenated the community” and has brought closer some new members.

Alf Levy, who was on the search committee that recruited Lazar, said he has “started going less and less to synagogue on Shabbat because of Lazar’s attitude.” He added, “I can live with many tweaks to religion, but his personality made me very upset: He has constantly sought conflict.”

“A rabbi will always have supporters and detractors," Lazar told JTA. "One can’t please everyone. I’ve been doing the best I can.”

Rabbi Meir Horden, also a U.S.-born Israeli, serves as the community’s chief Orthodox rabbi. 

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