Page 3 Profile: Ephraim Mirvis, new UK chief rabbi


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Should I know his face?

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, should be formally confirmed as the next Chief Rabbi today, replacing Lord Sacks. He is widely regarded as the "safe choice" after an eight-month process to find the next leader the orthodox United Synagogues, the largest grouping of British Jewry.

What does the job entail?

As a figurehead for British Jews, Rabbi Mirvis will have to tackle the same problems that afflict the Church of England: declining congregations and making traditional religion relevant. Despite this month's census finding the number of Jews in Britain has risen slightly to more than 260,000, a large number of young Jews are marrying outside the community. The more liberal wings of Judaism will also expect him to take a look at the London Beth Din (or religious court), which they claim is controlled by rigidly ultra-Orthodox judges who give strict rulings on matters such as divorce and marriage. But they shouldn't expect too much change: the Movement for Reform Judaism welcomed him as "the next Orthodox chief rabbi".

So not a popular choice?

People are simply relieved that the fraught search for a successor to the respected Lord Sacks is over. One of his fellow candidates, Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, said Rabbi Mirvis was "the right man for the job". He said: "The present appointment is a critical one confronting the various challenges facing Anglo-Jewry, both in terms of making traditional Judaism relevant and in terms of Israel and anti-Semitism."

What else do we know about him?

He leads a flagship United Synagogue in Finchley, north London. During his first visit to Germany in 2008, he told The Independent, i's sister paper, how his family were victims of the Holocaust and how he had grown up in a home where German products were avoided. He said: "I think it is important to encourage the good Germans who are moving forward."