Leaked letter widens schism in Jewry

Reformists accuse Chief Rabbi of no longer speaking for all Jews

The rift between the Orthodox and Reform Jewish communities in Britain dramatically deepened yesterday after it was disclosed that the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, had accused Rabbi Hugo Gryn, a Holocaust survivor who died last August, of being a destroyer of Judaism.

The attack, in a leaked letter to a right-wing Orthodox Jewish leader, intensifies the row between the Orthodox tradition and the Reformists over Dr Sacks and his attitude to Rabbi Gryn, a Reformist.

Last night, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, spokesman for the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, called on Dr Sacks to renounce his title. "Clearly, the Chief Rabbi no longer represents all Jews and speaks only for the Orthodox sector," he said.

"He no more represents Reform and liberal Jews than does the Archbishop of Canterbury represent Catholics and Methodists."

The acrimonious dispute followed Dr Sacks' non-attendance at the funeral of Rabbi Gryn, which angered the Reform movement, and his presence at a later memorial ceremony, which in turn caused outcry among some Orthodox Jews.

In his letter, leaked to the Jewish Chronicle, Dr Sacks said that his only reason for attending the memorial was to avoid giving the Reform movement a reason for appointing its own chief rabbi. He said Rabbi Gryn was one of "those who destroy the faith" as part of a "false grouping".

He assured Dayan Chanoch Padwa, the 90-year-old head of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, that he was paying recognition to Rabbi Gryn, "not as a Reform rabbi but as a survivor of the Holocaust".

Supporters of Rabbi Gryn, who was known to millions through his appearances on BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze and Thought for the Day on the Today programme, said the letter could lead to large numbers of British Jews dissociating themselves from the Chief Rabbi.

Although Dr Sacks is technically the Chief Rabbi only of the United Synagogues, the main Orthodox group, he is seen by many Jews and non-Jews as the leader of British Jewry.

Dr Sacks described the leaking of his "Not for Publication" letter, which was written in Hebrew, as a "scandalous betrayal" and attempted a damage limitation exercise by writing an explanation of the context of the letter in the Jewish Chronicle.

He praised Rabbi Gryn as "a man of courage and deep humanity", but stopped short of retracting his attacks on his religious work.

Dr Sacks called on all Anglo-Jewish leaders to join in a Coalition for Peace in the Community to prevent disunity. "We must now call a halt to the debate over Hugo Gryn. May he be allowed to rest in peace, and may we, at last, learn to live in peace," he said.

He issued a seven-point list of principles for mutual respect between Jews, calling on them to work together on matters affecting them all - such as fighting anti-Semitism, remembering the Holocaust and improving relations with other faiths such as Christianity and Islam.

Last night there was much speculation last night on the hidden agenda of the person responsible for the leaking.

Dr Sacks would only say: "The leak was a breach of confidence. It flouted the Jewish laws of privacy. It was intended to destroy the relationships of trust essential to communal harmony."

But Matthew Calman, the editor of London Jewish News, suggested the leak was a deliberate "trap" laid for reformists, in order to re-open the divide in the Jewish community.

He said: "We have to ask who leaked this letter and why? The answer to that question is that Jonathan Sacks has made enormous strides towards reconciliation among the different movements in Anglo-Jewry over the last five years.

"The people who leaked this letter are his right-wing critics who despise Rabbi Romain and Reform. It is an attempt to destroy the kind of reconciliation which I know Rabbi Romain and his colleagues are working for."

Yesterday, the "trap" appeared to have worked. In a joint statement the British leaders of Reform Judaism called for a rethink of the post of Chief Rabbi. The statement said: "It seems that, constantly, the Chief Rabbinate is forced into two conversations, embodying two sets of language and two messages tailored to the respective recipients. This is simply not consonant with a community of trust and integrity.

"He says that his whole purpose is to `gain a victory' over us and then calls for peace."

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone