Top synagogue to find rabbi by ballot

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The Independent Online
THE ROW over a new chief rabbi at Britain's leading Reform Synagogue has taken a fresh turn after its council agreed to give every member of the community a vote on the appointment.

The move follows the decision of the West London Synagogue not to appoint Jackie Tabick, who has been acting leader of the synagogue since the death of Rabbi Gryn in 1996.

Supporters of Rabbi Tabick, the only woman to apply for the post, said the decision was "undemocratic" and levelled accusations of misogyny and sexism at the council, claims which its members denied.

Now the synagogue council has asked the Electoral Reform Society to hold a postal ballot which will invite the 2,500 members of the synagogue to approve the appointment of Rabbi Mark Winer as chief rabbi. If a simple majority fails to endorse Rabbi Winer, the synagogue will have to reconsider the appointment.

Rabbi Winer, an American who is currently the President of the National Council of Synagogues in the United States, takes up his new post this summer. He was appointed by an interview panel endorsed by the Council of the Synagogue, which is made up of democratically elected representatives of the community.

However, Dr Alan Kohn, a member of the synagogue who is sympathetic to Rabbi Tabick's position, said he welcomed the decision. "I'm pleased it's going to go forward to the membership. It's the fairest way. Everyone will get a chance to vote in a secret ballot.

"If Rabbi Winer is not confirmed then the whole issue would have to be re-examined. You couldn't make an appointment if a majority was against him. "

The leadership dispute arose after the death of the previous senior rabbi, Hugo Gryn. Under Gryn's leadership, the West London Synagogue, based at Marble Arch, became established as a renowned centre for Reform Judaism.