Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis to become next chief rabbi, replacing Lord Jonathan Sacks as the figurehead of British Jews

Orthodox synagogue­ leader will need to take lead on social issues and boost congregation levels

The leader of one Britain’s largest Orthodox synagogues is to become next chief rabbi following a lengthy and divisive selection process to decide who should replace Lord Jonathan Sacks as the figurehead of British Jews.

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who is a former chief rabbi of Ireland, is expected to be formally confirmed as Lord Sacks’ successor tomorrow. 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.

As the 11th chief rabbi, Rabbi Mirvis will inherit the traditional role of being seen as the head of British Jews but that role is being increasingly challenged from resurgent liberal and reform wings of Judaism whose stance on issues such as sexuality is more progressive. The Movement for Reform Judaism welcomed him as “the next Orthodox chief rabbi”.

Rabbi Mirvis must also tackle issues which are shared by his Christian counterparts such as declining congregation levels and making traditional religion relevant to the modern world. Despite this month’s census finding that number of Jews in Britain has risen slightly in the last decade to more than 260,000, an additional problem is the large numbers of young Jews marrying outside the community.

The appointment of the 55-year-old new chief rabbi, who is a father-of-four and was born in South Africa, will nonetheless be greeted with relief across Anglo-Jewry following an increasingly fraught search for a successor to the popular and respected Lord Sacks.

Rabbi Mirvis, who currently leads a flagship United Synagogue in Finchley, north London, emerged as a consensus candidate after the committee set up to select the new chief rabbi was reportedly split on other more dynamic figures from within and outside the United Kingdom.

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 inwardly in terms of making traditional Judaism relevant to the 21st century and more broadly in terms of Israel, anti-Semitism and the various challenges we all face collectively.”

Described as “immensely popular” and eloquent, Rabbi Mirvis is nonetheless not considered to be a bold doctrinal thinker and may face an uphill task in achieving the same public profile as Lord Sacks, who has been a regular contributor on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day.

The son and grandson of rabbis before him, Rabbi Mirvis is regarded as a strong pastor within the Orthodox community, which also faces competition for influence within Anglo-Jewry from a growing ultra-Orthodox community.

In one of his few forays into the mainstream media, he described to The Independent during his first visit to Germany in 2008 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 didn’t use a Faber-Castell pencil. We wouldn’t step into a Volkswagen car.”

Explaining that this had now changed, he added: “There are still many Jewish people today who would be highly critical of spending a penny in Germany. That’s totally understandable. But I think it is important to support and encourage the good Germans who are moving forward.”

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices