Division over a rabbi's memory

February 21, 1997

PROFESSOR Alderman is right that the chief rabbi is not the leader of Anglo-Jewry. Rather he is simply the head of the United Synagogue, the largest branch of orthodox Jewry in Great Britain. As such, there is no way that he can accept the validity of either reform or liberal Judaism. To do so would compromise the principles of orthodoxy. In his recent book One People? he explains his position: although he wishes to befriend all Jews, the orthodox movement cannot grant legitimacy to "any interpretation of Judaism that lies outside the parameters of traditional faith".

Yet, despite such a stance, there are historical precedents for the chief rabbi and other orthodox communal leaders to attend funeral as well as memorial services of distinguished representatives of other branches of Judaism.

Simply by being present at a memorial meeting in honour of Rabbi Hugo Gryn, the chief rabbi would not in any way be condoning either the theology or practices of non-orthodox Judaism. Instead, he would be acting in the same spirit as orthodox leaders who preceded him in past generations: his presence would signal respect for a fellow Jew who has had a positive impact on Jewish and non-Jewish society.

Rabbi professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok

King Street, Canterbury, Kent

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