The new leader of the Spanish & Portuguese Congregation said his installation at the country’s oldest synagogue marks “the beginning of a new era for the oldest Jewish community of England”.
Senior Rabbi Joseph Dwek, recently arrived from New York, addressed 500 guests, including past and present chief rabbis, at Bevis Marks Synagogue, and admitted that his “eyes welled up” the first time he visited the historic shul.
Paying tribute to his predecessors, Dwek also said that Sephardi Jewry would have to evolve and adapt to new challenges, as it had done for over 300 years, and that Sephardi Jewry must now look outward, rather than inward.
“Our Torah that will bring us into the future,” he said. “But it must be a Torah that brings us into the world, not one that forces us to close ourselves away from it.
Referencing the technological innovations of recent years, he issued a call to “bring our Jewish identity into High Definition,” saying: “HD is not only for our screens. We can learn about, and understand, who we are with clarity.”
He added: “This means tackling the deeper questions in life such as what is our purpose in life, how do we find fulfilment, how do we connect to G-d and, perhaps most pressing today, how do I hold fast to my heritage while remain at the cutting edge of the world’s development?”
Among those in attendance on Sunday were Chief Rabbi Mirvis, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub, former chief rabbi Lord Sacks, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain.
A spokesman from the Board of Deputies tweeted their praise:
Congratulations to @RJDweck on his induction ceremony at Bevis Marks. We look forward to continuing our excellent relationship.
— Board of Deputies (@BoardofDeputies) September 22, 2014