The conspicuous absence of United Synagogue rabbis at this week’s Limmud Conference has surprised and disappointed many.
The 3,000 delegates and organisers expected to see ever more members of Orthodox Judaism at the community’s flagship event after the Chief Rabbi’s triumphant star turns there in 2013 and 2014.
Mirvis defied concerns of members of his Beth Din to become the first United Synagogue Chief Rabbi to attend and give his blessing to other United Synagogue rabbis to take part.
It marked a clear departure from his predecessor Lord Sacks, who had given his rabbis the green light to attend but decided not to do so himself. But the concern in the halls and corridors of the Birmingham Hilton Metropole this week [and loudly echoed by Liberal Judaism’s chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich] is that mainstream Orthodox leaders and lay people have abjectly failed to heed Mirvis’ clear call – deterred by the presence of non-Orthodox rabbis teaching and debating Torah.
There is palpable disappointment that the United Synagogue rabbinate has rejected on open invitation by their spiritual leader to finally and fully embrace the opportunity to sit, eat and argue with fellow Jews – of all hues.
Instead, rather than take their place in significant numbers at the Anglo-Jewry’s biggest event of the year, just two United Synagogue rabbis – Dr Michael Harris of Hampstead United and Dov Kaplan of Hampstead Garden Suburb– turned up to present sessions during the five-day event.
It’s left many in Birmingham scratching their head and viewing Mirvis’ appearances as box-ticking exercises rather than the start of something special.