The head of the Beth Din of the Federation of Synagogues is standing down after 30 years’ service to the Orthodox Jewish community of London.
Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein, who was born in the US and studied in Israel before coming to the UK in 1988, said he was retiring from the post in the next year.
Federation president Andrew Cohen said Lichtenstein, who has led the Hendon Beth Hamadrash Synagogue for 20 years, was an independent figure who had “dedicated himself tirelessly” and would be “sorely missed”.
The dayan hit national headlines in 2004 after winning an almighty High Court legal battle against Brian Maccaba, an Irish-born millionaire who “offered to buy” another man’s wife for £1 million.
The interest was unwelcome and Lichtenstein interceded on the woman’s behalf, after she came to him for help. Maccaba then sued, accusing Lichtenstein of slandering him, but the charge was thrown out by judges.
Last year, Lichtenstein was among a group of senior rabbis to support the Chief Rabbi’s anti-bullying guide for LGBT+ students at school, saying: “No child should suffer bullying, regardless of his or her inclination.”
However last month he wrote an angry letter to Education Secretary Damian Hinds, saying: “Under no circumstances will Charedi schools dilute their passionately held beliefs and sexualise their children.”
Announcing Lichtenstein’s retirement this week, Cohen said: “For the past 30 years, Dayan Lichtenstein has dedicated himself tirelessly to the strengthening of the kehillah [community] in London and further afield.
“The picture of Orthodox Anglo-Jewry today is very different to what it was in 1988 and this is due in no small part to the avodas hakodesh [sacred service] he has devoted himself to over the years.”
Lichtenstein said it had been “a privilege and an honour to serve Anglo-Jewry in my position… I have enjoyed my tenure here immensely and am proud of the Federation’s achievements in which I have been involved.”