Orthodox leader: Chief Rabbi ‘defied the word of God’ by not slating JW3’s LGBT events

Orthodox leader: Chief Rabbi ‘defied the word of God’ by not slating JW3’s LGBT events

Aharon Bassous launches extraordinary attack against Chief Rabbi Mirvis over JW3's festival marking the decriminalisation of homosexuality

Rabbi Basouss
Rabbi Basouss

The Golders Green Sephardi rabbi whose criticism of Senior Sephardi Rabbi Joseph Dweck triggered a major rabbinic rupture earlier this year has laid into Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in an extraordinary attack.

Rabbi Aharon Bassous told his Kenesset Yehezkel congregation on 19 December that Mirvis had “denied or defied the word of God” by not condemning JW3 for celebrating non-heterosexual Jewry.

The comments came while Bassous was criticising the government for “trying to promote British values of tolerance, which are becoming things which are intolerant for the faith schools,” saying: “They’re using that standard as a stick for the faith schools.”

Bassous then said it was “a problem we have caused ourselves” before blaming JW3’s celebration of the Jewish LGBTQ+ community in March 2017, called ‘GayW3,” which he said amounted to “encouraging, not condoning, homosexuality”.

The two-week programme marked 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality and its changing effect on societal attitudes, but Bassous defended someone who had written “shame” across the GayW3 banner “because a Jewish organisation should flaunt Jewish religion in such a way,” before railing against JW3 boss Raymond Simonson for changing it to read “unashamed”.

You can watch Rabbi Bassous’s address here:

Bassous then launched an attack on the Chief Rabbi, whose mediation earlier this year helped keep Rabbi Dweck in a job after uproar from Bassous and others angry when Dweck described the sexual revolution as a positive thing for humanity.

Bassous turned on the Chief for only condemning the “homophobic vandalism of the banner,” which he said was “unacceptable,” saying of the Chief Rabbi: “He’s worried about vandalism? Is this person (who wrote ‘shame’) a vandal? Is he homophobic? He’s not a vandal.”

He added: “By keeping quiet about what’s going on in this building, the Chief Rabbi has lent his passive support to institutions that condone or encourage homosexuality”. He said this was “tantamount to a denial or defiance of the word of God,” quoting a passage he said was endorsed by Mirvis’s predecessor, Lord Jonathan Sacks.

JW3 poster advertising ‘GayW3’ vandalised in March 2017

Bassous then turned his fire on the Spanish and Portuguese Beth Din, the SKA, for “actively supporting” JW3 by providing the centre’s kosher restaurant ‘Zest’ with its kashrut certificate.

As one of 25 rabbis who signed an open letter calling for their congregants to refrain from visiting JW3, Bassous seemed pleased that one local Orthodox school had cancelled a kids’ ice-skating afternoon at the centre as a result of his intervention.

At the time, Simonson said the 25 rabbis spoke only for a small part of Anglo-Jewry but Bassous hit back, saying: “It’s not mainstream, JW3, it’s Reform. It’s Reform. We are the mainstream, we 25 rabbis. Behind us is several thousand households. When the SKA gives the kashrut certificate, they are giving it to a Reform organisation.”

Rabbi Joseph Dweck


Bassous then attacked Michael Goldstein, the new president of United Synagogue and former chairman of JW3, saying: “There we have it: the president of the United Synagogue is Reform. Not only that, he’s the chief of the Reform, the president of the Reform. That’s why there’s complete silence from Chief Rabbi Mirvis and the Dayonim of the United Synagogue. It explains everything.”

Revisiting Mirvis’s summer intervention that helped Rabbi Dweck stay in position, Bassous said of the Chief Rabbi: “He’s sold the United Synagogue to the Reform, now he’s selling the Spanish and Portuguese [Sephardi community] to the Reform.” He added: “If you cook kosher food in a treif pot, the food is treif.”

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