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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Britain's new chief rabbi taking office

Ephraim Mirvis is set to take office as the new chief rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth at a ceremony in London on Sunday.

Prince Charles will join Jewish and other faith leaders for the ceremony at St John's Wood Synagogue in north London.

South African-born Mirvis, the former chief rabbi of Ireland, takes over from Lord Jonathan Sacks who is retiring after 22 years in the post.

Mirvis, 56, has said uniting members of different branches of Judaism – from liberals to the ultra-orthodox community – will be one of his top priorities.

"Within our own ranks we need to build on that which unites us and not to concentrate so much on that which separates us," he said in an interview with the BBC.

"I will do my utmost to ensure that we will indeed achieve that unity."

Officially, the role of chief rabbi is to represent the United Synagogue, the main wing of Orthodox Judaism in Britain. But the chief rabbi is traditionally seen as a national representative for all of Britain's 260,000 Jews.

Mirvis is currently rabbi at Finchley Synagogue in north London. He was chosen to replace Sacks after a two-year search.

He worked as a rabbi in Dublin before becoming Ireland's chief rabbi in 1985, a post he held until 1992.

Stephen Pack, Honorary President of the United Synagogue who oversaw the selection process, said Mirvis "understands what makes British Jewry tick, its enormous strengths and its peculiarities and sensitivities."

"Wherever he has gone, he has won friends and admirers," Pack wrote in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper.

Pack also paid tribute to Sacks, who he said had "carried out the role with intellectual brilliance and in swashbuckling style" for more than two decades.

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