Daily Israel Report

Rabbi Metzger and Rumor Mill Fly Together

Israel’s Chief Rabbi Metzger refused to confirm or deny he visited Britain last week, keeping alive the rumor mill he will move there.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 12/18/2011, 6:39 PM

Chief Rabbi Sacks
Chief Rabbi Sacks
Courtesy, Chief Rabbi's Office

Israel’s Chief Rabbi Metzger is or is not a candidate for the same post in Britain, depending on the source, but his office refused to confirm or deny he visited London last week.

The rumor flew last week with a report in a new Israeli newspaper that Rabbi Metzger was offered the job to replace Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who is retiring in 2013. The offer reportedly was negotiated through a wealthy Jew who is close to British royalty.

The rabbi’s office originally confirmed the report but added that it would not speak about the issue because his term of office in Israel does not expire until 2013. However, the United Synagogue of the United Kingdom dismissed the report as “nonsense.”

Asked if he indeed traveled to London last week, the rabbi’s spokesman Avi Blumental told Arutz Sheva Sunday that he does not “confirm or deny” it.

Rabbi Sacks, highly popular in most Jewish circles in London, has been the Chief Rabbi for the Commonwealth since 1991. His weekly Parsha sermon is posted on Arutz Sheva.

United Synagogue president Stephen Peck confirmed in a statement that a search is being conducted for a replacement but said that Rabbi Metzger is one of the candidates,  

“I am taken aback by the suggestion that there has been any kind of ‘offer’ made to anybody in this regard,” he said. “An enormous amount of effort has gone into creating a process that is designed to transparently produce the best possible range of candidates for this world-leading role, and nobody involved in this process has, or could ever, make such an offer.”

The London Jewish Chronicle reported that senior hareidi-religious politicians in Israel supported Rabbi Metzger's candidacy “out of gratitude for his co-operation over the years. He is seen as someone who will toe the line of the hareidi rabbis in matters of conversion, which have global Jewish significance.”

Rabbi Metzger was a controversial appointment when he took up his post in Israel to succeed Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, whose shoes would be difficult for anyone to fill. Rabbi Metzger never served as a rabbinical judge and was considered by many to be an envoy for hareidi religious factions.

“He has made it clear in private conversations that he would prefer to move abroad after ending his 10-year term as chief rabbi in Israel, and would prefer to lead a Jewish community in the Diaspora,” according to the Chronicle.