Britain’s United Synagogue Announces Next Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

December 17, 2012 4:02 pm 3 comments

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. Photo: Kinloss.

Britain’s United Synagogue has announced that Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis will replace Lord Jonathan Sacks in the role of Commonwealth Chief Rabbi upon the latter’s upcoming retirement according to the Jewish Chronicle.

“This is an immensely popular appointment that has already been welcomed across the community,” Jeremy Newmark, Chief Executive of Britain’s Jewish Leadership Council told The Algemeiner.

The website for the Finchley Synagogue, often referred to as Kinloss, where Rabbi Mirvis is currently the spiritual leader provided the following biographical description:

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis joined our community in May 1996. Prior to that, he held educational and community positions in Israel, Ireland and the UK. He was the Chief Rabbi of Ireland (1984 – 92), a position previously held by Lord Jakobovits, and Rabbi of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London (1992 – 96), a position previously held by Lord Sacks. He has been a member of the Chief Rabbi’s Cabinet since 1996 and was Chairman of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue (1999 – 2002).

At Kinloss, Rabbi Mirvis is the Founder and Director of our popular community education programme, the Kinloss Learning Centre (KLC), which has attracted hundreds of participants on a weekly basis since 2003 and has been an innovative model that many other communities have adopted.

He is the Founder Rabbi and Hon Principal of Morasha Jewish Primary School and Founder and President of our newly established Kinloss Community Kollel. He was Editor of the United Synagogue weekly, Daf Hashavua, for five years (2001 – 2006).

Rabbi Mirvis was Chairman of the Board of Governors of Stratford Jewish Schools, Dublin (1984 – 92). In 1990 he received, on behalf of the school, the Jerusalem Prize for Education in the Diaspora from President Herzog at a ceremony in Beit Hanassi, Jerusalem.

Rabbi Mirvis was President of the Irish Council of Christians and Jews (1985 – 1992). In 1986 he hosted the Biennial Conference of the International Council of Christians and Jews in Dublin. He has participated in high-level dialogues with Church leaders in the UK in meetings at Windsor Castle and Lambeth Palace. In 2005 he addressed a landmark CCJ meeting at the Synod of the Church of England.

Rabbi Mirvis was the first United Synagogue Rabbi to host an address by an Imam, Dr Mohammed Essam El-Din Fahim, in his Synagogue. Recently, he led a delegation of members of his community to the Finchley Mosque and he has initiated a joint project between his Synagogue and the Mosque for this year’s Mitzvah Day.

Rabbi Mirvis has been a member of the Steering Committee of the Conference of European Rabbis (1986 onwards). In 1992, he arranged and hosted the Biennial Conference of European Rabbis at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue. In 2001, he arranged and led the first ever group visit by United Synagogue Rabbis to America, when 10 London Rabbis spent 10 days visiting American communities.

Passionate about Israel, Rabbi Mirvis frequently represented Israel’s interests at Government level and in the media, during his spell as Chief Rabbi of Ireland (at the time there was no Israeli Embassy there). In 1999, he led a group of UK Rabbis on a solidarity trip to Israel. Since 1997, he has hosted the annual Bnei Akiva Yom Ha’atzmaut Service at Finchley Synagogue, always attended by well over 1,000 people.

Rabbi Mirvis has been the Religious Advisor to the Jewish Marriage Council since 1997. He has served on the Council of the London School of Jewish Studies (LSJS), on the Steering Committee of the Encounter Conference and the Singers Prayer Book Publications Committee

Born and raised in South Africa, Rabbi Mirvis gained a BA in Education and Classical Hebrew from the University of South Africa. He received his Semicha from Machon Ariel, Jerusalem (1978 – 80), having also studied at Herzlia High School, Cape Town (1968 – 73), Yeshivat Kerem Beyavne (1973 – 76) and Yeshivat Har Etzion (1976 – 78). He is qualified as a teacher in Israeli High Schools (Yaakov Herzog Teachers Institute) and also qualified as a shochet and mohel. Rabbi Mirvis is a great lover of music. He studied voice production for five years in Jerusalem with renowned tenor, Yakov Roden.

Rabbi Mirvis has led many successful campaigns. He was Chairman of the Irish National Council for Soviet Jewry (1984 – 1992). In 1986 he lobbied successfully against the request of Nazi War Criminal, Pieter Menton, to reside in Ireland. More recently, he led a lengthy and determined campaign to have safe pedestrian crossings installed at Henlys Corner, near Finchley Synagogue. The Mayor of London and TfL finally responded with the highly successful, multi-million pound Henlys Corner improvement scheme.

Rabbi Mirvis has been Guest Speaker and Scholar in Residence at numerous communities and campuses around the globe. He has written many articles for newspapers and journals and has often appeared on television and broadcast on radio.

Rabbi Mirvis’ wife, Valerie, is a Senior Social Worker who carried out Frontline Child Protection for many years. In May 2012, she moved to a Statutory Adoption Team. She has lectured on Healthcare Communications Skills to doctors, medical students, healthcare professionals, hospital chaplains and Rabbis since 1997. She is the author of “Please Don’t Break My Other Leg! A Guide to Empathising with Patients”, which was published in English in 2001 and in Chinese in 2004.

Rabbi and Mrs Mirvis’ eldest child, Liora Graham, passed away in 2011, following a long battle with cancer. They have four sons, Hillel, Daniel, Noam and Eitan, a son-in-law, Jonathan, two daughters-in-law, Melanie and Althea, and five grandchildren, Kinneret, Elitzur, Naama, Refael and Tamara.

The Finchley Synagogue is one of the biggest congregations in London according to the Jewish Chronicle.

3 Comments

  • A hearty Mazal Tov to Rabbi Ephraim Mervis and a particular mention and Mazal Tov to his father Rabbi Lionel Mervis. Proudly South African.

    Mark and Beulah Hyman
    Glenhazel, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Formerly of Benoni, South Africa, the birthplace and original home of the Mervis family.

  • Barry Francis Norman

    Fascinating. What role has Rabbi Mirvis played in bringing all parts of Anglo-Jewry together. There’s reference to him being the first of US Rabbonim to host an Imam, has he hosted Rabbonim from neighbouring progressive communities?

    • Barry Norman makes a good point. Wonder if he will get a reply from Rabbi Mirvis.

      Nevertheless Mirvis is an excellent choice for Chief.

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