Does Britain Benefit from Having a Chief Rabbi?

The chief rabbinate of the United Kingdom dates back to the early 18th century, and has weathered major changes in the makeup of British Jewry. Jeremy Rosen comments on the tensions the institution has faced during the last century and the transformation of the organization that it heads:

For much of [the 20th century], the United Synagogue, as the Orthodox umbrella of Anglo-Jewry is known, tolerated standards that in practice allowed for a great deal of laxity and leeway. Most members did not keep Shabbat and drove to synagogue before going off after Saturday services to soccer matches or their businesses. Mixed choirs sang in several synagogues. Its ministers of religion dressed like Anglican churchmen. . . . It was not until Sir Isaac Wolfson in 1962 that the United Synagogue had a traditional Orthodox lay president. The supervision of kashrut in butcher shops and at functions was much more lenient then.

The arrival of survivors [of the Holocaust] from Eastern Europe began to exert far more Orthodox pressure on the community. The enclaves of genuine Anglo-Jewish Orthodoxy began to assert themselves and over time expanded beyond the confines of their ghettos. . . . Whereas once the chief rabbi set the tone, increasingly it was the Beth Din [rabbinic court], made up of men from far stricter backgrounds, that came to be the arbiter of United Synagogue practice. . . . From being the court of the chief rabbi, appointed by him, [the Beth Din] turned into a self-perpetuating oligarchy.

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: British Jewry, Orthodoxy, Rabbis, Religion & Holidays, Ultra-Orthodox, United Synagogue

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas