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Title given in several countries to the recognized religious leader of that country's Jewish community
Chief Rabbi (Hebrew: ? Rav Rashi) is a title given in several countries to the recognized religious leader of that country's Jewish community, or to a rabbinic leader appointed by the local secular authorities. Since 1911, through a capitulation by Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, Israel has had two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi.
Cities with large Jewish communities may also have their own chief rabbis; this is especially the case in Israel but has also been past practice in major Jewish centers in Europe prior to the Holocaust. North American cities rarely have chief rabbis. One exception however is Montreal, with two--one for the Ashkenazi community, the other for the Sephardi.
Jewish law provides no scriptural or Talmudic support for the post of a "chief rabbi." The office, however, is said by many to find its precedent in the religio-political authority figures of Jewish antiquity (e.g., kings, high priests, patriarches, exilarchs and gaonim). The position arose in Europe in the Middle Ages from governing authorities largely for secular administrative reasons such as collecting taxes and registering vital statistics, and for providing an intermediary between the government and the Jewish community, for example in the establishment of the Crown rabbi in several kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula, the rab de la corte in Kingdom of Castile or the arrabi mor in Kingdom of Portugal, likely influenced by the expectations of their Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican governments and neighbors. Similarly, in the 19th century there was a Crown rabbi of the Russian Empire.
The appointment of a new Chief Rabbi of Ireland has been put on hold since 2008.
The position of chief rabbi (Hebrew: ?) of the Land of Israel has existed for hundreds of years. During the Mandatory Period, the British recognized the chief rabbis of the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities, just as they recognized the Mufti of Jerusalem. The offices continued after statehood was achieved. Haredi Jewish groups (such as Edah HaChareidis) do not recognize the authority of the Chief Rabbinate. They usually have their own rabbis who do not have any connection to the state rabbinate.
Under current Israeli law, the post of Chief Rabbi exists in only four cities (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Beersheba). In other cities there may be one main rabbi to whom the other rabbis of that city defer, but that post is not officially the "Chief Rabbi".
Many of Israel's chief rabbis were previously chief rabbis of Israeli cities.
Spanish and Portuguese community Hahamim/senior rabbis
The Sephardi Jews in the United Kingdom are mainly members of independent synagogues. There is no single rabbi recognised by them as a chief rabbi. The Spanish and Portuguese community, however, consists of several synagogues, charities, a beth din and a kashruth authority. These are under the leadership of an ecclesiastical head. Historically, the individual who fills this role is recognised as a senior rabbi of Anglo Jewry, being the leader of the oldest Jewish community in the country. The Senior Rabbi was traditionally given the title, Haham, meaning "wise one". Since 1918, however, only Solomon Gaon was given this title. The official title of the holder of this office is now The Senior Rabbi of the S&P Sephardi Community of the United Kingdom.
Abraham Levy (1995-2012) (officially the Communal Rabbi and Spiritual Head of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation, not the haham)
Joseph Dweck (2013-) (elected Senior Rabbi of The S&P Sephardi Community, not the haham)
A chief rabbinate never truly developed within the United States for a number of different reasons. While Jews first settled in the United States in 1654 in New York City, rabbis did not appear in the United States until the mid-nineteenth century. This lack of rabbis, coupled with the lack of official colonial or state recognition of a particular sect of Judaism as official effectively led to a form of congregationalism amongst American Jews. This did not stop others from trying to create a unified American Judaism, and in fact, some chief rabbis developed in some American cities despite lacking universal recognition amongst the Jewish communities within the cities (for examples see below). However, Jonathan Sarna argues that those two precedents, as well as the desire of many Jewish immigrants to the US to break from an Orthodox past, effectively prevented any effective Chief Rabbi in America.
Note: The Edah HaChareidis is unaffiliated with the State of Israel. It is a separate, independent religious community with its own Chief Rabbis, who are viewed, in the Haredi world, as being the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem.
Jacob Joseph (1840-1902) was the only true Ashkenazi chief rabbi of New York City; there was never a Sephardi chief rabbi, although Dr. David DeSola Pool acted as a leader among the Sepharadim and was also respected as such. Others it has been said claimed the title of Chief Rabbi; eventually, the title became worthless through dilution.
Chaim Jacob Wiedrewitz was the Chassidc chief rabbi of New York and Pennsylvania; he was previously the Chassidic Rav of Moscow and was officially called as "The Moskover Rav", immigrated in 1893 and died in 1911, he's buried in the Chabad society of the Bayside Cemetery in Ozone Park NY.
Jacob S. Kassin was the Chief Rabbi of the Syrian Jewish community of New York 1930-1995.
Leibish Wolowsky was the chief rabbi of the Galician community of NYC 1888-1913, he was previously the rabbi of Sambor, Austria and immigrated to the US in 1888. He died in 1913 and is buried in the Achum Ahuvim of Reizow at the Mount Zion Cemetery in Maspeth NY.
Avrohom Aharon Yudelevitz who was previously the rav of Manchester, England was accepted in 1919 as the chief rabbi of the Jewish Arbitration Court of NYC, he authored many books on Jewish law and Responsa. He died in 1930 and is buried in family plot at the Bayside cemetery in Ozone Park NY.
Josiah Pardo (1648-1669) See his Haskama - Approbation to Sefer Nachalat Shiva, edition Amsterdam 1667, where he is mentioned as Chief Rabbi of both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi congregations in Rotterdam
Yosia Pardo (1648-1669). Left in 1669 to Amsterdam.
Yuda Loeb ben Rabbi Shlomo (1674-abt. 1700). Born in Wilna.
^ abcdefghJacobs, Joseph; Slijper, E. "Netherlands". The Jewish Encyclopedia. The names of the chief rabbis of Rotterdam are: Judah Salomon (1682); Solomon Ezekiel (1725-35; his salary was 305 gulden); Judah Ezekiel, son of the preceding (1738-55); Abraham Judah Ezekiel, son of the preceding (1755-79); Judah Akiba Eger (1779; left in 1781); Levie Hyman Breslau, author of "Pene Aryeh" (1781-1807); Elijah Casriel, from Leeuwarden (1815-33); E.J. Löwenstamm, grandson of L.H. Breslau (1834-45); Joseph Isaacson (1850-71; removed to Filehne as a result of dissensions in the community); B. Ritter (since 1884).
^Landman, Isaac (1941). The Universal Jewish encyclopedia. 5. ... and the chief rabbi of Rotterdam, Aryeh Leib Breslau (1781-1809)
^Michman, Jozeph; Beem, Hartog; Michman, Dan (1999). Geschiedenis van de joodse gemeenschap in Nederland [History of the Jewish Community in the Netherlands]. p. 522. In 1885 werd rabbijn dr Bernard Löbel Ritter tot rabbijn van Rotterdam benoemd.
^ abcMichman, Jozeph; Beem, Hartog; Michman, Dan (1999). Geschiedenis van de joodse gemeenschap in Nederland [History of the Jewish Community in the Netherlands]. p. 526. Na het ontslag van Ritter in 1928 werd het twee jaar lang waargenomen door de opperrabbijn van Zwolle, Simon JS Hirsch. In 1930 vond de joodse gemeente opperrabbijn Aaron Jissachar (ABN) Davids (1895-1944) van Friesland bereid naar Rotterdam te komen. Hij werd nog datzelfde jaar benoemd.
^ abcdefMichman, Jozeph; Beem, Hartog; Michman, Dan (1999). Geschiedenis van de joodse gemeenschap in Nederland [History of the Jewish Community in the Netherlands]. p. 531. Het opperrabinaat werd in de naoorlogse periode waargenomen door de opperrabbijn van Amsterdam Justus Tal (van 1945 tot '54) en vervolgens door chacham SA Rodrigues Pereira (van 1954 tot '59). Vanaf 1946 had rabbijn Levie Vorst (1903-'87) de dagelijkse leiding van de gemeente. Direct na het afleggen van het hoogste rabbinale examen werd hij benoemd tot opperrabijn, hetgeen hij bleef aan tot zijn immigratie naar Israël in 1971. Hij werd opgevolgd door Daniël Kahn (van 1972 tot '75) en Albert Hutterer (van 1975 tot '77). Na diens vertrek heeft Rotterdam het een tijd zonder rabbijn gesteld. Van 1986 tot '88 was Dov Salzmann rabbijn.