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United Kingdom & Commonwealth: Chief Rabbis, Community Rabbis and Famous Leaders of British Jewry

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The past British Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks said: “Soul touched soul across the boundaries of faith, and there was a blessed moment of healing”Photo.
Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, a prior chief rabbi, was awarded the world's richest religious prize, the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, in 1991.

The position of chief rabbi in the United Kingdom emerged in the 18th and early 19th centuries among the Ashkenazi Jews of London as a form of representation to English authorities—the Jewish equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Chief Rabbis of the United Kingdom & Commonwealth=

List of chief rabbis of the United Kingdom

UK Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis and Sephardi Hahamim

Sephardi Hahamim=

  • Jacob ben Aaron Sasportas (1664-1665)
  • Yehoshua Da Silva (1670-1679)
  • Jacob Abendana (1681-1684)
  • Solomon Ayllon (1689-1700)
  • David Nieto (1701-1728)
  • Isaac Nieto (1732-1740)
  • Moshe Gomes de Mesquita (1744-1751)
  • Moshe Cohen d'Azevedo (1761-1784)
  • Raphael Meldola (1806-1828)
  • Benjamin Artom (1866-1879)
  • Moses Gaster (1887-1918)
  • Shem Tob Gaguine (1920-1953) (officially the "Ecclesiastical Chief of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation," not the Haham)
  • Solomon Gaon (1949-1995)
  • 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 Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation, not the Haham)

[To be completed]

Famous British Jewish Religious Leaders=

[To be completed]

Famous British Jewish Lay Leaders=

Presbyters & First Jewish Communities==

Jews may have come to Britain in Roman times, but the first organized Jewish community started soon after the Norman Conquest in 1066. In the succeeding two centuries, the community included a number of significant rabbis, including

  • Rabbi Elijah Menachem of London
  • Rabbi Jacob ben Judah the Chazan who published "Etz Chaim" the prayerbook of the community in 1280,
  • Yomtov of Joigny, a poet, and Rabbi of the York community at the time of the massacre in 1190.

Originally, at the head of the Jewish community was placed a Chief Rabbi, known as "the presbyter of all the Jews of England" ; he appears to have been selected by the Jews themselves, who were granted a congé d'élire by the king. The latter claimed, however, the right of confirmation, as in the case of bishops. The Jewish presbyter was indeed in a measure a royal official, holding the position of adviser, as regards Jewish law, to the Exchequer of the Jews. For the English legal system admitted the validity of Jewish law in its proper sphere as much as it did that of the canon law.

Six Presbyters are known through the: Thirteenth century. Between the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 and their formal return in 1655 there is no official trace of Jews as such on English soil.

Spanish / Sephardic Leading British Families==

The prominent members of the Jewish community were Sephardic such as the
Aguilars, ▪ Bassevis ▪ Bernals, ▪ Disraelis, ▪ Lopezes, ▪ Ricardos, ▪ Samudas,

However these families gradually severed their connection with the synagogue and allowed their children to grow up either without any religion or in the Established Church, which gave them an open career in all the professions

Rise of German Jewish community==

In the meanwhile the lead among the English Jews was passing from the Spanish to the German section of the community. The provincial communities generally affiliated themselves with the Great Synagogue in London and the Rabbi of The Great was acknowledged as their spiritual head. When Hart Lyon became Rabbi of the Great in 1758 it was agreed that henceforward the Rabbi of the Great would be recognized by all Ashkenazi communities as the Chief Rabbi of Jews throughout Britain, and in due course the Empire as well.