CHIEF Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has slammed the Jewish community for demonising fellow Jews.
He was speaking after confirming that controversial Rabbi Joseph Dweck will continue in his role as the Sephardi and Portuguese community’s senior rabbi.
His position came under fire after he described greater social acceptance of homosexuality as a “fantastic development for humanity”.
Rabbi Mirvis, who was asked to mediate by Israel’s Sephardi Rabbi, Yitzchak Yosef, wrote this week: “During the past two or so months, I have been appalled by some of the conduct we have witnessed in our community.
“Orthodoxy has long known significant differences in outlook, but the recent controversy about Rabbi Dweck’s teachings has brought the polarisation of Orthodox Jewry into sharpest focus.
“Social media, the press and our communities have been awash with poisonous invective, demonising other Jews in ways which are simply unacceptable.”
The Chief Rabbi added: “The problem runs so deep that it is now used as a hallmark of particular shades of Jewish identity.
“People are affirming what they stand for by denigrating and insulting those whom they stand against.
“We have come to define ourselves by that which divides us, rather than that which unites us.”
A rabbinic panel concluded that Rabbi Dweck can remain in his job, but in future he will run through in advance, with another rabbi, the contents of lectures.
Rabbi Mirvis continued: “If Jewish history has taught us anything, it is that we are at our weakest and most vulnerable when we are divided.
“We came close to total annihilation over an argument at a party. Jewish unity is not a pleasant additional extra — it is fundamental to our survival.
“There are so many external threats to the Jewish world that if we cannot even treat each other with the most basic common courtesy, our very survival is at stake.
“Those who have shamefully sought to focus their attention, to the point of obsession, on attacking the reputation of another human being have become rapped.
“There are times when we have a responsibility to object strongly to what we believe to be wrong, but to do so with this degree of personalised vitriol is not acceptable.”
Rabbi Mirvis said others had used this to malign parts of the Orthodox community with whom they dis-agreed.
“Taking particular aim at charedim, they have filled social media with a disparaging narrative, depicting them as ‘the enemy’ or some kind of threat which we must face down and they have become a part of the problem, not the solution,” he went on.
“Not only is there no virtue in perpetuating this ‘them and us’ dynamic, it is actively damaging our community.”
The Chief Rabbi called for the community to discuss things that challenge than in a “dignified and responsible” manner.
He received support from his predecessor Lord Sacks, who praised Rabbi Dweck for the “significant contribution” he has made to the community.
Rabbi Mirvis said: “The Jewish people will emerge stronger from this intense process of reflection on the burdens and responsibilities of rabbinic leadership.”
Rabbi Dweck responded to the ruling by expressing “regret” for speaking in an “inappropriate and imprudent” way.
He said: “Many of my recent shiurim have been scrutinised with a view to identifying errors in them.
“While this has been a painful experience for me, it has also given me an opportunity to reflect.
“There is always merit and much to learn from the words of one’s critics and detractors.
“While some of the criticism was justified, the vitriolic tone of the attacks made substantive engagement with the issues all but impossible.”