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President of Yeshiva University and celebrated MK lead programme at Chief Rabbi’s Conference

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The Chief Rabbi welcomed 120 Rabbanim and Rebbetzens to his annual conference ahead of the Yamim Noraim (High Holy Days) last week, for two days of inspiring lectures and workshops led by leading halachic authorities from around the world.

Keynote speaker Rabbi Dr Ari Berman, the President of Yeshiva University delivered sessions on both days of the conference, taking as his subjects ‘The Ethos of the Ideal Community’ and ‘The Fragility of Life and the Meaning of Time’.

Another highlight of the programme was Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former MK and the President of Mosaica – The Middle East Religious Peace Initiative, who provided fascinating insights into his work at the frontline of interfaith engagement around the world. He emphasised the importance of being open to dialogue and cited positive developments in engagement that are rarely publicised.

This tied in with the Chief Rabbi’s opening lecture on the previous day, in which he drew on Torah sources and current affairs to address the tension that occurs between perception and reality, in Rabbinic leadership. Rabbis are the ‘guarantors of our mesorah (tradition)’ he said, and it therefore falls to them to safeguard this, even when it means ‘risking a negative perception’.

At the conference dinner, the Chief Rabbi was delighted to host the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, The Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, as guest speaker. The Secretary of State spoke warmly of the Jewish community’s long-term contribution to the UK and reaffirmed this government’s commitment to putting grassroots, interfaith dialogue at the heart of efforts to achieve a more integrated Britain. He also praised plans for a new Holocaust memorial in London.

Other components of the two-day programme included breakout sessions for delegates to discuss mental health issues and communal conflict, as well as insights from Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev on Israel’s recent successes and from David Delew, Chief Executive of the CST, on how Rabbis can partner with them to enhance security for the community. Dayan Ehrentreu, Head of the European Beth Din and Dayan Binstock, of the London Beth Din, also gave stirring presentations.

The Chief Rabbi said: ‘The conference provides us with a platform to emphasise priorities for the year ahead and crucially also serves as a confidential forum in which Rabbinic leaders are free to raise concerns and share ideas. A programme featuring truly exceptional scholars delivered on the conference’s core aim of supplying ample material and inspiration ahead of the High Holy Days.’