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Chief Rabbi

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Title: Chief Rabbi  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Nathan Marcus Adler, Ovadia Yosef, Immanuel Jakobovits, Baron Jakobovits, Mizrahi Jews, Abraham Isaac Kook
Collection: Chief Rabbis, Orthodox Rabbinic Roles and Titles
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Chief Rabbi

Chief Rabbi is a title given in several countries to the recognised 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 Rabbi Uziel, Israel has had two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi.[1]

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.

The Chief Rabbi's name is often followed by ABD, which stands for Av Beth Din.

Jewish law provides no support for the post of a "chief rabbi" since every rabbi has equal authority in principle. 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 Castile or the arrabi mor in Portugal.[2] And similarly in the 19th century with the kazyonniy ravvin ("official rabbi") in Imperial Russia.[3]


  • Chief Rabbis by country/region 1
    • Albania 1.1
    • Argentina 1.2
      • Sephardi 1.2.1
      • Ashkenazi 1.2.2
    • Austria 1.3
    • British Empire and Commonwealth 1.4
      • Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis 1.4.1
      • Sephardi Hahamim 1.4.2
    • Bulgaria 1.5
    • Cuba 1.6
    • Croatia 1.7
    • Cyprus 1.8
    • Czech Republic 1.9
    • Denmark 1.10
    • Egypt 1.11
    • Estonia 1.12
    • France 1.13
    • Guatemala 1.14
    • Hong Kong 1.15
    • Hungary 1.16
    • Iran 1.17
    • Ireland 1.18
    • Israel 1.19
      • Sephardi 1.19.1
      • Ashkenazi 1.19.2
      • Military Rabbinate 1.19.3
    • Japan 1.20
    • Lebanon 1.21
    • Mexico 1.22
    • Macedonia 1.23
    • Morocco 1.24
    • Nepal 1.25
    • Norway 1.26
    • Panama 1.27
    • Poland 1.28
      • Poland: Armed Forces 1.28.1
    • Romania 1.29
    • Russia 1.30
      • Military Rabbinate 1.30.1
    • Serbia 1.31
    • Singapore 1.32
    • Slovakia 1.33
    • South Africa 1.34
    • Spain 1.35
    • Thailand 1.36
    • Transylvania (before 1918) 1.37
    • Tunisia 1.38
    • Turkey 1.39
    • Uganda 1.40
    • Ukraine 1.41
    • United States 1.42
    • Uruguay 1.43
    • Venezuela 1.44
  • Chief rabbis by city 2
    • Amsterdam, Netherlands 2.1
      • Ashkenazi 2.1.1
      • Sephardi 2.1.2
    • Antwerp, Belgium 2.2
    • Baltimore, United States 2.3
    • Berlin, Germany 2.4
    • Birobidzhan, Russia 2.5
    • Budapest, Hungary 2.6
    • Caracas, Venezuela 2.7
      • Ashkenazi 2.7.1
      • Sephardi 2.7.2
    • Chicago, United States 2.8
    • Frankfurt, Germany 2.9
    • Gateshead, United Kingdom 2.10
    • The Hague, Netherlands 2.11
    • Haifa, Israel 2.12
      • Ashkenazi 2.12.1
      • Sephardi 2.12.2
    • Hebron, West Bank 2.13
    • Hoboken, United States 2.14
    • Jerusalem, Israel 2.15
      • Sephardi 2.15.1
      • Ashkenazi 2.15.2
      • Edah HaChareidis 2.15.3
    • Leiden, Netherlands 2.16
    • Milan, Italy 2.17
    • Montreal, Canada 2.18
      • Ashkenazi 2.18.1
      • Sephardi 2.18.2
    • Moscow, Russia 2.19
    • Munich, Germany 2.20
    • Netherlands – Inter-Provincial Chief rabbinate 2.21
    • New York City, United States 2.22
    • Nové Zámky, Slovakia 2.23
    • Paris, France 2.24
    • Rome, Italy 2.25
    • Rotterdam, Netherlands 2.26
    • Sofia, Bulgaria 2.27
    • St. Louis, Missouri 2.28
    • Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 2.29
      • Great Synagogue 2.29.1
    • Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel 2.30
      • Sephardi 2.30.1
    • Toronto, Canada 2.31
    • Vienna, Austria 2.32
    • Warsaw, Poland 2.33
    • Würzburg, Germany 2.34
    • Zagreb, Croatia 2.35
  • References 3
  • External links 4

Chief Rabbis by country/region






British Empire and Commonwealth

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis

Sephardi Hahamim






Czech Republic






Hong Kong


Note that this list is out of order.
  • Meir Eisenstadt—known as the Panim Me'iros (1708–), rabbi of Eisenstadt and author of "Panim Me'irot"
  • Alexander ben Menahem
  • Phinehas Auerbach
  • Jacob Eliezer Braunschweig
  • Hirsch Semnitz
  • Simon Jolles (1717–?)
  • Samson Wertheimer (1693?–1724) (also Eisenstadt and Moravia)
  • Issachar Berush Eskeles (1725–1753)[14]
  • Joseph Hirsch Weiss—grandfather of Stephen Samuel Wise[15][16]
  • Samuel Kohn
  • Simon Hevesi (father of Ferenc Hevesi)
  • Ferenc Hevesi
  • Moshe Kunitzer—a pioneer of the Haskalah movement in Hungary (1828–1837)
  • Koppel Reich
  • Ignatz Lichtenstein (1857–1892) converted to Christianity and still held his position as rabbi.
  • Chaim Yehuda Deutsch
  • József Schweitzer
  • Robert (Avrohom Yehudoh) Deutsch



The appointment of a new Chief Rabbi of Ireland has been put on hold since 2008.[17]


The position of chief rabbi 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.

Military Rabbinate




  • Shlomo Tawil (1998–Present)


  • Avi Kozma





  • Zion Levy (1951–2008) Sephardic Chief Rabbi


Poland: Armed Forces



Military Rabbinate



  • Rabbi Mordechai Abergel/Rabbi Michael Darzi


South Africa


  • Baruj Garzon (1968–1978), the first Chief Rabbi in Spain since the expulsion in 1492
  • Yehuda Benasuli z"l (1978–1997)
  • Rabbi Moshe Bendahan (1997–present)


Transylvania (before 1918)

Note: The chief rabbi of Transylvania was generally the rabbi of the city of Alba Iulia.

  • Joseph Reis Auerbach (d. 1750)
  • Shalom Selig ben Saul Cohen (1754–1757)
  • Johanan ben Isaac (1758–1760)
  • Benjamin Ze'eb Wolf of Cracow (1764–1777)
  • Moses ben Samuel Levi Margaliot (1778–1817)
  • Menahem ben Joshua Mendel (1818–23)
  • Ezekiel Paneth (1823–1843)
  • Abraham Friedmann (d. 1879), the last chief rabbi of Transylvania





  • Yaakov Dov Bleich (1990–present)—original post-communism chief rabbi, still widely recognized Chief Rabbi of Ukraine and Kiev
  • Alex Dukhovny—The Progressive (Liberal/Reform) Chief Rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine
  • Azriel Chaikin (2003–present)—Chabad affiliated; not recognized as Ukraine Chief Rabbi, but heads the Ukrainian Chabad[22]
  • Moshe Reuven Azman—rabbi from Chabad, though elected mostly by secular Jewish leaders and not by any rabbinical authority[23] (2005–present)

United States

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.[24]



Chief rabbis by city

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Antwerp, Belgium

Baltimore, United States

  • Abraham N. Schwartz (d. 1934)
  • Joseph H. Feldman (retired 1972, d. 1992)

Berlin, Germany

Birobidzhan, Russia

Budapest, Hungary

Caracas, Venezuela

Chicago, United States

  • Yaakov Dovid Wilovsky—known as the Ridbaz, served as chief rabbi of the Russian-American congregations in the city 1903–1905.

Frankfurt, Germany

Gateshead, United Kingdom

The Hague, Netherlands

Haifa, Israel

Hebron, West Bank

Hoboken, United States

Jerusalem, Israel

Edah HaChareidis

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.

Leiden, Netherlands

Milan, Italy

Montreal, Canada

Present Av Beis Din Montreal Rav Binyomin Weiss, head of the city's Vaad Hair.

Moscow, Russia

Munich, Germany

  • Yitshak Ehrenberg (1989–1997)[26]
  • Pinchos Biberfeld, moved back to Germany from where he had emigrated to Israel over 50 years earlier. (1980–1999)
  • Steven Langnas, first German (descendance) Chief Rabbi and Av Beth Din of Munich (1999–2011)

Netherlands – Inter-Provincial Chief rabbinate

New York City, United States

  • Jacob Joseph 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.
  • Yosef Yitzchok Parnes, the Brooklyner Rebbe, was also considered as such, arriving in Borough Park, Brooklyn in approximately 1913; due to the many non-observant Jews then working for the local utility companies, he did not use any electricity on the Sabbath. Many religious Jews in America in the early 1900s were his adherents.
  • Jacob S. Kassin was the Chief Rabbi of the Syrian Jewish community of New York 1930–1995.

Nové Zámky, Slovakia

Paris, France

  • Michel Seligmann (1809–1829)[31]
  • Marchand Ennery (1829–1845)
  • Lazard Isidor (1847–1865)
  • Zadoc Kahn (1866–1889)
  • Jacques-Henri Dreyfuss (1891–1933)
  • Julien Weill (1933–1950)
  • Jacob Kaplan (1950–1955)
  • Meïr Jaïs (1956–1980)
  • Alain Goldmann (1980–1994)
  • David Messas (1994–2011)
  • Michel Gugenheim (2012– )

Rome, Italy

Rotterdam, Netherlands

Sofia, Bulgaria

St. Louis, Missouri

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Great Synagogue

Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel


Toronto, Canada

Vienna, Austria

Warsaw, Poland

Würzburg, Germany

Zagreb, Croatia


  1. ^ Cameron Brown. "Rabbi Ovadia Yosef And His Culture War in Israel". Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  2. ^ Himelstein, Shmuel (2011). "Chief Rabbinate". In  
  3. ^ Kaplan Appel, Tamar, ed. (3 August 2010). "Crown Rabbi". The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Yale University Press.  
  4. ^ Jerusalem Post, 8 December 2010
  5. ^ "Jewish Travel Advisor". Jewish Travel Advisor. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Yerushaseinu 5771 (PDF). 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Rabbis of Chilean Masorti Forum meet with Mr. Zeev Bielsky Masorti World
  10. ^ The Virtual Jewish History Tour Cuba Jewish Virtual Library
  11. ^ The Jewish Traveler: Havana Hadassah Magazine
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Elsebeth Paikin (21 May 2004). "Rabbis in Denmark – JewishGen Scandinavia SIG". Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  14. ^ "Personality of the week: Issachar Berush Eskeles".  
  15. ^ "Weiss, Joseph Hirsch". Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  16. ^ "RootsWeb: WISE-L [WISE] Treasure found – autobiography of Stephen WISE". 28 April 2001. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ "CHIEF RABBI SALANT DIES IN JERUSALEM; Head of the Ashkanezic Congregationalists Was an Eminent Talmudist. A FRIEND OF MONTEFIORE Collected Donations for the Building of New Synagogue Bet Ya'akob – Favorite of His People". The New York Times. 17 August 1909. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  20. ^ "Japan Gets First-Ever Chief Rabbi". September 17, 2015. 
  21. ^ "MOORISH JEWS GRATEFUL.; Chief Rabbi Thanks Us for Our Action at Algeciras Conference" (pdf). The New York Times. 10 June 1906. 
  22. ^ "Ukraine's Second Chief Rabbi?". NCSJ. 15 September 2003. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  23. ^ "Ukrainian community split over chief rabbi – Jewish News of Greater Phoenix". 28 October 2005. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  24. ^  
  25. ^ a b  
  26. ^ a b c "Rab. Y. Ehrenberg – Jewish Community of Berlin". Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  27. ^ Title page of Malki Ba-Kodesh, vol. 2; Hoboken, 1921
  28. ^ a b "Bnei Brak rabbi named to new beit din post". 27 April 2006. Archived from the original on 27 April 2006. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  29. ^ "Frum Jewish News". The Yeshiva World. 30 November 2006. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  30. ^ "Grand Rabbinat du Québec". Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b c d
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h Jacobs, Joseph; Slijper, E. "Netherlands".  
  34. ^  
  35. ^ Landman, Isaac (1941). The Universal Jewish encyclopedia 5. ... and the chief rabbi of Rotterdam, Aryeh Leib Breslau (1781–1809) 
  36. ^ 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. 
  37. ^ a b c Michman, 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. 
  38. ^ a b c d e f Michman, 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. 
  39. ^ "Rebbetzin Paula Rivkin remembered as 'woman of valor' – St. Louis Jewish Light: Local News – Rebbetzin Paula Rivkin remembered as ‘woman of valor’: Local News". 12 January 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  40. ^ a b Sydney's new Chief Rabbi, David Rutledge, ABC "Religion Report", ABC Online, 1 June 2005, accessed 5 April 2010

External links

  • Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
  • Chief Rabbi of South Africa
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