RABBI Yaakov Glasman of St Kilda Hebrew Congregation has become Australia’s new “top rabbi”.
He was elected as president of the Rabbinic Council of Australia and New Zealand (RCANZ) at its first annual general meeting in Sydney last week.
The body, representing more than 100 congregational rabbis, was established in the wake of last year’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which saw the integrity of a number of senior spiritual leaders being questioned and led to calls for an overhaul of existing rabbinic structures, including the existing Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia.
According to Rabbi Glasman, the RCANZ aims to start afresh with new leaders and a determination to make sure rabbis are professional and accountable.
Outlining his goals, Rabbi Glasman said he wants to focus on professionalism and training, which “will include effective governance, fiduciary responsibility and pastoral care”.
“The RCANZ believes that rabbis should not only be proficient in Jewish law and ritual, but should also be adept at managing communal responsibilities with transparency and professionalism.”
He told The AJN that the RCANZ has also established a complaints committee to deal with complaints by the community against rabbis.
“The rabbis have come to understand that we simply cannot self-regulate in the way other professions can because we are, ultimately, a close-knit community of communal leaders.
“We are often challenged with difficulty as we work at the coalface of our communities, dealing with grief, loss, relationship breakdowns and other challenges.”
Noting that rabbis offer support to each other, he said it can therefore be difficult to have the confidence of the community when addressing complaints about fellow rabbis.
To address this issue, the complaints committee will be chaired by a legal practitioner who has worked for at least seven years in the profession or a retired judicial officer.
The inaugural chair is Michael Sifris, a Trials Division justice at the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Congratulating Rabbi Glasman on his appointment, Commonwealth Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, said, “May Hashem bless you as you bring the leadership, conviction, warmth and sensitivity you display at a communal level to your new role of national rabbinic leadership.”
Rabbi Glasman will be assisted by Rabbi Nochum Schapiro of Chabad North Shore in Sydney as vice-president, Rabbi Benjamin Elton of The Great Synagogue in Sydney as secretary, and Rabbi Shmueli Feldman from Chabad ACT as treasurer.
The executive members are Gold Coast Hebrew Congregation’s Rabbi Nir Gurewicz, Mount Scopus Memorial College principal Rabbi James Kennard, North Shore Synagogue’s Rabbi Paul Lewin, the ACT Jewish Community’s Rabbi Alon Meltzer, and Rabbi Danny Mirvis from Melbourne’s Mizrachi Organisation.