Early last week, England's capital saw the bi-annual conference of the Rabbinical Council of Europe. The council, whose membership numbers among the leading rabbinical figures throughout the continent, constitutes the paramount halachic legislature of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. The council convenes every six months to arbitrate issues relevant to European Jewry in a timely fashion.
The conference took place in the Shomrei HaDas Synagogue in Hempstead, London in the afternoon following the morning arrival of rabbis from countries throughout Europe. The conference was conducted by Rabbi Yirmiya Menachem Kohen, Head of the Paris Beis Din (Jewish Court) and member presidium of the council.
As several topics demanded the attention of the council members, the conference included some six hours of discussion. A presentation by Rabbi Arie Goldberg, Deputy Director-General of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, regarding centre activities and the inquiries of various communities was presented during this time. The conference was hosted by Dayan Yaakov Yisroel Lictenstein, Head of the British Federation of Synagogues Beis Din (Jewish Court) and member presidium of the council.
One of the primary issues addressed during the conference was the decision-making process undertaken in regards to matters of pressing importance that come up during the year. As executive branch of the council, the Rabbinical Centre of Europe receives dozens of questions from Jewish communities and community leaders on a daily basis. The guidance of authoritative rabbinical leaders is required to determine how questions of this nature best be resolved. To this end, a decision was undertaken to refer questions of this nature to the rabbis of the council.
In a similar vein, council members praised the centre for their referral of many questions regarding both halacha and hashfaka to the poskey ha'dor (the leading halachic educators of the generation).
The conference also saw council members welcome Rabbi Yitzchak Reuven Rubin, as a new member of the Rabbinical Council of Europe. Rav Rubin has served as a rabbinical leader for decades, including such past engagements as Head of the British Council of Provincial Rabbis. Currently serving as Chief Rabbi of South Manchester, he is considered one of the pre-eminent lecturers in England today. His election as member of the Rabbinical Council of Europe was decided by popular council vote.
Conference attendees enjoyed a lecture by the honorable Mr Abraham Finlay, President of the British Federation of synagogues, regarding the importance of business ethics. The rabbis expressed their interest and regard for the topics the lecture touched upon.
The issue of determination of Jewish identity was another conference focus. Within the framework of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, a wing devoted exclusively to questions of this nature receives dozens of inquiries from Jewish communities across the continent on a monthly basis. These questions are referred to authoritative researchers and batey dinim (Jewish courts) led by the rabbinical leaders of our generation.
Despite the scope of these activities, however, many Jewish communities have not yet referred their files regarding these issues to qualified researchers, opting instead to rely upon opinions unversed in the data germane to these matters. The inclusion of many gentiles into European Jewish communities has taken place in wake of such decisions. As such, the Rabbinical Council of Europe expressed their satisfaction with the continued activity of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe in the field as presented by centre Deputy Director-General Rabbi Arie Goldberg.