Chief Rabbi

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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 Ben-Zion Meir Hai 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.

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 Kingdom of Castile or the arrabi mor in Kingdom of Portugal, likely influenced by the expectations of their Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican governments and neighbors.[2] Similarly, in the 19th century there was a Crown rabbi of the Russian Empire.[3]


By country/region[edit]






British Empire and Commonwealth[edit]

Ashkenazi Chief rabbis[edit]

Spanish and Portuguese Hahamim/Communal rabbis (not Sephardi Chief Rabbi)[edit]

The Sephardi Anglo-Jewry in the United Kingdom is mainly made up of independent Sephardi communities and synagogues, with no unified body. Thus, there is no Sephardi Chief Rabbi. The Senior Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation oversees the rabbis of the several synagogues which are affiliated with the congregation. The honorific title haham (plural hahamim), meaning wise, was given to each Senior Rabbi until Solomon Gaon. When Solomon Gaon retired, the congregation dropped such title and decided to separate the function of communal rabbi from the function of Dayan.

After Solomon Gaon's retirement, the title haham was dropped.

  • Abraham Levy (1995–2012) (officially the Communal Rabbi and Spiritual Head of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation, not the haham)
  • Joseph Dweck (2013–) (elected Senior Rabbi of The S&P Sephardi Community, not the haham)[7]









Czech Republic[edit]




The Far East[edit]




Hong Kong[edit]


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)[15]
  • Joseph Hirsch Weiss—grandfather of Stephen Samuel Wise[16][17]
  • 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.[18]


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[edit]




  • Shlomo Tawil (1998–Present)


  • Avi Kozma





  • Zion Levy (1951–2008) Sephardic Chief Rabbi


Poland: Armed Forces[edit]



Military Rabbinate[edit]



  • Rabbi Mordechai Abergel/Rabbi Jean Pierre Fettmann


South Africa[edit]


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


  • Yom Tov Yedid (1960-1985), moved to The United States in 1985 and died July 27, 2016 in the United States


Transylvania (before 1918)[edit]

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





United States[edit]

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.[26]


  • Jaime Spector (1931-1937)
  • Aaron Milevsky (1937-1943)
  • Aaron Laschover (1943-1967)
  • Nechemia Berman (1970–1993)
  • Eliahu Birenbaum (1994–1999)
  • Yosef Bittón (1999–2002)
  • Mordejai Maarabi (2002–2009)
  • Shai Froindlich (2009–2010)
  • Isaac Fadda (2011-2012)
  • Ben-Tzion Spitz (2013–2016)
  • Max Yojanan Godet (2017–present)



Chief rabbis by city[edit]

Amsterdam, Netherlands[edit]

Antwerp, Belgium[edit]

Baltimore, Maryland - United States[edit]

  • Abraham N. Schwartz (d. 1937)
  • Joseph H. Feldman (retired 1972, d. 1992)

Berlin, Germany[edit]

Birobidzhan, Russia[edit]

Budapest, Hungary[edit]

Caracas, Venezuela[edit]

Chicago, Illinois - United States[edit]

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

Frankfurt, Germany[edit]

  • Menachem Halevi Klein|Menachem Klein
  • Nathan HaKohen Adler

Gateshead, United Kingdom[edit]

The Hague, Netherlands[edit]

  • Saul Isaac Halevi (1748–1785)
  • Dov Yehuda Schochet (1946–1952)

Haifa, Israel[edit]

Hebron, Israel[edit]

Hoboken, New Jersey - United States[edit]

Jerusalem, Israel[edit]

Edah HaChareidis[edit]

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.

Krakow, Poland[edit]

Leiden, Netherlands[edit]

Milan, Italy[edit]

Modi'in Illit, Israel[edit]

Montreal, Quebec, Canada[edit]

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

Moscow, Russia[edit]

Munich, Germany[edit]

  • Yitshak Ehrenberg (1989–1997)[29]
  • 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[edit]

New York, New York - United States[edit]

  • Jacob Joseph (1840-1902) 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.
  • Chaim Jacob Wiedrewitz was the Chassidc chief rabbi of New York and Pennsylvania; he was previously the Chassidic Rav of Moscow and was officially called as "The Moskover Rav", immigrated in 1893 and died in 1911, he's buried in the Chabad society of the Bayside Cemetery in Ozone Park NY.
  • Jacob S. Kassin was the Chief Rabbi of the Syrian Jewish community of New York 1930–1995.
  • Leibish Wolowsky was the chief rabbi of the Galician community of NYC 1888-1913, he was previously the rabbi of Sambor, Austria and immigrated to the US in 1888. He died in 1913 and is buried in the Achum Ahuvim of Reizow at the Mount Zion Cemetery in Maspeth NY.
  • Avrohom Aharon Yudelevitz who was previously the rav of Manchester, England was accepted in 1919 as the chief rabbi of the Jewish Arbitration Court of NYC, he authored many books on Jewish law and Responsa. Died in 1930 and buried in family plot at the Bayside cemetery in Ozone Park NY.

Nové Zámky, Slovakia[edit]

Paris, France[edit]

Rome, Italy[edit]

Rotterdam, Netherlands[edit]

Sofia, Bulgaria[edit]

St. Louis, Missouri - United States[edit]

  • Chaim Fischel Epstein
  • Menachem Zvi Eichenstein (1943–1982)
  • Sholom Rivkin (1983–2011)[42]

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[edit]

Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel[edit]


Toronto, Ontario, Canada[edit]

Vienna, Austria[edit]

Warsaw, Poland[edit]

Würzburg, Germany[edit]

Zagreb, Croatia[edit]

"Grand Rabbi"[edit]

Occasionally, the term "Grand Rabbi" is used to note a Hasidic Rebbe, particularly used on letterhead when letterhead is in English.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Cameron Brown. "Rabbi Ovadia Yosef And His Culture War in Israel". Archived from the original on 29 October 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  2. ^ Himelstein, Shmuel (2011). "Chief Rabbinate". In Berlin, Adele. The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion (2nd ed.). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-19-973004-9. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  3. ^ Kaplan Appel, Tamar, ed. (3 August 2010). "Crown Rabbi". The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300119039. OCLC 170203576. Archived from the original on 2015-03-27. Retrieved 2015-05-31.
  4. ^ Jerusalem Post, 8 December 2010
  5. ^ "Jewish Travel Advisor". Jewish Travel Advisor. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Yerushaseinu 5771 (PDF).[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Sephardim vote in new rabbinic head with massive majority".
  8. ^ "Jews of Bulgaria". geni_family_tree.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Rabbis of Chilean Masorti Forum meet with Mr. Zeev Bielsky Archived 20 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Masorti World
  11. ^ The Virtual Jewish History Tour Cuba Jewish Virtual Library
  12. ^ The Jewish Traveler: Havana[permanent dead link] Hadassah Magazine
  13. ^ BILEFSKY, DAN (May 10, 2009). "Hard Times Give New Life to Prague's Golem". The New York Times. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  14. ^ Elsebeth Paikin (21 May 2004). "Rabbis in Denmark – JewishGen Scandinavia SIG". Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  15. ^ "Issachar Berush Eskeles". The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot.
  16. ^ "Weiss, Joseph Hirsch". Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  17. ^ "RootsWeb: WISE-L [WISE] Treasure found – autobiography of Stephen WISE". 28 April 2001. Archived from the original on 19 March 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  18. ^ Chabad On Line. "Ireland's De facto Chief Rabbi". collive.
  19. ^ [1][dead link]
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ "Japan Gets First-Ever Chief Rabbi". September 17, 2015.
  22. ^ "MOORISH JEWS GRATEFUL.; Chief Rabbi Thanks Us for Our Action at Algeciras Conference" (pdf). The New York Times. 10 June 1906.
  23. ^ "Ukrainian chief rabbi to resign". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 29 May 2008.
  24. ^ {{cite web|url= |title=Ukraine's Second Chief Rabbi? |publisher=NCSJ |date=15 September 2003 |accessdate=9 November 2011 |deadurl=yes |archiveurl= |archivedate=27 September 2011 |df=dmy}}
  25. ^ "Ukrainian community split over chief rabbi – Jewish News of Greater Phoenix". 28 October 2005. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  26. ^ Sarna, Jonathan (2004). American Judaism: A History. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 105. ISBN 0-300-10976-8.
  27. ^ "In Bukhara, 10,000 Jewish Graves but Just 150 Jews". New York Times. 7 April 2018.
  28. ^ a b Bleich, J.D. (1989). Contemporary Halakhic Problems; Volume 16. KTAV Publishing House. pp. 63–4. ISBN 978-0-88125-315-3.
  29. ^ a b c "Rab. Y. Ehrenberg – Jewish Community of Berlin". Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  30. ^ Title page of Malki Ba-Kodesh, vol. 2; Hoboken, 1921
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ "Frum Jewish News". The Yeshiva World. 30 November 2006. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  33. ^ "Grand Rabbinat du Québec". Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  34. ^ "Consistoire - Consistoire de paris".
  35. ^ a b c d[permanent dead link]
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h Jacobs, Joseph; Slijper, E. "Netherlands". The Jewish Encyclopedia. The names of the chief rabbis of Rotterdam are: Judah Salomon (1682); Solomon Ezekiel (1725–35; his salary was 305 gulden); Judah Ezekiel, son of the preceding (1738–55); Abraham Judah Ezekiel, son of the preceding (1755–79); Judah Akiba Eger (1779; left in 1781); Levie Hyman Breslau, author of "Pene Aryeh" (1781–1807); Elijah Casriel, from Leeuwarden (1815–33); E.J. Löwenstamm, grandson of L.H. Breslau (1834–45); Joseph Isaacson (1850–71; removed to Filehne as a result of dissensions in the community); B. Ritter (since 1884).
  37. ^ Jizkor Platenatlas. 1978. p. 37.
  38. ^ Landman, Isaac (1941). The Universal Jewish encyclopedia. 5. ... and the chief rabbi of Rotterdam, Aryeh Leib Breslau (1781–1809)
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ 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.
  41. ^ 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.
  42. ^ "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.
  43. ^ a b Sydney's new Chief Rabbi, David Rutledge, ABC "Religion Report", ABC Online, 1 June 2005, accessed 5 April 2010

External links[edit]

Media related to Chief rabbis at Wikimedia Commons