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Chief Rabbinate

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Chief Rabbinate

"Chief Rabbinate" redirects here. See also Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

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.


Chief Rabbis by country/region

Albania Albania

  • Joel Kaplan (2010– ) (appointed December 2010)[2]

Argentina Argentina


  • Yosef Chehebar[3]


  • Shlomo Ben Hamu (though he is Sephardi)

Austria Austria

  • Jitzchok ben Mosche from Wien, "Or Sorua" (lived from ca. 1200 to 1270)
  • Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller, "Tosfos Jomtov" (lived from 1578–1654)
  • Scheftel Horowitz (lived from 1561–1619)
  • Gerschon "Uliph" Aschkenasi (lived from ca. 1612–1693)
  • Samson Wertheimer (lived from 1658–1724)
  • Mosche Chanoch Berliner (lived from 1727–1793)
  • Isaak Noah Mannheimer (1824–1865)
  • Lazar Horowitz (1828–1868), chief rabbi of Vienna
  • Adolf Jellinek (1865–1893)
  • Moritz Güdemann (1894–1918)
  • Zwi Perez Chajes (1918–1927)
  • David Feuchtwang (1933–1936)
  • Israel Taglicht (1936), provisional chief rabbi
  • Insp. I. Öhler (1946), preacher at the Stadttempel
  • Akiva Eisenberg (1948–1983)
  • Paul Chaim Eisenberg (1983–present)

United Kingdom British Empire and Commonwealth

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis

Sephardi Hahamim

Bulgaria Bulgaria

  • Gabriel Almosnino (1880–1885)
  • Presiado Bakish (1885–1889)
  • Shimon Dankowitz (1889–1891)
  • Moshe Tadjer (1891–1893)
  • Mordechai Gruenwald (1893–1895)
  • Presiado Bakish (1895–1898)
  • Moshe Tadjer (1898–1900)
  • Mordekhay Ehrenpreiss (1900–1914)
  • M. Hezkeya Shabetay Davidov (1914–1918)
  • David Pipano (1920–1925)
  • Daniel Zion (19?-1949)
  • Asher Hannanel (1945–1949)

Cuba Cuba

Croatia Croatia

  • Kotel Da-Don (1998-2006) from 2006 Rabbi of the Bet Israel community Zagreb

Cyprus Cyprus

Czech Republic Czech Republic

Denmark Denmark[10]

  • Abraham Salomon (1687–1700)
  • Israel Ber (1700–1728)
  • Marcus David (1729–1739)
  • Hirsch Samuel Levy (1741–1775)
  • Gedalia Levin (1778–1793)
  • Abraham Gedalia (1793–1827)
  • Abraham Wolff (1828–1891)
  • David Simonsen (1892–1902, 1919–1920)
  • Tobias Lewenstein (1903–1910)
  • Max (Moses) Friediger (1920–1947)
  • Marcus Melchior (1947–1969)
  • Bent Melchior (1970–1996)
  • Bent Lexner (1996–present)

Egypt Egypt

  • Refael Aharon Ben Shimon (1891–1921)
  • Masoud Haim Ben Shimon (1921–1925)
  • Chaim Nahum (1925–1960)
  • Haim Douek[11] (1960–1972)

Estonia Estonia

  • Michael Alony (1995–1996)
  • Shmuel Kot (2000–present)

France France

  • David Sintzheim (1808-1812)
  • Abraham Vita de Cologna (1808-1826)
  • Emmanuel Deutz (1810-1842)
  • Marchand Ennery (1846-1852)
  • Salomon Ulmann (1853-1865)
  • Lazare Isidor (1866-1888)
  • Zadoc Kahn (1889-1905)
  • Alfred Lévy (1907-1919)
  • Israël Lévi (1920-1939)
  • Isaïe Schwartz (1939-1952)
  • Jacob Kaplan (1955-1980)
  • René Samuel Sirat (1981–1987)
  • Joseph Sitruk (1987–2008)
  • Gilles Bernheim (2009–2013) (elected June 22, 2008, resigned April 11, 2013)

Guatemala Guatemala

  • Meir Rosenbaum (Son of Rabbi Issamar of Nadvorna, Later Chief Rabbi of Cuba)

Hong Kong Hong Kong

Hungary Hungary

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)[12]
  • Joseph Hirsch Weiss—grandfather of Stephen Samuel Wise[13][14]
  • 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

Iran Iran

Main article: List of Chief Rabbis of Iran

Republic of Ireland Ireland

The appointment of a new Chief Rabbi of Ireland has been put on hold since 2008.[15]

Israel Israel

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

Lebanon Lebanon

  • Moïse Yedid-Levy (1799–1829)
  • Ralph Alfandari
  • Youssef el Mann
  • Aharoun Yedid-Levy
  • Zaki Cohen (1875)
  • Menaché Ezra Sutton
  • Jacob Bukai
  • Haïm Dana
  • Moïse Yedid-Levy
  • Nassim Afandi Danon (1908–1909)
  • Jacob Tarrab (1910–1921)
  • Salomon Tagger (1921–1923)
  • Shabtai Bahbout (1924–1950)
  • Benzion Lichtman (1932–1959)
  • Jacob Attiyeh (1949–1966)
  • Yakoub Chreim (1960–1978)

Mexico Mexico

  • Shlomo Tawil (1999–Present)

Republic of Macedonia Macedonia

  • Avi Kozma

Morocco Morocco

Norway Norway

Panama Panama

  • Zion Levy (1951–2008) Sephardic Chief Rabbi

Poland Poland

Poland: Armed Forces

Romania Romania

Russia Russia

Main article: Chief Rabbi of Russia

Military Rabbinate

Serbia Serbia

  • Isak Asiel

Singapore Singapore

  • Rabbi Mordechai Abergel

Slovakia Slovakia

South Africa South Africa

Spain Spain

  • 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)

Thailand Thailand

  • Yosef Kantor

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

Tunisia Tunisia

Turkey Turkey

  • Eli Capsali (1452–1454)
  • Moses Capsali (1454–1497)
  • Elijah Mizrachi (1497–1526)
  • Mordechai Komitano (1526–1542)
  • Tam ben Yahya (1542–1543)
  • Eli Rozanes ha - Levi (1543)
  • Eli ben Hayim (1543–1602)
  • Yehiel Bashan (1602–1625)
  • Joseph Mitrani (1625–1639)
  • Yomtov Benyaes (1639–1642)
  • Yomtov Hananiah Benyakar (1642–1677)
  • Chaim Kamhi (1677–1715)
  • Judah Benrey (1715–1717)
  • Samuel Levi (1717–1720)
  • Abraham Rozanes (1720–1745)
  • Solomon Hayim Alfandari (1745–1762)
  • Meir Ishaki (1762–1780)
  • Eli Palombo (1780–1800)
  • Chaim Jacob Benyakar (1800–1835)
  • Abraham Levi Pasha (1835–1839)
  • Samuel Hayim (1839–1841)
  • Moiz Fresko (1841–1854)
  • Yacob Avigdor (1854–1870)
  • Yakir Geron (1870–1872)
  • Moses Levi (1872–1909)
  • Chaim Nahum Effendi (1909–1920)
  • Shabbetai Levi (1920–1922)
  • Isaac Ariel (1922–1926)
  • Haim Bejerano (1926–1931)
  • Haim Isaac Saki (1931–1940)
  • Rafael David Saban (1940–1960)
  • David Asseo (1961–2002)
  • Ishak Haleva (2003–present)

Uganda Uganda

Ukraine Ukraine

  • 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 Haikin (2003–present)—Chabad affiliated; not recognized as Ukraine Chief Rabbi, but heads the Ukrainian Chabad[19]
  • Moshe Reuven Azman—rabbi from Chabad, though elected mostly by secular Jewish leaders and not by any rabbinical authority[20] (2005–present)

United States 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 Amsterdam, 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.[21]

Uruguay Uruguay

  • Nechemia Berman (1970–1993)
  • Eliahu Birenbaum (1994–1999)
  • Yosef Bitton (1999–2002)
  • Mordejai Maarabi (2002–2009)
  • Shai Froindlich (2009–2010)
  • Ben-Tzion Spitz (2013-Present)

Venezuela Venezuela

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

  • Yitshak Ehrenberg (1997–present)[23]

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

  • Menachem Klein

Gateshead, United Kingdom

Haifa, Israel

Hebron, Israel

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

  • Simon de Vries

Milan, Italy

  • Avraham David Shaumann
  • Elia Kopciovsky (195?–1980)
  • Giuseppe Laras (1980–2005)
  • Alfonso Arbib (2005–present)

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)[23]
  • 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

  • Dov Yehuda Schochet (1946–1952) [Chief Rabbi of The Hague]
  • Elieser Berlinger (1960–1985)
  • Binyomin Jacobs (2008–recent)

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)[28]
  • 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

  • Josiah Pardo (1648–1669)[29] See his Haskama - Approbation to Sefer Nachalat Shiva, edition Amsterdam 1667, where he is mentioned as Chief Rabbi of both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi congregations in Rotterdam
  • Yosia Pardo (1648-1669). Left in 1669 to Amsterdam.[29]
  • Yuda Loeb ben Rabbi Shlomo (1674-abt. 1700). Born in Wilna.[29]
  • Judah Salomon (1682)[30]
  • Judah Loeb ben Abraham Ephraim Asher Anshel (1700–1708)[31] Born in Hamburg, left for Amsterdam.[29]
  • Solomon Ezekiel (1725–1735)[30]
  • Judah Ezekiel (1738–1755)[30]
  • Abraham Ezekiel (1755–79)[30]
  • Aryeh Leib Breslau (1741–1809)[32]
  • Judah Akiba Eger son of Akiba Eger I (invited but refused position)[30]
  • Elijah Casriel (1815–1833)[30]
  • E.J. Löwenstamm (1834–1845)[30]
  • Dr. Joseph Isaacsohn (1850–1871; one of three sons-in-law of Rabbi J. Ettlinger who were Chief Rabbis in the Netherlands)[30]
  • Dr. Bernhard Löbel Ritter (1885–1928)[33][34]
  • Simon Hirsch (1928–1930)[34]
  • Aaron Davids (1930–1944)[34]
  • Justus Tal (1945–1954)[35]
  • Salomon Rodrigues Pereira (1954–1959)[35]
  • Levie Vorst (1959–1971)[35]
  • Daniel Kahn (1972–1975)[35]
  • Albert Hutterer (1975–1977)[35]
  • Dov Salzmann (1986–1988)[35]
  • Lody van de Kamp
  • Raphael Evers

Sofia, Bulgaria

  • Daniel Zion (in World War II)
  • Asher Hannanel (in World War II)

St. Louis, Missouri

  • Chaim Fischel Epstein
  • Menachem Zvi Eichenstein (1943–1982)
  • Sholom Rivkin (1983-2011)[36]

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Great Synagogue

Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel


Toronto, Canada

Vienna, Austria

  • Yitshak Ehrenberg (1983-1989)[23]
  • Akiva Eisenberg
  • Paul Chaim Eisenberg

Warsaw, Poland

Zagreb, Croatia

  • Hosea Jacobi (1880–1925)
  • Miroslav Šalom Freiberger (1941–1943)


External links

  • Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
  • Chief Rabbi of South Africahe:מרא דאתרא
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