LONDON, September 4, 2013 (LifeSIteNews.com) - Orthodox Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who replaced Lord Jonathan Sacks as Chief Rabbi of Britain and the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth on Sunday, said he would maintain traditional Jewish values, including support for natural marriage, while stressing that he wants all Jews to find a home and feel comfortable in orthodox synagogues.
“We have a clear Biblical definition of marriage which is the union of one man and one woman and through that we value traditional family life," Rabbi Mirvis told the BBC in an interview before Sunday’s installation ceremony.
“But I would like to reiterate our genuine sentiment to every single Jewish man and woman: you have a home in our synagogue and we will make you feel comfortable regardless of who you are.”
He added that while he wanted to offer women a greater role in Orthodox Judaism, he opposed female ordination. "Equality is what we strive for but when we talk about equality, it is not uniformity."
“When we talk for example of men and women and the opportunity within synagogues and within community life there are clear roles that different people can play and in that way each of us can achieve his or her own amazing potential,” he explained.
In Orthodox Judaism, men and women worship separately, and only men qualify to be rabbis.
Rabbi Mirvis told the BBC that synagogues can be transformed to become "power houses of Jewish culture, social, educational and religious activity" in Britain.
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To this end, he said the "three great pillars" of his chief rabbinate would be "high quality Jewish education for one and all," the "building and strengthening of Jewish communities" and "acts of loving kindness."
Ephraim Mirvis is the son and grandson of rabbis. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1956. He holds a BA in education and classical Hebrew from the University of South Africa and was ordained as a rabbi after studying in Israel.
He became the Chief Rabbi of Ireland at the age of 28 in 1984, a post which he held for eight years. During that time he was president of the Irish Council of Christians and Jews and initiated interfaith dialogue with Christian church leaders as well as with other religious groups.
Rabbi Mirvis and his wife Valerie have four sons and five grandchildren. Their eldest daughter passed away in 2011 after a long battle with cancer.
In a summation of the tasks he foresaw in his chief rabbinate, Mirvis said that unity is of great importance and that his ambition is to "shape lives and transform communities."
"The unity of the Jewish people is of enormous importance," he told the BBC the day before assuming his new position. "We have to build on what unites us and not to concentrate on what separates us."
"I hope," he concluded, "people will be more in tune with their surroundings, more engaged with the world, more responsible towards each other, and that we will make society more civil."