Chief Rabbi

Chief Rabbi (Hebrew: רב ראשיRav Rashi) is a title given in several countries to the recognized 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 scriptural or Talmudic support for the post of a "chief rabbi." The office, however, is said by many to find its precedent in the religio-political authority figures of Jewish antiquity (e.g., kings, high priests, patriarches, exilarchs and gaonim).[2] 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.[3] Similarly, in the 19th century there was a Crown rabbi of the Russian Empire.[4]

By country / region


  • Joel Kaplan (2010–present)[5] disputed[6]


  • Salomon Benhamu
  • Yosef Chehebar[7]
  • Isaac Sacca




  • Gabriel Almosnino (1880–1885)
  • Presiado Bakish (1885–1889)
  • Shimon Dankowitz (1889–1891)
  • Moshe Tadjer (1891–1893)
  • Moritz Grünwald (1893–1895)
  • Presiado Bakish (1895–1898)
  • Moshe Tadjer (1898–1900)
  • Mordecai Ehrenpreis (1900–1914)
  • M. Hezkeya Shabetay Davidov (1914–1918)
  • David Pifano (1920–1925)
  • No Chief Rabbi (1925–1945)
  • Asher Hannanel (1945–1949)[8]
  • Behor Kahlon (1990–2012)
  • Aharon Zerbib (2012–2015)
  • Yoel Yifrach (2015–Present)


  • Rab Jaim Waissbluth
  • Rab Eliahu Tamim


  • Miguel Attias (1948-Early 1950)
  • David Sharbani (Early 1950’s-1978)
  • Yehuda Benhamu (1978-1986[13])
  • Yehuda Ari Azancot (1986-2000)
  • Shlomo Meir Elharar (2000-2010)
  • Avi Amsalem (2010-Dec. 2020)
  • Yehoshua Rosenfeld (1980-Present[14])




Czech Republic



  • 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 Schornstein (1910–1919)
  • Max (Moses) Friediger (1920–1947)
  • Marcus Melchior (1947–1969)
  • Bent Melchior (1970–1996)
  • Bent Lexner (1996–2014)
  • Jair Melchior (2014–present)



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

The Far East


  • Simon Livson (2013)



Galicia in Central/Eastern Europe, as a political entity, ceased to exist in 1921; the title of its Chief Rabbi had already been abolished 1 November 1786 as part of the Josephinism Reforms.[20][21]

Due to its being a center for Jewish scholarship, the Rabbi of Lemberg was traditionally seen as the Rabbi of Galicia in the era prior to World War II.[22]



  • Aaron Lankry

Hong Kong


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)[23]
  • Joseph Hirsch Weiss—grandfather of Stephen Samuel Wise[24][25]
  • Samuel Kohn
  • Simon Hevesi (father of Ferenc Hevesi)
  • Ferenc Hevesi
  • Moshe Kunitzer a pioneer of the Haskalah movement in Hungary (1828–1837)
  • Koppel Reich
  • 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.[26]


The position of chief rabbi (Hebrew: רַב רָאשִׁי‎) 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.


  • Binyamin Edre'i (2015–present)[29]


  • Moïse Yedid-Levy (1799–1829)
  • Ralph Alfandari
  • Youssef Mann (1849)
  • 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)
  • Shahud Chreim (1960–1978)


  • Shlomo Tawil (1998–Present)


  • Avi Kozma





  • Zion Levy (1951–2008) Sephardic Chief Rabbi
  • Aaron Laine (1986–) Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi
  • David Perets (2016–) Sephardic Chief Rabbi



  • Abraham Moshe Brener (1930-1967)
  • Baruj Epstein (1966-1967)
  • Yaakov Kraus (1987-1998)
  • Efraim Zik (1999-2009)
  • Itay Meushar (2009-2016)
  • Salomon Cohen (2016-2019)
  • Simantob Nigri (2019-present)





  • Isak Asiel


  • Rabbi Mordechai Abergel/Rabbi Jean Pierre Fettmann


South Africa


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


  • Solomon Malka (1906–1949)
  • Haim Simoni (1950–1952)
  • Massoud El-Baz (1953-early 1970s and the end of the Jewish community in Sudan)


  • Yom Tov Yedid (1960–1982), moved to the United States in 1982 and died 27 July 2016 in the United States


  • Yosef Kantor (1992–present)

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), last chief rabbi of Transylvania



  • 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)



  • Yaakov Dov Bleich (1990–present) original post-communism chief rabbi, still widely recognized Chief Rabbi of Ukraine and Kyiv
  • Alex Dukhovny The Progressive Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine
  • Azriel Chaikin (2003–2008[34]) Chabad affiliated; not recognized as Ukraine Chief Rabbi, but heads the Ukrainian Chabad[35]
  • Moshe Reuven Azman rabbi, elected mostly by secular Jewish leaders and not by any rabbinical authority[36] (2005–present)

United Kingdom and Commonwealth

The Sephardi Jews in the United Kingdom are mainly members of independent synagogues. There is no single rabbi recognised by them as a chief rabbi. The Spanish and Portuguese community, however, consists of several synagogues, charities, a beth din and a kashruth authority. These are under the leadership of an ecclesiastical head. Historically, the individual who fills this role is recognised as a senior rabbi of Anglo Jewry, being the leader of the oldest Jewish community in the country. The Senior Rabbi was traditionally given the title, Haham, meaning "wise one". Since 1918, however, only Solomon Gaon was given this title. The official title of the holder of this office is now The Senior Rabbi of the S&P Sephardi Community of the United Kingdom.

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 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.[39]


  • 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)


  • Baruch Abramchayev[40]