Graphical version

London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/2805/01

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1829-1997

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 9.35 linear metres

Name of creator(s): Office of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth


Administrative/Biographical history:

The office of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth (previously Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire) has evolved from the position of the spiritual head of the former Great Synagogue in the City of London. The Great Synagogue was the first foundation of the Ashkenazi community in England following the readmission of the Jews in 1656 and traces its origins to the late seventeenth century. Gradually throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries other Ashkenazi congregations in London and the provinces came to acknowledge the religious leadership of the Rabbi of the Great Synagogue. He gave spiritual guidance and was consulted upon points of religious law and procedures.

In 1764 a dispute arose between the Great Synagogue and the Hambro Synagogue over an appointment of a rabbi to the Portsmouth Congregation, and the Rabbi of the Great Synagogue emerged as the leading figure. In time Askenazim Jews living in the British colonies overseas came to recognise the authority of the Chief Rabbi; the title itself dates back at least to the early nineteenth century.

Main responsibilities of the Chief Rabbinate:

1) Marriage authorisation: Before any marriage can take place in any synagogue under his jurisdiction in Great Britain the permission of the Chief Rabbi is essential. The relevant Orthodox religious laws represented by the Chief Rabbinate are thus adhered to by all concerned at the marriage.

2) Conversion: The sanction of the Chief Rabbi, or of a Rabbi whose requirements for conversion are recognised as valid by the Chief Rabbi, is required before any conversion is recognised by any congregation under his jurisdiction.

3) Appointment of rabbis: The synagogues under the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbi must obtain a "Certificate of Religious and Moral Fitness" before they can be given positions.

4) Representation: The Chief Rabbi by long tradition is perceived as representing the Anglo-Jewish community on national occasions. He is patron to many non-Jewish as well as specifically Jewish charities, and charitable and educational foundations.

The position of a Chief Rabbi can be found in parts of western and central Europe and Israel. In Great Britian there is also the Chief Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Community (known as the Haham) which antedates the emergence of the Ashkenazi community here. No such position exists in the United States where rabbis of individual congregations may nonetheless exercise influence.


Scope and content/abstract:

General records of the Office of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, including letter books; appointment books; statistics; minutes of the Chief Rabbinate Council; minutes, correspondence and proceedings of the Conference of Anglo-Jewish Preachers; papers of the Provincial Jewish Ministers Fund including correspondence, minutes, financial accounts and reports of inspections of Hebrew classes; orders of service for national and royal occasions, synagogue foundations, consecrations, jubilees and anniversaries; funerals and memorials, marriages, Holocaust memorials, and dedications of hospitals and schools; and photographs. ACC/2805/01/110 records the results of the survey into Hebrew Congregations in the British Empire commissioned by Chief Rabbi Nathan Adler soon after he took office.

PLEASE NOTE: Records can only be accessed with the written permission of the depositor. Contact the Chief Executive, Office of Chief Rabbi, 735 High Road, North Finchley, London NW12 OUS.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

This collection has been arranged into the following series:
ACC/2805/01/01 Letter books and related material;
ACC/2805/01/02 Chief Rabbinate Council;
ACC/2805/01/03 Conference of Anglo-Jewish Preachers;
ACC/2805/01/04 Provincial Jewish Ministers Fund;
ACC/2805/01/05 Orders of service;
ACC/2805/01/06 Photographs and illustrations.

Conditions governing access:

Access by written permission only.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Physical characteristics:


Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited as part of several accessions of material from the Office of the Chief Rabbi.


DESCRIPTION NOTES Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Description prepared in March 2010.

Ashkenazim | Jews | Religious groups
Consecration | Religious practice | Religious activities
Hebrew | Semitic languages
Holocaust | Genocide | War crimes | Humanitarian law
Jewish | Cultural identity
Orthodox Judaism | Judaism | Ancient religions | Religions
Preachers | Clergy | Religious groups
Rabbis | Religious leaders | Religious groups
Religious communities | Religious institutions
Religious organizations | Religious institutions
Synagogue services | Religious practice | Religious activities
Synagogues | Religious buildings | Buildings | Architecture

Personal names

Corporate names
Chief Rabbinate Council
Conference of Anglo-Jewish Preachers
Office of the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Provincial Jewish Ministers Fund

London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe