Text size

LONDON - Synagogue leaders in North London breathed a sigh of relief Saturday night after a Slichot service featuring an address by British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks progressed without interruption despite threats of demonstrations and protests.

Rightist elements of the Anglo-Jewish community had been outraged by Sacks' criticism of Israeli policy in the West Bank during an interview with The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland last week, with some calling for Sacks' resignation from the post he has held for the past 11 years.

Tensions ran high at the Golders Green synagogue, where Sacks spoke to a packed house for 20 minutes on the traditional themes of compassion and forgiveness, yet made no explicit reference to the controversy that has been raging within British Jewry following Tuesday's publication of the interview.

The pro-Sacks camp who gathered to hear his pre-Slichot address debated whether Sacks had displayed disloyalty to Israel or simple misjudgment in his comments to The Guardian. His outspoken critics, who were not in evidence at the tightly-managed event, were thought to have been dissuaded from their planned protest after intervention by Sacks' office.

"What protest?" was the response from Sacks' staff and synagogue officials Saturday evening, despite confirmation Friday from Anglo-Jewry's representative body, the Board of Deputies, that a demonstration had been anticipated.

Britain's national Jewish paper, the Jewish Chronicle, on Friday carried both strong criticism of Sacks, including calls for his resignation, and equally strong support for him.