Prague chief rabbi stepping down earlier than anticipated

Daniel Treiman

PRAGUE (JTA) — The longtime chief rabbi of Prague, Karol Sidon, is stepping down amid issues surrounding his private life.

Sidon, who has served 22 years in the post, announced last week that he will step down on July 1.

New Mt. Sinai Cemetery advertisement

Sidon, 71, had separated from his third wife, according to Czech media reports, and allegedly has embarked on a new relationship.

In an official statement, Sidon said he was planning to retire later this year but hastened his decision as he “had been avoiding dealing with issues” in his personal life, and “the time has come to put it into relative harmony.”

He retains his position as the chief rabbi of the Czech Republic.

Sidon’s departure comes a decade after a historic rift in Prague’s Jewish community that saw his supporters and critics clash over control of the historic Altneu Synagogue. The conflict still divides the community.

He was briefly ousted as Prague chief rabbi in 2004 before being reinstated the following year after a change in communal leadership.

Sidon, whose father died in the Holocaust and whose mother was not Jewish, had an Orthodox conversion to Judaism in 1978.

Sidon was an anti-communist dissident and faced persecution from Czechoslovakia’s communist authorities after signing the Czechoslovakian human rights manifesto Charter 77. He was a close associate of the late Czech President Vaclav Havel. Sidon was forced into exile in Germany in 1983.

He has authored several literary works, most recently a best-selling science fiction novel. His translation of the Torah into modern Czech came out in 2012.