Stockholm Jewish community to replace Conservative Rabbi David Lazar

(JTA) — The Jewish Community of Stockholm will replace David Lazar, the Conservative rabbi of the city’s Great Synagogue and the city’s chief rabbi, after talks on renewing his contract broke down, the community’s board announced.


Lazar, a U.S.-born Israeli who is known for his outreach programs to homosexuals, was installed in Stockholm in 2010 and given a three-year contract which expires in August. The community’s board has offered him a three-year extension but Lazar is demanding tenure.

“Consensus could not be reached in negotiations with regard to the form of employment and compensation. As a result, Rabbi Lazar and the Synagogue will go their separate ways after the current agreement expires,” a statement posted this week on the website of the Jewish community of Stockholm read.

“The only thing I’ll say is that this has been a question about a permanent position,” Lazar, 55, told JTA. “At my age, I feel the only way I can stay here is to have some job security. This is what it’s all about.”

Community and board members have said reluctance to offer tenure was connected to complaints about Lazar’s behavior. “He is perceived as very confrontational and totally lacking in humility,” Thomas Bab, the community’s administrative director, wrote in a recent email to community members.

In parallel, 20 Swedish Jews and non-Jews have published a petition in Expressen, a local tabloid, demanding the Jewish Community of Stockholm offer Lazar tenure.

One of the letter’s signers is Bernt Hermele, a caretaker at the synagogue. He published on his blog a list signed by hundreds of Lazar’s supporters. Hermele said Lazar “rejuvenated the community” and has brought closer some new members.

Alf Levy, who was on the search committee that recruited Lazar, said he has “started going less and less to synagogue on Shabbat because of Lazar’s attitude.” He added: “I can live with many tweaks to religion but his personality made me very upset: He has constantly sought conflict.”

“A rabbi will always have supporters and detractors. One can’t please everyone: I’ve been doing the best I can,” Lazar told JTA.

Rabbi Meir Horden, a U.S.-born Israeli rabbi, serves as the community’s chief Orthodox rabbi. 

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