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A Gateshead rabbi has “stepped aside from the day to day activity” after he faced criticism for praising the progress made by LGBT+ people in recent years.

Sephardi community Rabbi Joseph Dweck, originally from the US, confirmed yesterday (June 14) that he was taking a step back “to work with the wider Rabbinic community to clarify my halachic teachings,” reports Jewish News.

Dweck faced intense criticism after he said that the progress of the LGBT+ rights movement was a “fantastic” sign of progress for humanity.

In response to Dweck’s comments, Rabbi Shraga Feivel, Rov of Gateshead, an influential figure in the community, said that Dweck is “not fit to serve as a rabbi.

“It is clear that he is not equipped to rule on Halacha, due to his limited knowledge, weak reasoning skills and lack of training.”

Rabbi Joseph Dweck

Zimmerman continued: “It is clear from his lectures that he lacks many of the 48 requisite qualities needed to acquire Torah, such as awe, fear (of Heaven), modesty, purity, Rabbinic training and scholarly interactions with his colleagues. For the above reasons one cannot rely on his rulings and he is not fit to serve as a rabbi.”

However, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis defended Dweck against “deeply divisive and damaging” attacks against him. Sabah Zubaida, president of the Sephardi community, also supported Dweck, criticising the level of “intense scrutiny” and affirming that “a great deal of the criticism has been based on misunderstandings, some deliberate and some not”.

Zubaida went on to say that Dweck “accepts that some of the criticism is justified and needs to be addressed within the wider Rabbinical world”

A petition in support of Dweck has amassed over 1,400 signatures, but he has also faced criticism from US groups.

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