Dweck and Pepys by Jenni Frazer for the JC June 27 2018
A leading Sephardi rabbi has made an extraordinary social media apology for a comment he made about the 17th century diarist, Samuel Pepys.
Rabbi Joseph Dweck, senior rabbi of the S & P community in London, had picked up on an entry in Pepys’ diaries. Pepys is, says Rabbi Dweck, “well known in the S&P community for writing about a visit he made to the S&P synagogue in the City of London [Bevis Marks], describing.Simchat Torah”.
Entries from Pepys’ diaries are regularly posted on Twitter. A recent entry was an account in Spanish in which Pepys wrote that he had “cavorted with a woman who wasn’t his wife”. Rabbi Dweck retweeted this entry, “saying with disappointment that ‘some things never change’”.
Rabbi Dweck, who just a year ago was under investigation by rabbinic colleagues after appearing to condone homosexual practices, has kept a relatively low profile since the storm of criticism against him, led by Golders Green rabbi Aharon Bassous. He lost his post as dayan [judge] on the Sephardi Beth Din, but was allowed to retain his position as rabbi of the Lauderdale Road S&P congregation after expressing profound regret for having spoken “in an inappropriate and imprudent manner”.
In the wake of last year’s row the rabbi appears to be treading very carefully. He issued an apology about his Pepys tweet, saying that he had only meant that “all too often those who seem to be virtuous fall to base vices. Although I meant it to point out the poor virtue of the man. I recognise that it was not appropriate for me to tweet intimations of vulgarity to the public”.
His tweet, he said, was “not fitting of my office. I deeply apologise and regret having done so. Especially knowing that I remain under high scrutiny and criticism from detractors. My intention was not to publicise immorality, God forbid, but rather to condemn it”.
It is not clear what precipitated Rabbi Dweck’s apology, since his profoundest critics stay well away from social media and are unlikely to have read his original post.