Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Britain's chief rabbi, arrives to attend the National Service of Remembrance, on Remembrance Sunday, at The Cenotaph in Westminster, London. File picture: Simon Dawson/Reuters

London - Born in South Africa in 1956, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said growing up under apartheid gave him an early understanding of the dangers of division and inequality.

His father Lionel, also a rabbi, preached against the apartheid system and visited political prisoners held on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was jailed.

His mother led the country’s only training college for black pre-school teachers.

Since his own appointment as Britain’s Chief Rabbi, he has appealed for greater unity within the Jewish community and between different faiths.

He was the first United Synagogue rabbi to host an address by a Muslim imam, and has addressed meetings at the Church of England synod.

He has also welcomed moves to give women a greater role in Orthodox synagogues and said he wanted greater inclusion for gay Jewish people. Rabbi Mirvis took over from his predecessor Lord Sacks in 2013, when he became the 11th Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the UK and the Commonwealth in its 300-year history.

One of his first acts was to tweet good wishes to his football team, Tottenham Hotspur, ahead of a London derby game with north London rivals Arsenal.

He chose not to live in the £10million grace and favour home used by Lord Sacks but moved into a six-bedroom home in Hendon, north London, with his wife Valerie, a social worker.

He was previously rabbi at the Finchley Synagogue in north London and was Ireland’s chief rabbi from 1985 to 1992, after taking on the role when he was just 28.

Now 63, he and wife Valerie have four sons and seven grandchildren. Their oldest child, Liora Graham, died in 2011 after a long battle with cancer.

He has long been a vocal critic of anti-Semitism within the Labour party. He accused party officials of sending ‘an unprecedented message of contempt to the Jewish community’ last year, over new guidelines for its members on how to deal with racism.

Labour’s national executive committee overrode the concerns of more than 65 senior British rabbis to wave through the new rules on anti-Semitic behaviour in its ranks, and was widely criticised for failing to do enough to tackle the problem.

Daily Mail