Victor Hugo observed that “narrow horizons beget stunted ideas.” Classic Judaism has included an idealistic universalistic world-view. Judaism’s horizons have been great; and it has begotten great ideas. The challenge to modern Jews is to remain faithful to their distinctive mitzvot while maintaining a universalistic ethical idealism.
We may find it jarring to come into contact with Jews who observe minhagim different from ours. We may think that their practices are quaint, or odd, or plain wrong....The hope is that through greater awareness and empathy, we will function as a stronger, happier, and more diverse Jewish community. We need a genuine recognition that in our various searches for Divinity, different Jewish communities have followed diverse—perfectly halakhic and proper—roads.
There is a feeling among many Jews, including many Orthodox Jews, that worship in the synagogue lacks adequate inspiration and spirituality. Among the complaints: the synagogue ritual is chanted by rote; the prayers are recited too quickly; the prayers are recited too slowly; the service is not understood by congregants; people talk too much in synagogue; the services do not involve everyone in a meaningful way.
Shouldn’t all Jews who wish to pray be allowed to do so without having to pay premium prices? Does it seem ethical for synagogues to “sell seats” for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? Doesn’t this process diminish the sanctity and idealism of synagogues? Yes, these criticisms certainly seem valid. In an ideal world, synagogues would not “sell tickets” or charge expensive dues for membership. But we don't live in an ideal world.
In this essay, I will focus on two great modern-day posekim, studying how they approach similar halakhic questions. Both are scholars of vast erudition, of wide influence; both have written and published many works. The two posekim to be discussed are Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Haim David Halevy.
Memoirs of a Sephardic Rabbi: A Book Review by Rabbi Marc D. Angel
“A Rocky Road,” by Rabbi Abraham Levy (with Simon Rocker), Halban Publishers, London, 2017.
Rabbi Abraham Levy has been associated with the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of London for nearly six decades. Those of us who have known him over the years have been impressed with his energy, optimism, single-mindedness, devotion, British elegance…and more.
(This is an article by Rabbi Marc D. Angel that originally appeared in a book he edited, From Strength to Strength, Sepher-Hermon Press, New York, 1998, pp. 21–28.)
Dr. Mendes served as Minister of Congregation Shearith Israel from 1877 through 1920. He continued to be associated with the Congregation as Minister Emeritus until his death in 1937. During the course of these 60 years, Dr. Mendes established himself as a remarkable communal leader, scholar, and author.
In an astonishingly vitriolic attack on Reform Jews, Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar said that Reform Jews “deny more than Holocaust deniers…" He referred to them as "cursed evil people." Is it any wonder that so many thinking Jews are repelled by the Orthodoxy fostered by Rabbi Amar and others of his ilk?
The Literary, Social and Cultural Life of the Judeo-Spanish
Sephardim During the Immigrant Generation (Early 1900's)
By Marc D. Angel
Proceedings of a Conference in NYC April 5, 1981
Rabbi Dr. David de Sola Pool (May 16, 1885-December 1, 1970) was the foremost Sephardic rabbi in the United States during the middle decades of the 20th century. Born and raised in London, he came to New York in 1907 to become assistant rabbi to his relative, Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, at the historic Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. Dr. Pool was associated with Shearith Israel for the duration of his life, except for three years that he spent in the land of Israel 1919-1922. In 1917 he married Tamar Hirshenson; they had two children, Ithiel and Naomi.