Lot : 103

Letter  by
Sephardic Rabbanim of Jerusalem 1909

Start price: $2,000
Est. Price: $3,000 - $5,000
Letter  by
Sephardic Rabbanim of Jerusalem 1909


“To protect and do everything in our power to preserve the fortress of our faith”
Letter from the great Sephardic Rabbanim members of the Sephardic Beit Din in Jerusalem. In this letter, the Rabbanim lament their lack of strength and inability to compete with the efforts of Albert-Abraham Antébi, director of the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Jerusalem. The objective of the Alliance School was to “trap the leadership of the congregation”. The Rabbanim express that “we fear that we shall be unable to narrow this breach properly”. However, “we are striving with all our might not to deliver the houses of the Talmudei Torah to Mr. Antebi. Heaven forbid that this should occur in Israel!”
The letter is autographed by the prominent Rabbanim:

Rabbi Shmuel Nissim (1841-1916) was Rosh Av Beit Din of the Sephardic congregation in Jerusalem and stood at the forefront of the community for many years (Yehudei Hamizrach B’Eretz Yisrael Vol. 1 p. 470)

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Suranga (1842-1915) was one of the renowned Rabbanim of Jerusalem and community activist who had a powerful impact on his congregation. He served as Raavad of Jerusalem and dayan for many years (ibid 480).
Rabbi Mordechai Israel (1851-1916) numbered among the great Rabbanim of Jerusalem and Tzfas. During his final years, he served as Raavad.
Jerusalem, 25 Teves, 1909. Official stationery of the Sephardic Beis Din.
Page count: [1] leaf. Page Size: 29×23 cm.
Condition: Creases and several scattered holes.
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Valuable Collection of Letters
The Battle by Gedolei Yisrael
to Preserve traditional Judaism in Eretz Yisrael.
An Historical account



When the winds of the Enlightenment began blowing throughout Europe, one of the first objectives of the liberal movements to advance their agenda was to dismantle the institution of the traditional Rabbinate, by replacing the Rabbinate with “enlightened” Rabbis who would support their progressive ways and institutions.
During the era these letters were written, Eretz Yisrael was under the control of the Ottoman Empire whose axis was in Constantinople.
Ottoman authorities traditionally bequeathed the Chief Rabbi of Constantinople, known as Chacham Bashi, a wide scope of authorities and privileges that powerfully influenced and impacted Jewish communities throughout the vast Empire. In particular, the Chacham Bashi was able to facilitate the needs of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael and represent them to the authorities. Also included in the Chacham Bashi’s powers was the appointment of new Rabbis in the Holy Land.
In 1909, progressive Jews exerted their influence in the Ottoman court to depose the Chacham Bashi, Rabbi Moshe Halevi, and campaigned strongly to appoint Chaim Nahum in his stead. Nahum, a graduate of the Alliance school and of Parisian Universities,
Gedolei Yisrael of the era regarded his appointment as a severe blow to tradition, as well as a grave threat to the spiritual future of Eretz Yisrael. They put up a fierce battle to oppose the new Chacham Bashi and to preserve the religious character of the Holy Land and of Jerusalem in particular.
Rabbi Yitzchak Eisik Halevi (1848-1914), author of Doros Rishonim, spearheaded this spiritual battle, and the letters in this collection are all addressed to him.
The present collection constitutes an eye-opening historical documentary of the times, with letters spanning Gedolei Yisrael from Chassidic, Sephardic and Lithuanian (Misnagdim) sects, among them Rabbi Chaim Halevi Soloveitchik, the Avnei Nezer, Imrei Emes, Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, and others. Each letter reveals the individual Rabbi’s unique perspective and pure Torah outlook on the concept of Rabbanus along with his personal battle to preserve spiritual sanctity during this turning-point in Jewish history.
For further information regarding the battle waged by Gedolei Yisrael, see Rabbi David Kamenetzky’s work Rabban shel Yisrael (Jerusalem, 2021 Ch. 14).