José Faur - Biography - Opposition of Leading Jewish Rabbis

Opposition of Leading Jewish Rabbis

While teaching at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Rabbi Faur also offered Torah classes to members of the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York. This elicited the opposition of certain members of the community who felt threatened by Rabbi Faur's ability to attract huge crowds to study Tora by unpopular ideas. Rabbi Faur's approach, based on a solid knowledge of Tora and a broad knowledge of the academic disciplines, was far more interesting and compelling to many people who were looking for a modern and intelligible approach to Tora. Because these Rabbis were not able to attract people to study, they engaged in a campaign to stamp Rabbi Faur as a Conservative, attacking him in public forums and whenever the opportunity arose. The pretext commonly used to attack Rabbi Faur was that he taught in the JTS. However, as noted by many of Rabbi Faur's supporters, some of the professors in the JTS were themselves Orthodox Rabbis.

Because Rabbi Faur was clearly an observant Jew he received the support of the chief rabbi of the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, Jacob Kassin, who signed an open letter attesting to Rabbi Faur's religious standing. Kassin explained that Rabbi Faur did not agree with the Conservative movement at all and that he had only taught at the school in order to earn a living even though he was willing to send a student to learn there. In fact, Rabbi Faur's influence was such that many of his students at the JTS themselves became observant Jews.

The Rabbis that opposed Rabbi Faur would not give up. In the summer of 1987, Rabbi Faur received support from an unexpected source. The Sepharadi chief rabbi of Jerusalem, hakham Chalom Messas, convened a Beth Din which examined the allegations against Rabbi Faur and came to the conclusion that he was innocent of all charges. Chief Sepharadi Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu later affirmed the decision as well. However, the controversy did not abate. The Haredi weekly, Yated Neeman, carried an ad on February 8, 1988, which called for the prevention of "the appointing of a Conservative rabbi to the Syrian Congregation Shaare Zion in New York." Aside from his involvement with the seminary, the ad accused Faur of "speaking improperly about great medieval Ashkenazic sages" and that his books "emit an odor of heresy." The declaration was signed by seventeen heads of Sepharadi Yeshivot (Jewish schools). The religious leaders, Chalom Messas and Mordechai Eliyahu withdrew their earlier support. Indeed Rabbi Faur maintains contradictory approaches towards the ashkenazic scholars. On the one hand he claims that the Sepharadim should eschew them entirely as their approach to the talmud is inconsistant wth the sephardic tradition, yet he fully upholds the halachic rulings of R. Yosef Karo, the great posek and author of the Shulhan Aruch, although he firmly incorporates the decisions of the Rosh, the great German Jewish scholarand tosafist. Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu would later state the following when asked about the incident: "the greatest Sephardic Hacham living in the US today is Rabbi Faur."

Read more about this topic:  José Faur, Biography

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