A website has been launched to propagate the teachings of Sephardi rabbis before they are lost to orthodox Judaism.
A few weeks ago, a lecture on homosexuality by Rabbi Joseph Dweck, senior rabbi of Britain’s Sephardi community, sparked a storm of outrage from fellow rabbis.
The ‘Dweck Affair’ pointed to a fundamental difference in approach, pitting an inward-looking, sectarian, dogmatic ‘Haredi’ approach against a more open Sephardi attitude engaged with the contemporary world. Many religious Sephardim have absorbed ‘Haredi’ norms and their rabbis are often the product of Ashkenazi yeshivot where the works of Maimonides are not necessarily found on the bookshelf.
It is to heal this divide in Israel, no less than in the diaspora, by making the words of Sephardi sages more accessible, that an online database was created called ‘A Daily Sage’.
Haham Hayim Keissar from Yemen
According to website founder Eli Bareket:
‘Sephardi and Mizrahi Jewish identity, as seen through the writings and teachings of the Sephardi sages, is at a critical tipping point. These tolerant voices have tremendous value for the entire Jewish people and the need for them to be heard and shared is more pressing than ever before.
‘Judaism centered on social values - morality, ethics, humanity. All these are “gifts” that should be shared with all of Israeli society, so that the heritage of Eastern Jews is not restricted to Sephardim only, and it can become a structure of cross-ethnic identity, creating a common non-sectoral basis that includes Israeli society as a whole. ‘
The Daily Sage has 500 pages and hundreds of sources from the writings of Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewish sages. The project aims to feature 1,000 Sages over the next four years. The website is currently in Hebrew but the first 100 Sages are being translated into English.