Israeli Rabbis of Sephardic/Mizrahi ethnicity

Zvi Zohar's picture
June 20, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Cultural History / Studies, Jewish History / Studies, Middle East History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology

Since the 1950's (at least) all young men of Sephardic/Mizrahi ethnicity in Israel who devoted themselves to Torah, acquired their rabbinic knowledge in yeshivot and kolelim of Ashkenazic and/or Haredi orientation. The first generation of these scholars 'came of age' in the 1960's and some of them began teaching others. By now (2022) the students of this first generation are themselves prominent rabbis, and have many students of their own. A preliminary survey indicates that over these decades, many hundreds of volumes of halakhic content have been authored and published by these scholars.

However, the capability to author serious work in halakhic genres requires well over a decade of sustained study. It seems inescapable that these rabbis' attitudes and outlook were deeply colored by the Ashkenazi/Haredi yeshivot in which they spent so many years of study. We thus have before us a great halakhic oeuvre authored by rabbis with Sephardic/Mizrahi surnames who have in many ways internalized core aspects of the Ashkenazi/Haredi Torah world. Is this oeuvre nevertheless a continuation of pre-Haredi Sephardic halakhic culture, in any significant sense? Or do we have before us a large corpus of what is basically Ashkenazi/Haredi writing, authored by persons descended from Sephardic/Mizrahi families?

On June 20th 2022 a conference will be held at Bar Ilan University, with the goal of initiating academic discussion and analysis of these issues. Several of the presentations will focus on Israeli rabbis born in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's, and others will deal with the historical and cultural factors that facikitated the transformation of many rabbinic scholars from "Hakham" to "Rav".

A full program (in Hebrew) is available on the Dahan Center website.

Contact Info: 

The conference is organized by the Dahan Center at Bar Ilan University and chaired by Prof. Zvi Zohar (emeritus),