Sephardic Encounters with Modernity: Tradition and Tolerance

Changes in technology, increased access to secular education, and greater opportunities in social and political realms created both challenges and opportunities for Jews of the 19th and 20th centuries. While modernity caused divisions in many European Jewish communities, Sephardic communities maintained their communal integrity and unity. This success can largely be attributed to rabbis who employed innovative halakhic and philosophical solutions to address these new challenges.

Adam Eilath will use excerpts from the writings of Rabbis Ben Zion Meir Hai Uziel (Israel), Yosef Messas (Morocco), and Moshe Halfon Hakohen (Tunisia) responding to challenges presented by modernity, including the role of women in Jewish learning and worship, the status of non-observant Jews in the community, and new political opportunities. These rabbinic opinions, most of which have not previously been translated into English or shared widely in North America, were not only instrumental in keeping communities unified, but lay an important foundation for how the Jewish community can deal with contemporary challenges.

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