Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 3: Amsellem’s Surprise Visit to SEC in Jerusalem

Israeli Member of Knesset, Rabbi Haim Amsellem is considered by many Israelis and the Israeli press as a maverick from among those in his “Shas” political party for his outspoken strong support for Sephardic Jewry regardless of party positions or political correctness. He’s also turned heads in Israel for offering potential solutions to pressing societal problems by presenting the various Sephardic religious Jewish law and approaches to such issues over the centuries.

Amsellem made a surprise visit to the SEC in Jerusalem on July 28, 2010 to share some insights about his approach to leadership and use of Sephardic religious and legal approaches to problems in Israeli society. “It’s forbidden for a leader to know something is the truth and keep it to himself out of fear,” said Amsellem. “Leadership is to stand for the truth in all circumstances, even when it’s not popular”.

Amsellem was treated like a bit of a “rock star” by various guests at the SEC because of his frankness, creative approach to Judaism in the modern world and use of Sephardic religious legal works to help bring about solutions in Israel from his position in the Israeli government. Amidst the recent controversy in Israel regarding new proposed conversion legislation, Amsellem shared a two volume research book he has been preparing over the last 20 years on the very topic of conversion from commentaries given by religious Sephardic religious leaders over the centuries. “There’s nothing in this book that’s new, I just pulled out what the Sephardic sages have determined and decided on the topic of conversion,” said Amsellem. “I can tell you there is a quiet revolution going on in Israel with this issue”. Never before in Israel’s history have the approaches of the Sephardic sages been looking to for solutions to serious problems in Israeli society. Whether Amsellem is successful in swaying other Israeli officials to accept his ideas, only the future will tell.

-- Karmel Melamed

(left to right; Rabbi Daniel Bouskila and Rabbi Haim Amsellem)

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