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B'siyata d'shmaya - With the help of Heaven


Published in The Jewish Press July 20, 2012 Page 6

The Jewish Press
338 Third Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215-1897

RE: Correction / "New York’s Chief Rabbi"

Dear Editor,

The Jewish Press of July 13, 2012 ran an article entitled “Honoring New York’s Chief Rabbi” which spoke about the esteemed Rabbi Jacob Joseph (1840-1902). Yet, while Rabbi Joseph was indeed a prominent rabbinical leader in New York, there was never a post called the “Chief Rabbi of New York.” Rabbi Joseph came to America from Kovno after being hired by a private firm known as the Association of American Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (AAOHC), a federation of several Eastern European congregations. And while Rabbi Joseph may have been called “Chief Rabbi” by the AAOHC, this was for the purposes of its congregations.

Concurrently, Rabbi Yehoshua Segal (the Sherpser Rav), was also declared by his group to be the “Chief Rabbi” of New York. Dr. Yitzchok Levine (a regular writer for The Jewish Press), is in agreement: "Rabbi Jacob Joseph was not even recognized as the Chief Rabbi of New York by all Eastern European Ashkenazim."

On May 30, 2008, The Jewish Press ran a similar article entitled "Failed Experiment: New York's Only Chief Rabbi" to which I wrote a correction and you published in a Letter to the Editor on June 6, 2008. The truth is, many different groups had “chief” rabbis over the years.

The 30,000 Balkan, Greek, Turkish and Syrian Jews of NYC had their own chief rabbis as well. They were Rabbi Dr. Nissim J. Ovadia (Chief Rabbi of Vienna then Paris), followed by Rabbi Dr. Isaac Alkalay (Chief Rabbi of Yugoslavia)--both of these men held the title “Chief Rabbi” in New York City. The NYC Syrian community had as it's Chief Rabbi, Jacob S. Kassin, who had come from Jerusalem.

Shelomo Alfassa


© Shelomo Alfassa