With great excitement and anticipation, on Sunday, February 14, the Bukharian community of Queens and of the Greater New York Area, appointed HaGaon HaRav Yitzchak Yisraeli shlita as their Mara D’Asra and president of its newly established Rabbinical Council.
Although not of Bukharian descent, Rabbi Yisraeli is well known in the community, having spent over a decade as an Av Beis Din for the Sefardic communities throughout New York. He was a talmid of two of the greatest Sefardi poskim of our generation, Rav Ben Zion Abba Shaul and Rav Ovadia Yosef. He has also authored several works in Halachah that touch upon a wide variety of topics covering all sections of the Shulchan Aruch and is known to be an expert in the works of both Sefardi and Ashkenazi poskim.
While Rabbi Yisraeli’s new position is a great challenge, it is one he is willing to confront. Bukharian Jews hail from the former Soviet Union where many had their traditions and Jewish way of life torn away in communist Russia. Since immigrating to the United States, many struggled to hold on to their Jewish identity and have unfortunately strayed off the path of Torah and mitzvos. With the recent wave of t’shuvah within the community, however, hundreds of families have returned back to a life of Torah over the past decade or so, and many more are making their way to the fold. Rav Yisraeli has now been appointed to help lead the next generation to take the next step in its adherence to the Torah.
His appointment was accepted with open arms by both leading rabbanim and community members, as he seeks to set policy that would further strengthen the community.
“Everything must be done with due diligence and with the broader community in mind,” he stated, “but some matters can’t be tolerated for even a moment,” referring to the lack of k’dushah in certain shuls.
Apparently, several Bukharian synagogues have been allowing mixed dancing in their social halls, one of which was even permitting it in front of the aron ha’kodesh. The rabbanim on hand all signed Rabbi Yisraeli’s first official proclamation obligating every shul to stop this chilul Hashem immediately and unconditionally.
He further stated that there must be major takanos in matters of Gittin and Kiddushin in the community, among other things.
Rabbi Yisraeli hinted on numerous occasions that this is a position he would rather not have, but only agreed to accept it in order to be m’kadeish sheim Shamayim. He stated that he has no interest in all the politics such a position presents and is rather interested in preserving the Torah and its traditions.
He thanked all the rabbanim who placed their trust in him and proudly stated that he will take this responsibility with great care in order to unite the community under the banner of Torah.