Chief Rabbi Alexandru-Iehuda Şafran (standing, in hat) at a Ha-Po‘el ha-Mizraḥi demonstration, Bucharest, ca. 1930s. (YIVO)

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Şafran Family

(Safran, Schafran, Shafran), rabbinical family. Originally from Galicia, Betsal’el Ze’ev Şafran (Rabaz; 1867–1929) settled in Romania in 1887 and became a rabbi in Sculeni; in 1889 he took a position in Ştefăneşti, and in 1905 he served as rabbi of Bacău, a position he held until the end of his life. Şafran’s sons were rabbis and educators, initially in Romania and later in Israel, Europe, and America.

Rabaz was appreciated as a halakhic authority and was consulted by outstanding rabbis of the time, among them the chief rabbi of the Land of Israel, Avraham Yitsḥak Kook, and Me’ir Shapira of Lublin. Şafran believed that the Torah underwent a continuous renewal process under those who studied it, and that the text had to be understood in a rational way in order to clarify problems and solve practical issues. The first part of his responsa (Oraḥ ḥayim and Yoreh de‘ah) was published by his son Hanoch Einich (Ḥanokh Henikh) in 1930, accompanied by the latter’s responsa. The second part (Even ha-‘ezer) was also published by Hanoch in Jerusalem (1951), and the third part, Ḥoshen mishpat, was issued in 1979. The texts were republished in a single volume in 1992.

Hanoch Einich (1887–1959), the first-born son from Rabaz’s first marriage (to the daughter of David Marmar of Tarnopol), was the most renowned among his siblings. Rabbi of Bivolari from 1908, by 1920 he was hired as a rabbi in Bucharest, a position he kept until he moved to Israel in 1950. In addition to editing his father’s responsa, Hanoch published a pamphlet with quotations from his father’s sermons and statements (1933). An anthology of Hanoch’s own writings, Keta‘im mi-yetsirato, was published by his son, David (1960).

Rabaz’s sons from his second marriage (to Finkel, daughter of Abraham Josef Reinharz from Iaşi) included Menaḥem, Alexandru-Iehuda, and Josef; all were born in Bacău. Menaḥem (1900–1980) earned a doctorate of philosophy; he was the rabbi of Ploieşti in the 1940s until he moved to Israel in 1952, working as a high-school teacher in Tel Aviv. Josef Şafran (1911–1995) earned a doctorate of philosophy and served as rabbi of Iaşi in the 1940s until moving to Palestine in 1944. Eventually settling in New York (1957), he became a professor of education at Yeshiva University, where he published studies on the history of Jewish education in Hebrew and English.

Alexandru-Iehuda Şafran (often Alexander or Alexandre; 1910–2006) was a rabbi and philosopher of Judaism. He completed secondary school in Bacău and studied Torah under his father’s supervision. He studied philosophy at Vienna University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1935. He also studied at the Rabbinical Seminary of Vienna and was ordained as a rabbi. In 1935 he returned to Romania and became the rabbi of his native town. He also became a Mizraḥi Zionist and participated in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Zionist Congresses in 1937 and 1939. In February 1940, Şafran was elected chief rabbi of Romania. He also became a member of the Romanian Senate as leader of the Mosaic religion.

Together with other leaders of the Federation of Jewish Communities, Şafran signed a memorandum objecting to the closing of many synagogues (11 September 1940). During the war he established contacts with Christian religious leaders, imploring them to intercede with state authorities to prevent the deportation of the Jews. He also had a personal acquaintance with the royal family, and King Mihai of Romania remained his friend for life.

After the collapse of the Antonescu regime, Şafran tried to rebuild the Jewish community and religious life in Romania. He led the Romanian branches of many international Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress, ORT, OZE (OSE), and B’nai B’rith. In 1946 he took part in the Peace Conference of Paris as a member of the Jewish delegation. Şafran refused to support the pro-Communist Comitetul Democratic Evreiesc (Jewish Democratic Committee) and his relations with Communist authorities worsened. On 22 December 1947 he left Romania for Switzerland, becoming chief rabbi of Geneva (1948); he also was appointed lecturer and later professor of Jewish thought at the university. He published books on Kabbalah and Jewish philosophy, including La Cabale (The Kabbalah; 1960 [Eng. trans. 1975]); Sagesse de la Cabale (The Wisdom of the Kabbalah; 1986); and Israël dans le temps et dans l’espace (Israel in Time and Space; 1980 [Eng. trans. 1987]).

Şafran visited Israel many times. A chair in Jewish thought was founded in his honor at Bar Ilan University, and two festschrift publications were published in his honor. He published an autobiographic work in English, Resisting the Storm: Romania, 1940–1947 (Jerusalem, 1987), which was translated into other languages. After the collapse of the Communist regime, he visited Romania, giving a speech in the Senate. Şafran died in Geneva and was buried in Bene Berak, Israel.

Suggested Reading

Jacob Geller, Ha-Rabanut be-Romanyah be-me’ah ha-20 (Ramat Gan, Isr., 2000), pp. 15–28; Mosheh Ḥalamish, ed., I.SH. bi-gevurot: Ma’amarim be-moreshet Yisra’el uve-toldotav; Mugashim li-khevod ha-Rav Aleksander Safran (Jerusalem, 1990); Carol Iancu, Alexandre Safran: Une vie de combat, un faisceau de lumière (Montpellier, 2007); International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, Final Report (Iaşi, 2005); Manase Radnev and Țicu Goldstein, eds., Şafran printer nemuritori (Bucharest, 2002); Alexandre Safran, “Avi umori, ha-Rav Betsalel Safran,” Toladot 7 (1974): 1–13; Alexandre Safran, Resisting the Storm: Romania, 1941–1947, ed. Jean Ancel (Jerusalem, 1987); David Safran, Sefer ha-yovel be-melot 60 shanah la-meḥaber (Jerusalem, 1975/76), in Hebrew and Romanian; Baruch Tercatin, Din înțelepciunea Torei şi a hasidismului (Bucharest, 2003), pp. 388–400, 434–435, 439–440.



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea