Sirat, Rene Samuel

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SIRAT, RENE SAMUEL (1930– ), rabbi and scholar, former chief rabbi of France. Sirat was born in Bone, Algeria, and received his rabbinical ordination from the *Seminaire Israelite de France in 1952. In the same year he was appointed rabbi of Toulouse, remaining there until 1955, when he was appointed to be in charge of youth activities of the Consistoire Central of France. From 1965 to 1970 and again in 1977 he was professor at the seminary.

He received his doctorate from the University of Strasbourg in 1965, when he was appointed professor of Modern Hebrew at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilization at the Sorbonne. From 1970 to 1973, he was director of the department for overseas students at the Hebrew University. In 1973, he published a new edition of Omer ha-Shikheḥah, written in the 16th century by the Algerian rabbi Abraham ben Jacob Gabichon, first published in Leghorn in 1748. In 1973 he created the General Inspection in charge of the teaching of Modern Hebrew in French public schools and headed it until 1981.

In 1980, following the decision of Rabbi Max Warschawski, chief rabbi of Strasbourg, to withdraw his candidature, Sirat was unanimously elected chief rabbi of France succeeding Rabbi Jacob *Kaplan. During his term as chief rabbi, which ended in 1988, he focused his activity on the promotion of Jewish education, particularly in the academic field, and on interreligious dialogue, including the controversary surrounding the Carmelite monstery at Auschwitz, which provoked a crisis between the Catholic Church and the Jewish world in 1986.

In 1988 he became chief rabbi of the Consistoire Central. He published an autobiography in 1990, La joie austère. He was the chairman of the Conference of European Rabbis and a founder and co-president, in 2002, of the European Council of Religious Leaders, an affiliate of the World Conference on Religion and Peace. Particularly notable were his participation, on January 24, 2002, in the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi (Italy), and his presence in front of the cathedral of Lyon when Cardinal Decourtray, a close friend of the Jewish community, was to be buried. He published articles on Judaism and a volume of a conversation with the historian Martine Lemalet, La tendresse de Dieu (1996).

[Philippe Boukara (2nd ed.)]