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Rare Rabbi Eliezerov documents testify to rich Hebron history

Recently discovered letters show a thriving Jewish community in turn-of the-century Hebron.

10.11.20, 21:42
Rare documents of an influential Hebron leader from the Old Yishuv days were discovered in an archive. The added sense of history comes days before the annual reading of Parshat Chayei Sarah which describes the Biblical Patriarch Abraham's purchase of the Cave of Machpela.

In the Hebrew month of Kislev 1903, Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Leib Eliezerov (1863  - 1952) was inaugurated as Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Hebron.

Today, 117 years later, rare documents related to his appointment and career were discovered.

Noam Arnon, spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron commented on the rare finds to Rotter.net stating "the oldest Jewish history to be found is found here in Hebron and we are writing a new page here every day. Hebron never ceases to surprise with historical and archeological findings."

The documents were found in the archives of the late revered Rabbi Moshe Shapira, by two of his sons, Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira and Matanya Shapira, Deputy Director of the Yesha Council.

"Decades ago, my father did a master's thesis on the Chabad Jewish community in Hebron," Matanya Shapira told Rotter.net.

"As part of the work he went through a lot of documents. Among them we found letters from [Chabad leader] Rebbe Rashab [Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn] that were sent to Rabbi Eliezerov," Shapira stated.

Rabbi Eliezerov was a descendant of the Alter Rebbe, founder of the Chabad-Lubavich movement, and a friend and contemporary of Rabbi Chaim Hezekiah Medini, the famed author of the Sdei Hemed who served as the city's Sephardic Chief Rabbi.
 
He founded Yeshiva Toras Emes in Hebron which was located at the Beit Romano building. The deeds attesting to Chabad's purchase of the property have been used throughout the years to prove Jewish ownership. Rabbi Eliezerov also headed the Magen Avot community group in the city.

"He wrote all sorts of advice and responsa which was collected in book form," Shapira said.

Shapira also commented on Rabbi Eliezerov's service for the Jewish community of Bukharia, located in a majority-Muslim area of Central Asia in 1892. Today's Chabad  notes that as they prepare a shaliach to be sent to the United Arab Emirates, the movement has a history of sending rabbis to Jewish communities in Islamic lands.

"He was sent to the Bukharian Jewish community to raise funds for the benefit of the Jewish community in Hebron," Shapira noted, "and remained there at their request for two years to serve as rabbi."

Rabbi Eliezerov was a great-grandson of Rebbetzin Menucha Rochel Slonim, the fabled matriarch of the Jewish community for over 40 years. She and her husband moved to Hebron in 1845 where they helped the city thrive, attracting admirers from both the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. Rebbitzin Menucha Rochel was the granddaughter of the founder of Chabad Lubavitcher Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, known as the Alter Rebbe.

"My father and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz were related to Rabbi Eliezerov's grandson, so apparently my father was able to obtained the rare documents," Shapira stated.

The announcement of the finds come days before the reading of Parshat Chayei Sarah, the weekly Torah portion in which Abraham purchases the Cave of Machpela in Hebron as a burial plot for his beloved wife Sarah. The towering complex which sits atop the cave today usually attracted tens of thousands of visitors to the city during this week, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the celebrations have been moved online.

Arnon summed up stating, "Rabbi Eliezerov was a special figure and the backbone of leadership in Hebron and in the Land of Israel. These newly discovered documents will enrich the historical archive and consciousness of the city."
 
NOTES:
 
Shlomo Yehuda Leib Eliezerov - Wikipedia Hebrew
Shlomo Yehuda Leib Eliezerov - Chabadpedia (Hebrew)
 
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