CHIEF RABBI, HACHAM SHAUL KASSIN 5681 – 5779 / 1921-2018

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By: Rabbi Max Sutton, Rosh Bet Din Aram Soba

With the passing of our beloved Chief Rabbi, Hacham Shaul Kassin, zt”l, we have lost a world-renowned leader and spiritual mentor.

The Kassin rabbinical dynasty represents the unique blend of our Syrian heritage with the royalty of our capital city, Jerusalem. The Torah excellence of Rabbi Shaul, zt”l, was deeply rooted in the teachings of the sages of Jerusalem. His father, Chief Rabbi Hacham Jacob Kassin, zt”l, was a Torah giant in Jerusalem long before his arrival at American shores, and he successfully transmitted to his son, Rabbi Shaul, zt”l, the wisdom of Torah law along with the hidden secrets of the Kabbalah. The continued success of our community is, without question, to be attributed to these men of profound greatness, whose presence served as a source of inspiration and blessing for our people for nearly a century.

For many decades, we were privileged to have the opportunity to witness the outstanding Torah leadership of the Kassin family. Perhaps the most significant lesson was their approach to the rabbinate. While American culture urges us to be aggressive and forceful, our Chief Rabbis, with great wisdom, took a different approach.  With tolerance, love and compassion, they skillfully taught the masses to live according to the precepts of the Torah. Their humility and kindness served as an example of community and brotherhood for all of us to follow.

Like all great leaders, our Chief Rabbis were the targets of occasional criticism and complaints voiced by a minority opposition. Some people complained about the Chief Rabbis’ very cautious and loving approach. But with hindsight, we can clearly see that it is due to their uniquely humble, gentle approach that Torah study is available to the community in its entirety. Our Chief Rabbis preserved the authentic teachings of Torah and maintained a strictly Orthodox community during very turbulent times. Thanks to their valiant and strong leadership, our synagogues are now flourishing, and Torah study and Torah life are readily available to all the descendants of the original community members whom they led. Conveying harmony and unity to the multitudes is no easy task. Through their achievements, we today stand together true to our beliefs and our heritage. Our community is forever indebted to these men and indebted to Hashem for granting us such illustrious leaders.

The legacy of our Chief Rabbi, Hacham Shaul Kassin, zt”l, must be preserved. We bear the great responsibility of emulating his ways, his unique approach to leadership, and his special holiness. With Hashem’s guidance and help, if we work together to follow his shining example, we can ensure our community’s success for many years to come.