Rabbi Sonsino: The Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Concept of God in Judaism
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: What did the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls reveal about the people who wrote them?
Rabbi Rifat Sonsino is Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, Massachusetts, and a member of the faculty at Framingham State University. He previously taught at Boston College for 15 years. Sonsino was born in Turkey in 1938 and received his law degree from the University of Istanbul in 1959, his rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati in 1966 and his Ph.D. in the field of Bible and ancient Near Eastern Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975. In 1991 the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion bestowed upon him an honorary doctorate in recognition of his 25 years in the Rabbinate.
After ordination, the World Union for Progressive Judaism sent Rabbi Sonsino to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to become the Rabbi of the only Reform Temple in the country. He returned to the United States in 1969 where he served congregations in Philadelphia and Chicago before moving to Needham, where he served as the sole Rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom until his retirement in 2003.
Rabbi Sonsino has written articles on the Bible and Judaica for a number of scholarly journals, as well as numerous books on Jewish religion, spirituality and ethics. He was also the editor of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Journal from 1997 to 2001.
He is a past president of the Boston Area Reform Rabbis (BARR) and has taken an active role in a number of Jewish and interfaith community programs. He has also chaired various committees both regionally and nationally.
Since its founding in 2007, Rabbi Sonsino has been a friend of Bet Shalom, the Progressive (Reform) Jewish Community of Barcelona, and he visits them every summer. This year he made a stopover in Madrid, where he gave two lectures: one on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the other on Concepts of God in Judaism, with an emphasis on religious naturalism.
To read more of Rabbi Sonsino’s ideas and work, visit his blog.