Hacham Dr. Moshe Ventura

A Short Tribute

Hacham Dr. Moshe Ventura was born to Rosha and Yaakov in 1892 in Izmir, Turkey.

As a youth he studied in Izmir's Talmud Torah and in its Alliance Israelite Universelle [Kol Israel Haverim] school. He moved to Kushta (Istanbul) as an adult, where he studied in the Rabbinic Seminary founded by Alliance Israelite Universelle and led by Hacham Abraham Danon.

In 1914, with the outbreak of the First World War, he was drafted to the Ottoman army as an officer and was sent to Baghdad, capital of Iraq, as part of his role. He remained in Baghdad after the war ended, teaching Hebrew in its Jewish school. In 1919 he wrote a textbook for the study of the Hebrew language, entitled Ivrit be'Ivrit [Hebrew in Hebrew]. He later moved to the capital city of Lebanon, Beirut, where he headed a Talmud Torah.

In 1922 he moved to Paris, where he studied Philosophy and Psychology at the Sorbonne. He completed his doctorate on the topic of Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon's philosophy. During that period, he edited the Jewish youth periodical, Eliacin.

In 1938 he was invited to serve as Chief Rabbi of Alexandria, Egypt, where he subsequently founded the HaRambam Jewish Secondary School in which studies were held in Arabic. Eli Cohen, who later died as a martyr, was among his pupils. He published several books based on his sermons and on the daily classes he gave in the Alexandria's Eliyahu HaNavi synagogue.

In 1948, on the day the State of Israel was declared, he was expelled from Egypt, penniless. Two months following his expulsion, his important book, Soupirs et Espoirs - a collection of the sermons he gave in Egypt during the Second World War - was published in French. Hacham Dr. Moshe Ventura then moved to the USA, where he taught Jewish Philosophy at the Yeshiva University. In 1951, he moved to England where he headed Montefiore College, the rabbinic and teachers' seminary. He immigrated to Israel in 1953, settling in Jerusalem, where he taught and lectured in several institutions.

When, in 1955, discussions were held to open a Metivta [boy's religious secondary school] to commemorate the Rishon LeZion [Chief Rabbi] Hacham Ben Zion Meir Hai Uziel that would serve as a Beit Midrash to train Sephardi rabbis, he was asked to stand at its helm, but the initiative was never implemented. He published his book, Introduction to Jewish Thought in 1959. In 1960 he had his book, The Abridged Mishneh Torah by Maimonides, published in two volumes; his Psychology for Teachers was published in 1966.

Hacham Moshe Ventura passed away on the 11th of Av, 1978 at the age of 86, and lies at rest on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.

A few quotes from the Rabbi on 'Traditions of the Fathers' in which he teaches that the shift in philosophical values is more compatible with Jewish belief
The contempt towards values so dear to our nation, the dismissive tone used as a matter of routine, are the result of a conceit that should be uprooted from our hearts. The purpose of general philosophy, from this point of view… is not only to arouse reflection in youths during their studies, reveal new horizons to them, and expand the scope of the concepts and facts they may learn in this discipline, but also to advocate faith. The flash of enlightenment during the 18 and 19th centuries in Western civilization contributed to the destructiveness of faith, and many of those who in our day turn their backs on faith still remain under its influence which, since the early 20th century, has definitively waned. The past few decades show signs of a radical shift of values in the domain of philosophy. In theory, if not yet in practice, gross Materialism is gradually being ousted from the realm of science, and being replaced with a new world view more congruent with the ancient Jewish spirit.
Introduction to Jewish Thought, Introduction, p. 4, Mahbarot LeSifrut Publishing, Tel Aviv, 1959