By Miriam Assor
Rabbi Renè Samuel Sirat was a humanist. Peace fighter. A thinker of our times. Studious. Congregator.
I had the privilege of knowing him. When launching “Luz”, a book that my family published about the speeches of my beloved Father, Rabbi Sirat gave us the honor. Another honor he gave us, on the 25th anniversary of my Father's death, in 2018, and due to the impossibility of being present due to health problems, he sent us an emotional communication to be read at the colloquium held at the Centro Cultural de Belém.
Rabbi Sirat was born in the Algerian city of Bône (now Annaba) in November 1930, held the position of Chief Rabbi of France between 1981 and 1987 and gave face and soul to numerous international structures of Judaism and interreligious dialogue. He was in Portugal in 2000 to participate in the international meeting of the Community of Sant'Egidio, in Lisbon, and in 2008 he was enriched by his presence and brilliant communication at the Colloquium of the Commission for Religious Freedom.
He warned, more than ten times, of the serious risk of the clash of civilizations if the dialogue between cultures and religions is not taken seriously. He even defended a kind of religious G8.
He said "hymn-phrases": for sustainable development, hunger in the world, the shortage of water - which unfortunately becomes more and more crucial every day - or to ensure each one of the daily bread that God has promised to all humanity, there is a need for religious take their share of responsibility without interfering in political action.
Rabbi Sirat spoke words that serve as an example: “I do not search the hearts, it is God who does. It is evident that every human being has his choices, his own reactions ”.
During his election to the Grand Rabbinate of France, he created with Si Hamza Boubakeur (who was rector of the Paris Mosque) an association of Jewish-Muslim friendship. It seemed very important to him as a complement to the Jewish-Christian friendship, which had existed in France for many years and which, in his eyes, was doing a good job.
He fought the brain disease called anti-Semitism fearlessly and without hesitation. He worked throughout his career for the dissemination of Hebrew in France. Professor at INALCO, he directed the Jewish and Hebrew studies class from 1968 to 1996 and had a very important in inter-religious dialogue.
He brought French Judaism loyalty to Halacha and openness to Israel.
The path of one of the greatest rabbis of the 20th century began in 1952, in Clermont-Ferrand and then in Toulouse. He would soon be named co-chair of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. He participated in the first Meeting of Religions for Peace in Assisi in 1986, alongside Pope John Paul II.
In 1997, he called for the abolition of the party-list proportional representation system in Israel. Two years later, he participated with Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI, in the creation of the Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue in Geneva by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
In 2000, he alerted Bill Clinton to the creation of a Faculty of Book Religion at the University of France of Morocco. René-Samuel Sirat directed and founded the Unesco committee “Knowledge of the Religion of the Book and Education for Peace”. He chaired the Rachi European University Institute of Troyes and the Hillel Academy. Member of the Israelite Central Consistory of France.
Paper and words are lacking to write his immense and radiant biography.
Buried on February 12 in the Har Hamenouhot cemetery, in Jerusalem, mourned by his children, grandchildren and friends, his light will remain an example and teaching for anyone who sees existence as a beautiful responsibility with God and Man.