Isser Yehuda Unterman

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Isser Yehuda Unterman
איסר יהודה אונטרמן
Isser Yehuda Unterman 1949.jpg
Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman, 1949
TitleChief Rabbi of Israel
Born(1886-04-19)19 April 1886
Died26 January 1976(1976-01-26) (aged 89)

Isser Yehuda Unterman (Hebrew: איסר יהודה אונטרמן, 19 April 1886 – 26 January 1976) was the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1964 until 1972.[1]


Isser Yehuda Unterman was born in Brest-Litovsk, now Belarus. He studied at the Etz Chaim Yeshiva in Maltsch under Rabbi Shimon Shkop.

Rabbinic career[edit]

Returning to Lithuania to complete his studies, Unterman was ordained as a rabbi by Rabbi Refael Shapiro, and by Rabbi Simcha Zelig Reguer, the Dayan of Brisk. He founded his own yeshiva in the town of Vishnyeva around 1910. Unterman served a variety of roles in the Lithuanian Jewish community until 1924, when he was selected to become the head rabbi of Liverpool. Unterman served in Liverpool for 22 years, becoming an important figure in the English Zionist movement and working to relieve the suffering of refugees in England during the Second World War.[1]

Rabbi Unterman (left) with Rabbi Shlomo Goren (right)

In 1946, Unterman became the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, a position he held for twenty years before being appointed Chief Rabbi of Israel. As Chief Rabbi, Unterman worked to reform the rabbinic court system and reach out to secular Israelis. He also wrote opinions on a variety of religious issues relevant to the young Jewish state, such as religious conversion and marriage law.[1]

He founded two advanced Talmudical academies (kollels), one in Tel Aviv and one in Jerusalem, designed to prepare select students for the rabbinate and educational positions, with an emphasis on systematic study of Talmud and practical halakhah.[2]

Rabbi Unterman died on January 26, 1976, in Jerusalem.[3]

Halachic decisions[edit]

A woman once extended her hand to Rabbi Unterman and he immediately shook it. He later explained, “Don’t think that I am lax on not touching women. I am stringent on respect for all humanity.”[4]

As rabbi of Liverpool, Rabbi Unterman had required converts to Judaism to fully accept Torah observance. But in 1972, he wrote that the rabbinic establishment needed to be more lenient with the anticipated Russian Aliyah, given the circumstances of their lives in the Soviet Union. While a convert's sincere intention to accept mitzvot is a necessary condition for conversion, the rabbi advocated a lenient approach when dealing with the conversion of non-Jewish spouses.[5][6]


  • Shevet mi-Yehudah (1952) - on issues in halakhah

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Isser Yehuda Unterman (1886 - 1976) biography, referenced to The Department for Jewish Zionist Education.
  2. ^ Thomson, Gale. "UNTERMAN, ISSER YEHUDA". Encyclopaedia Judaica. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  3. ^ Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman, Former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi. Dead at 90
  4. ^ Looks, Yehoshua (15 January 2012). "Respect for Humanity: A Key to Jewish Leadership". Haaretz. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  5. ^ Dov, Zakheim. "Transforming Israel's Chief Rabbinate". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  6. ^ ROSENBAUM, ALAN (1 November 2017). "CONVERSION IN ISRAEL: THE RUSSIAN ALIYA". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 30 July 2018.

External links[edit]

Media related to Isser Yehuda Unterman at Wikimedia Commons)

Jewish titles
Preceded by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel
Succeeded by