Iranian Jewish Culure
Rabbi David Shofet

Rabbi David Shofet

Religious Leader, Scholar

Rabbi David Shofet was born in 1939 in the Iranian city of Kashan, as the eldest son of Chacham Yedidia Shofet, the longtime chief rabbi of the Iranian Jewish community. As a little child, he began learning the preliminaries and the principles of the Jewish religious law and tradition under the tutelage of his father. Toward the end of World War II, no older than six, he and his family moved to Tehran, where David Shofet received his elementary and high school education at the Kourosh (Cyrus) School. In the meantime, following the example of his ancestors, he already joined the Jewish clerical rank, and he carried out religious and social activities with affection. He could have continued his studies in a variety of academic fields, yet he chose to travel abroad and pursue his higher education in Jerusalem. In 1965, he successfully graduated from Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv, in Jewish Theology, History and Philosophy. He then passed the required exams and received his diploma of clerical subjects, i.e. the Rabbinate, from Rabbi Shalom Mizrachi, a high-ranking member of Jerusalem Supreme Court Council, which was then headed by Rabbi Ovadya Yosef. Back in Tehran, he started his official religious activities by offering speeches at synagogues and Jewish institutions, especially at the Jewish Academic Students Organization.

As one of the very first Iranian rabbis, Rabbi David Shofet thus began his fruitful efforts to revive the Judaical tradition in the Iranian community. After publishing some religious booklets, he published his first major volume in Persian entitled The Consequences of the Fall of Jerusalem and Its Impact on the Jewish History.

In 1973, Tehran Jewish Association invited Rabbi David Shofet to act as their cultural and religious advisor and coordinate the instruction of Judaical subjects at Jewish schools. Rabbi David Shofet seized this opportunity to organize after-hours Hebrew lessons for the many children and youngsters who were so far deprived of Hebrew learning facilities, or who studied in non-Jewish schools. Moreover, with the assistance of Tehran Jewish Association, he further enhanced community outreach programs and published monthly periodicals and educational volumes on Holidays and other Jewish occasions to strengthen the ties between the various sectors of the community and its cultural centers.

In the meantime, the late Azizollah Berjis formed two elite teams of educated translators to create a new Persian translation of the Torah, and he invited Rabbi David Shofet to supervise and direct the project. Although by 1979, the new translation was completed, edited and prepared for publication, for certain reasons, its publication was postponed.

As part of his busy schedule, Rabbi David Shofet attended religious seminars, offered speeches at synagogues, participated in interfaith dialogues with prominent spiritual figures of other religions, and offered interviews with the Iranian news media.

In 1975, Rabbi David married Poline Netaneli, and the couple brought two daughters and a son to the world.

Rabbi David Shofet left Iran in 1979, and awhile afterwards, he and his family settled in Los Angeles. Without hesitation, and together with his father, the late Chacham Yedidia Shofet, they dedicated themselves to cultural and social services in their new home. Before long, with the generous cooperation of a number of community philanthropists, he founded the original Nessah Synagogue and Cultural Center, where besides the religious services, he established Hebrew classes and spent relentless efforts to expand the center into an academy or a cultural house.

In 2001, the Nessah Cultural Center was relocated to a new building, and thus, one of the greatest of Iranian Jewish religious and cultural centers in the United States was formed. Throughout, Rabbi David Shofet continued his social activities side-by-side his cultural endeavors. In 1980, he published his first volume in exile in Los Angeles, entitled in Persian, The Life of Maimonides (Rambam). Three years later, with the cooperation of Morad Hekmat, he published another volume entitled Among the Treasures of Judaism, and in 1999, he revised and published an enhanced edition of his earlier Haggadah in an even more prestigious volume. In 2004, with the assistance of Nessah Publications, he published Hayey Nessah, “The Eternal Life”. And in 2006, he wrote an enhanced translation of a book entitled Sara and Hillel’s Selichot.

In 2005, Chacham Yedidia Shofet passed away, and the Iranian Jewish community of Los Angeles elected Rabbi David Shofet as the chief rabbi and religious leader of the Iranian Jewish community.

In December 2008, during a Chanukah celebration at the White House, President George Bush praised Rabbi David Shofet for his invaluable cultural services and for offering his proper management to the religious leadership of the society. Among his many services, Rabbi David Shofet participated in the establishing and launching of several other cultural institutions in Los Angeles, including the Chacham Shofet Foundation in 2006, Persian Maimonides Foundation in 2011, and Amnon Netzer Foundation in 2012, wherein he has demonstrated an active presence as a member of the Board of Directors.

Undoubtedly, as a religious leader, Rabbi David Shofet has carried out a most remarkable and meritorious role over the many years of his dedicated services, which have included contributing to the development of the Iranian Jewish culture and the teaching of Judaism to this 2700-year old community.

Through his incessant spiritual guidance and keen handling of the obligations of the faith, and by reinforcing the social bonds among his people, Rabbi David Shofet has tried to make a positive impact, preserve the Jewish culture and religious traditions, and guide the community, particularly the younger Jewish generation in the diaspora. And he’s done so in spite of the many obstacles on the road and despite the continued concerns over an unforeseeable future. Distinguished by the evident traits of a religious leader with unique characteristics, such as his modesty, eloquence, friendship and love toward every member of the community regardless of their socio-economic class or age, Rabbi Shofet has succeeded to more than fulfill his duties toward his people.

As such, in the June of 2015, the Nessah Cultural Center organized a conference in the honor of Rabbi David Shofet, to express the collective gratitude and to celebrate his 35 years of invaluable outstanding services to the Iranian Jewish community, particularly that of Los Angeles. The conference was attended by a large number of religious figures, erudite scholars, and the leaders of various cultural and social institutions, as well as many individual philanthropists of the community. During the ceremony, Rabbi Shofet was highly praised for his dedicated efforts over the past decades, and he was appreciated with an honorary award.

Concurrently, many religious leaders, government officials, erudite scholars, and socio-cultural and religious organizations from various American and foreign cities, appreciated this erudite figure of the Iranian Jewish community by their tens of honorary awards, salutations and letters of gratitude.


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