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Amsterdam Jewish Community Refuses to Revoke Ban on Spinoza

A proposal to revoke the Seventeenth Century excommunication of the philosopher Baruch de Spinoza has been rejected by the leaders of the Portuguese Jewish community here, descendants of those who originally banned the eminent scholar, the New York Times reported today from Amsterdam. The suggestion to reconsider the 300-year-old measure came from David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s former Prime Minister.

In 1656 the leaders of the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam branded Spinoza’s work heretical and dangerous for the faith. The lay leaders of the synagogue announced the excommunication decision. The original record is preserved in the Amsterdam synagogue.

The current synagogue board, the Times report says, left the ultimate decision on whether to do anything about the centuries-old excommunication to the community’s Chief Rabbi, Salomon Rodrigues Pereira. The old Rabbi was emphatic last week in expressing his intention to do nothing about the old measure. “No rabbinate has the right to review a decision of previous rabbinates, unless it is greater in number and wiser, ” he said. This was well known in Jewish tradition, the spiritual leader said, adding, “I don’t consider myself wiser than those who came before me.” The synagogue board is solidly behind its rabbi, the Times reported.

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