Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, who solved conflicts between Jewish law and technology, dies at 76


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, who founded an institute dedicated to Jewish law and technology, and established the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s conversion office, has died.

Rozen died Thursday at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem at 76.

He founded the Tzomet Institute, which works to adapt Jewish religious law to modern life and fit technology into Jewish law, in 1976, and remained its head until his death. Rozen also served as editor in chief of the institute’s annual journal, Techumim, which deals with modernity and Jewish law.

The institute both studies and offers solutions for when technology conflicts with the strictures of Jewish law, or halacha, especially on Shabbat, when observant Jews may not use an electrical switch, for instance, or keep a dish hot in a way that increases its temperature. Among its innovations is a “Shabbat microphone” that uses transistors to bypass glowing  or “burning” elements associated with standard amplifiers. Tzomet also developed an ice machine that prevents users from inadvertently initiating its ice-making function on Shabbat.

“His halachic courage and distinction, as well as the relationships he formed with the greatest halachic decisors of his generation, led to dozens of halachic solutions that assisted the elderly and the disabled to live and keep the Sabbath according to Jewish law,” the institute said in a statement.

In 1995, Rozen was asked to launch the national conversion program of the Chief Rabbinate, which he also headed. He worked in various capacities in the program until recent years.

In August, Rozen resigned from the presidium of the Jewish Home party and threatened to quit the pro-settler party after the spokeswoman for its leader, Naftali Bennett, publicized the fact that she is a lesbian.

The Tel Aviv native served as a combat soldier in the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. He studied electrical engineering at Bar-Ilan University.

He is survivied by his wife, Shlomit, and five children, as well as grandchildren.

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