Tag Archives: Iraqi Jews

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Zecharia Barashi

World’s Oldest Jew

Rabbi Barashi (Credit: Lazar Berman)

Zecharia Barashi (1900-2017) was born in Kurdistan, the last of ten children in an observant Jewish family. His father was a rabbi who traveled from village to village, serving the needs of small Jewish communities in Iraq. Unfortunately, this job did not come with a salary, and the poor family made a meager living by sowing clothes and selling nuts and dates. Several years of harsh poverty, disease, and the difficulties of the First World War left six of the ten children dead. Barashi himself nearly died when he was 11 years old. He would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a rabbi as well. Inspired by Zionism, Barashi struggled to move the family to Israel. In 1936, he finally got a chance by working as a Hebrew interpreter for the Jewish Agency. After a long and arduous journey, the family settled in Jerusalem. Throughout World War II and Israel’s ensuing War of Independence, Barashi supported the war effort by digging trenches, and paving roads and runways. In 1950, the Jews of Iraq and Kurdistan made a mass aliyah to Israel, and Barashi soon became their spiritual leader. He would go on to earn the esteemed title of Chacham, “Sage”. He also published four important books on Judaism. He was in the midst of writing his fifth book when, at the age of 111, his eyesight became too poor. Deeply respected as one of Israel’s greatest rabbis, Barashi was known for his incredible memory, humility, and great sense of humour. Sadly, he passed away earlier this week. Until that moment, he was the world’s oldest living Jew. He was also Israel’s oldest living resident, having spent over 80 years in Jerusalem. Although he outlived two of his own children and his beloved wife, he is survived by five more children, 29 grandchildren, 72 great-grandchildren, and 24 great-great-grandchildren. His advice for a long life: “Always be happy, never jealous. Stay active. And never overeat, always leave the table a little hungry.”

Words of the Week

“My brain is the key that sets my mind free.”
Harry Houdini

Rabbi Barashi with Shimon Peres (Credit: Mark Neyman/Flash90)

Jew of the Week: Dalia Itzik

Dalia Itzik, Israel's First Female President (הצלם אלכס קולומויסקי וידיעות אחרונות)

Dalia Itzik, Israel’s First Female President (הצלם אלכס קולומויסקי וידיעות אחרונות)

Dalia Itzik (b. 1952) was born to an Iraqi-Jewish family in Jerusalem. She studied literature and history at the Hebrew University before becoming a teacher. At the young age of 21, Itzik was a co-founder of Jerusalem’s Katznelson School, where she taught for 17 years. In 1984, she became the chairwoman of Jerusalem’s Teachers Union. Due to her vast experience in education, Itzik was elected to the city council in 1989 and took over its education portfolio. From there, she rose to the position of Jerusalem’s deputy mayor. In 1992, she ran for the Knesset as a member of the Labor Party and won a seat. She would go on to serve in Israel’s parliament for nearly twelve years, and during that time filled the roles of Minister of Industry and Trade, Minister of the Environment, and Minister of Communications. She sat on the Finance Committee and the Education and Culture Committee, among others. In 2006, she became Israel’s first female Speaker of the Knesset, and shortly after, Israel’s deputy president. The following year, President Moshe Katzav took a leave of absence, making Itzik Israel’s first female president (though only in an interim position). Since leaving politics in 2013, Itzik has served on the board of Hadassah International – one of the largest women’s organizations in the world – and as the chairwoman of From the Depths, an organization which strives to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. She was also nominated for Israel’s presidency in 2014.

Words of the Week

Fundamental to our faith is the belief that every event in a person’s life is by Divine Providence. So expressions such as “If only I had…” or “If only I hadn’t…” smack of heresy.
Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch (1860-1920)