Tag Archives: Sephardic 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.”

Chag Purim Sameach!

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: Max Azria

BCBG Max Azria 

Max Azria (Credit: David Shankbone)

Max Azria (b. 1949) was born in Tunisia to a traditional Jewish family, the youngest of six children. He grew up in France, where he was first drawn to the fashion industry. He spent eleven years working in French fashion before moving to Los Angeles and opening his first boutique, called Jess. After eight very successful years, Azria launched BCBG Max Azria in 1989. (The name comes from the French slang bon chic bon genre, “good style, good attitude”.) Known for its affordable designer fashion, the brand became extremely popular. It made headlines at New York Fashion Week in 1996, and put Azria on the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1998. That same year, he bought a French company, Hervé Léger, making history by being the first American designer to buy out a French one. Azira launched an exclusive celebrity line called Max Azria Atelier in 2004, and a youth store called BCBGeneration in 2008. Celebrities are particularly fond of his designs, and among his biggest fans are Angelina Jolie, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Halle Berry, and Beyoncé. Azria has also designed clothing for TV shows, including Friends and Seinfeld. In all, he owns twenty different brands and has nearly 600 stores around the world. Unfortunately, many of these locations will soon be closing, as BCBG filed for bankruptcy yesterday. Nonetheless, Azria has been hailed as “one of the most important and influential designers in the world”. Aside from fashion, he is the spokesperson for ‘Concept: Cure’, a charity that supports breast cancer research. His brother Serge, daughter Joyce, and wife Lubov are all successful fashion designers as well. The latter recently spoke of the large Shabbat meals that the couple hosts at their home: “Sometimes there’s only five people, sometimes a hundred.”

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Words of the Week

My relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human bond, ever since I became fully aware of our precarious situation among the nations of the world.
– Albert Einstein