Mazor Mahoy Bahaina (b. 1973) was born in the Ethiopian village of Welkite. As a child, he fled the country with his family on foot, heading for Israel. It took a year and a half, most of which was spent in Sudanese refugee camps, to finally reach the Promised Land. Bahaina enrolled in religious yeshivas for study, eventually making it to the prestigious Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem. After earning his rabbinic ordination, he moved to Be’er Sheva to support the influx of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, ultimately becoming the chief rabbi of the city’s 10,000 Ethiopian Jews. He also sat on the city’s council, which brought him into the political sphere. Bahaina eventually got on the list of Shas (“Shomrei Sefarad”, Israel’s religious Sephardic political party). He worked for the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and as an advisor to Israel’s Minister of Finance. In April 2008, Bahaina was given a seat in the Knesset, and served as a member of parliament until the following year. He was a member of the Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee, as well as the committee for children’s rights, among others. Though no longer in government, Bahaina continues to diligently serve Israel’s public, particularly the Ethiopian community, and is working to assist the remaining Jews of Ethiopia to make aliyah.
Words of the Week
Six million of us were murdered in the Holocaust. But instead of disappearing, we decided that after 2,000 years of exile, it would be better to go home and rebuild our own country. And so we did. What took other nations hundreds and hundreds of years to build, we did in only a few. What was possible we did very quickly, and what was impossible took us just a bit longer. – Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo
Abdullah Ovadia Yousseff (1920-2013) was born in Baghdad, Iraq and immigrated with his family to Jerusalem at the age of 4. He was quickly recognized as a young prodigy with a photographic memory and a profound depth of understanding, and ordained as a rabbi at age 20. Shortly after, Rav Ovadia moved to Cairo, Egypt where he headed a yeshiva and Jewish court until his return to Israel upon the State’s independence. In 1952 he published the first of several great works, which propelled him into the spotlight. He then founded an advanced yeshiva for gifted students. By 1973, Rav Ovadia was appointed Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi. He served in this post until 1984 when he founded the Shas political party – today the 4th largest in the Knesset – and served as its spiritual guide until his last days. A scholar above all else, he pored through thousands of works. Once, he tumbled off a ladder while reaching for a book, breaking his back. As no one was there to help him, he grabbed the nearest text and studied it for 3 hours until someone found him. Possessing a great love for the Jewish people, Rav Ovadia always strove to make life simpler for the Jews, earning a reputation for being very lenient when it came to Jewish law. He was heavily engaged in kiruv – bringing secular Jews back to their heritage and into the spiritual fold. He especially focused his efforts on Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews (who often suffered discrimination and a lower socio-economic status in Israel) and is thus credited with restoring Jewish and national pride among this demographic. Many stories highlight his love and service to the people. Once, he suffered a heart attack and was rushed to hospital for life-saving surgery. He had the surgery delayed for several hours as he was in the middle of writing a letter to a woman in distress, and feared that if he died there would be no one to help her. Sadly, Rav Ovadia passed away on Monday. Nearly a million people attended his funeral in Jerusalem – the largest funeral in Israel’s history. Many have hailed his passing as the end of an era in the country’s history.
Words of the Week
The righteous promise little and do a lot; the wicked promise much and don’t do even a little. – Talmud, Bava Metzia 87a