“Chacham” Yom Tov Yedid, the oldest Rabbi in the Syrian Jewish community in the US, died on Wednesday night in New York. He was 93.
In his younger years, Rabbi Yedid served as the chief Rabbi of the famed and ancient Jewish community in Aleppo Syria, while it was still thriving and growing, before pogroms and persecutions led to the emigration of the vast majority of the community to Israel and, primarily, the United States, and before the ongoing Syrian civil war ravaged the remaining testaments to its glory.
Leading the Sephardic community with a firm hand, never compromising on matters of Jewish law, the “Chacham” – wise man (a title given to great Rabbis among Sephardic Jews) was nevertheless beloved by his community, in Aleppo and later on in New York.
After arriving in New York, he continued to serve as an inspirational figure for the Syrian community and the Jewish community at large, but did not take an official public position, devoting his time to Torah study and writing a series of books of commentary on the Hebrew Bible.
He developed a relationship with the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, leader of Sephardic Jewry in Israel, through correspondence discussing Chacham Yedid’s books. Later on, a personal relationship was established with Rabbi Yosef’s son, current Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzchak Yosef.
Chief Rabbi Yosef commented on Rabbi Yedid’s passing:
“The Sephardic Torah world has lost today one of its foremost Rabbanim, one of the last [connections] to the previous generation and the golden age of Sephardic Jewry.”