Sephardic Chief Rabbi Uziel Dies in Jerusalem; Was 73 Years Old

Ben Zion Meir Hal Uziel, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, died late Friday afternoon after a long illness in the Shaare Zedek Hospital. He was 73 years old.

Funeral services for the late Chief Rabbi were held Sunday at Kehal Zion Synagogue and interment was in the Har Hamenuhot Cemetery. The body was draped in the rough woolen prayer shawl that Rabbi Uziel had used for many years. More than 4,000 mourners, from all walks of life, followed the cortege through the streets of Jerusalem to the cemetery.

Dr. Itzhak Herzog, the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi, delivered the eulogy at the synagogue service, Abraham Elmaleh spoke for the Sephardic Community Council of Jerusalem. Rabbi Uziel’s son, Yaacov, recited the traditional prayers for the dead. Among those attending the services were President I. Ben-Zvi and Mrs. Ben Zvi, Acting Prime Minister Moshe Sharett, Minister for Religious Affairs Moshe Shapira and other national, civic, diplomatic and religious personalities.

Prior to the ceremony, Rabbi Uziel’s body had lain in state in the center of the synagogue, surrounded by rabbis and students intoning Psalms. After the service, Rabbi Uziel’s students carried his coffin on their shoulders in the procession led by mounted police and the beadles of the Chief Rabbinate. A brief stop was made before the Yeshurun Synagogue on King George Avenue where Berl Locker, chairman of the Jewish Agency, and Minister of Religious Affairs Shapira spoke.

At the cemetery the traditional practice of circling the body seven times was performed by the rabbis and a sage tossed a coin over the heads of the mourners in the Jerusalem custom symbolizing the casting off of sin. Police Minister Behor Shitreet, a Sephardic leader, spoke at the graveside where Chief Rabbi Herzog offered the final rites.

Ben Zion Meir Hal Uziel was born in Jerusalem in 1881 and was ordained in 1889. After several years of teaching, he served as chief rabbi of Jaffa and Tel Aviv, from 1912-1920 and as chief rabbi of Salonika, Greece from 1920-1923. He was elected chief rabbi of Tel Aviv in 1923. He served as a Palestinian Jewish delegate to the League of Nations in 1926. Rabbi Uziel was active in the Mizrachi, (religious Zionist) movement and had served as president of the court of the Mizrachi World Federation. He was the author of numerous religious commentaries.

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