Menu JTA Search

Israel Mourns Death of Rabbi Toledano, Minister for Religious Affairs

All Israel today mourned the passing of Rabbi Yaacov Moshe Toledano, Minister for Religious Affairs, who died suddenly yesterday, at his home here, aged 79.

Flags flew at half-mast over all government buildings, the Cabinet’s customary Sunday session was devoted to eulogies of the revered Minister, and all government and other civic offices were closed at noon, as leaders of the Government, from President Izhak Ben-Zvi and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on, attended the funeral services for Rabbi Toledano.

The entire diplomatic corps joined the full Cabinet and leaders of all religious communities in Israel at the funeral services held in the great Yeshurun Synagogue here. The formal eulogies during the services were spoken by Mr. Ben-Gurion and by Td Aviv’s Chief Rabbi Issar Yehudah Unterman.

Many thousands passed by the bier lying in state in the synagogue, and thousands of others joined the funeral procession to the burial grounds atop Har Hamenuchot, where the late Minister’s remains were laid to rest.

Rabbi Toledano, who, in addition to being Sephardic Chief Rabbi at Tel Aviv was also head of that city’s Rabbinical Center, was named Minister for Religious Affairs in 1958, after the religious parties had withdrawn from the coalition Cabinet because of a disagreement over the “Who’s a Jew?” issue.

Born in Tiberias, Rabbi Toledano studied at the yeshiva in that city. During World War I, he was exiled to Corsica, because of his French citizenship. He was a member of the chief rabbinate of Tangier from 1926 to 1929, then served as chief justice of the rabbinical courts in Cairo and Alexandria until 1939. He was appointed chief rabbi of Tel Aviv in 1942.

An authority on Maimonides, the medieval Jewish physician and religious philosopher, Rabbi Toledano served as chairman of the supervisory commission for the reconstruction of the tomb of Maimonides in Tiberias. He was a prolific writer and the author of many scholarly works.

Rabbi Toledano was the center of public attention in Israel several months ago, when he married a 25-year-old divorcee, the daughter of an immigrant rabbi from Morocco. He was again the center of a political controversy, last month, when it was disclosed that he had never relinquished his French citizenship, even after assuming his Cabinet post. Rabbi Toledano’s death was believed likely here to create political activity in various quarters, including the Chief Rabbinate, the Cabinet, and among the religious parties.

NEXT STORY