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Isaac Alcalay Dead at 97

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Funeral services were. Held yesterday for Rabbi Isaac Alcalay, the retired Chief Rabbi of the Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America, who died Friday at the Sephardic Home in Brooklyn. He was 97 years old. Born in Sofia, he studied at the Vienna Rabbinical Seminary and earned a Ph. D. at Vienna University After he finished his studies in the early 1900s, he became Chief Rabbi of Serbia and was named a representative of the Serbian government.

After World War 1, Alcalay started the Rabbinical Federation in Belgrade, becoming its first president, and founded the Rabbinical School in Belgrade. King Alexander named him Chief Rabbi of Yugoslavia in 1925. The Yugoslav Parliament named him a Senator, the first Jew to get such a position. Tri 1925, he planned and attended the first Sephardic Congress in Vienna and was elected vice president of the World Sephardic Federation.

He fled Yugoslavia when the Nazis occupied the country in 1942 and settled in New York in 1943. About 75 percent of all Sephardic Jews in the U.S., some 130,000, live in the New York area, the rest in Los Angeles, Atlantic City, and Seattle. Alcalay hoped to unity the American Sephardic communities and was elected Chief Rabbi in 1943. He retired in 1968 when he moved to the Sephardic Home in Brooklyn.

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