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Solomon Gaon, Sephardic Jewry’s Chief Rabbi and Spokesman, Dies at 82

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Solomon Gaon, the chief rabbi of congregations affiliated with the World Sephardi Federation, international spokesman for Sephardic Jews and world- renowned scholar on Sephardic Jewish history, died here Dec. 21 at the age of 82.

The cause of death was pneumonia.

Gaon was born in Travnik, Yugoslavia, now part of Bosnia, on Dec. and began his studies at the Yeshiva of Sarajevo.

After moving to England in 1934, he earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the University of London, and a minister’s degree and rabbinic ordination from Jew’s College in London.

He was minister, and eventually senior minister, at London’s Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue from 1944 to 1949. That year he was named Haham – chief rabbi – of the British Common wealth’s Spanish and Portuguese Congregations. He held the position until 1982.

He also founded Judith, Lady Montefiore College in London, which was a training college for Sephardic rabbis.

In 1962 he began a long affiliation with Yeshiva University in New York, establishing there a host of academic programs and community activities related to the Sephardim.

Since 1976, he was university professor of Sephardic studies at Yeshiva.

He served for a time as president of the Union of Sephardic Congregations of the United States and Canada.

In 1990 Gaon was honored by the Spanish Royal Family on behalf of the world’s Sephardic Jews.

The next year, he made a triumphant and emotional return to his ancestral homeland in Aragon, five centuries after Jews were expelled from the Spanish region.

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