JERUSALEM (JTA) — The chief rabbi of Iran, Rabbi Yosef Hamadani Cohen, has died.
Hamadani died over the weekend and was buried in Iran on Sunday, the Hebrew-language website Kikar Shabbat reported, citing the rabbi’s nephew bearing the same name who lives in Israel.
The death was announced by the representative of the Iranian Jews in parliament, Siamak Moreh Sedgh, according to The Associated Press, which reported that Hamadani was 98. Hamadani, the head of Iran’s Jewish community since 1994, reportedly had been ill for many years.
Many Iranian Jews marked the rabbi’s death by changing their Facebook status to “our crown has been removed.”
Hamadani’s nephew told Kikar Shabbat that the Jewish community and the Iranian people respected the rabbi. He said he did not believe that the Iranian Jewish community would break down due to the loss of the rabbi.
“There are young men there who learn Torah,” the Israeli Hamadani said. “They are receiving assistance, but there are problems.”
Hamadani was known for his ties to the Iranian leadership. He met for the first time with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in 2000, and later hosted him at his Yusef Abad Synagogue in 2003, reportedly the first time a president of Iran had visited a synagogue since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
There are about 25,000 Jews living in Iran, according to AP, which makes it the largest Middle East Jewish community outside of Israel.