PARIS (JTA) — Rabbi Shmuel Azimov, one of the leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement in France, has died.
Azimov, a native of the former Soviet Union, died in France on Wednesday from an illness that required hospitalization. He was 69. His body was brought to Israel for burial on the same day.
“Despite his eminence, this was a man who spoke to his juniors, to everyone, as equals,” said Rabbi Avraham Weill of Toulouse. “And though he never sought the limelight, he was the driving force behind the educational revolution of the Chabad movement in France. He wasn’t just a spiritual father to thousands of Jews but an actual second father to many of them.”
Chabad-Lubavitch has 115 centers in 95 cities in France, which the movement’s official website, chabad.org, called “the direct result of his work.” The centers are staffed by more than 450 emissaries.
Azimov studied in the Central Chabad Yeshivah in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he became deeply connected to the Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher rebbe. In 1968, Schneerson sent Azimov and his late wife, Bassie, to Paris to serve as his emissaries there.
The couple’s three children are Chabad emissaries in the French capital.