Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Bringing Legends to Life

Barbara Bensoussan

He’s young, energetic, and determined to put Sephardic history and Torah scholarship back on the map. It’s Yehuda Azoulay’s one-man campaign to honor Sephardic history.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

As a teenager in Toronto, Yehuda Azoulay loved reading biographies of gedolim. The Noble Lives, Noble Deeds series (ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications) was his favorite. But as the son of a mother born in Tangiers and a father born in Casablanca, it bothered him that there were no biographies for gedolim with origins closer to his own. He knew they existed; he grew up attending hillulot regularly within his own community, and his father’s family claimed to be related to the Chida, the 18th-century Torah giant.

At age 17, after he moved on from Toronto’s Yeshiva Darchei Torah and Mikdash Melech Yerushalayim to further his studies in Lakewood, he expressed his disappointment to Rav Haim Benoliel, the rosh yeshivah of Mikdash Melech inBrooklyn. Rav Benoliel responded, “So you take the initiative.”

“The yeshivah in Lakewoodhad a computer, and I started writing up short biographies about Sephardic gedolim, just for myself,” Azoulay relates. Now 27, he’s a tall, well-mannered young man with youthful enthusiasm and ambitious dreams. “At the time, people were still using disks — I remember I had one disk for each biography.”

As time permitted, he’d add to the work; when he got married in 2007, he compiled a booklet containing about 20 short sketches to distribute at his sheva brachos. The following year, he self-published it in book form as A Legacy of Leaders, with approbations from, among others, Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztz”l, Rav Mattisyahu Salomon, and Rabbi Benoliel (Israel Book Shop distributes all his work). It included brief biographical sketches of 25 well-known Sephardic chachamim along with short anecdotes of their accomplishments. “I tried to choose figures who would be recognizable to both Sephardim and Ashkenazim,” he says. The following year, a second Legacy of Leaders appeared, featuring yet another 26 gedolim.

Having set the biography machinery in motion, Azoulay kept the presses rolling. In 2005, he produced yet another book, a full-length, English-language biography of the Ben Ish Chai. This past March, he released a biography of the Chida entitled A Legend of Greatness. To unify his work and create a base for further projects and research, Azoulay founded his own Sephardic studies organization, which he calls The Sephardic Legacy Series — Institute for Preserving Sephardic Heritage. He now has four books to his credit, and the Sephardic Legacy continues to grow and draw attention to the contributions of Sephardim.

On November 20, the Sephardic Legacy foundation will begin realizing these goals, as the organization launches its most ambitious event to date: an “Inaugural Tribute Luncheon Honoring the Contributions of Sephardic Jewry” in the Kennedy Room of the USCapitol. The object of the congressional event, he says, is to “honor American Sephardic Jewry, and commemorate Chacham Ovadiah ztz”l.”

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Not a Newspaper
Shoshana Friedman A deeper difference between newspapers and magazines
Services in Shards
Rabbi Moshe Grylak “Such a painful, malicious lie!”
The Pittsburgh Protests: All Politics All the Time
Yonoson Rosenblum The old rule — “no enemies on the left” — still applies
Danger: School Crossing
Eytan Kobre The hypocrisy of YAFFED’s assertion is breathtaking
Real Laughter and Real Tears
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger The two sides of a life lived with emunah
Work/Life Solutions with Eli Langer
Moe Mernick I was proud to be “that guy with the yarmulke”
Is Ktchong! a Mitzvah? When Prayer and Charity Collide
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman These cannot both be done effectively at the same time
An Honest Shidduch
Jacob L. Freedman “Baruch Hashem I’m cured, and this will be my secret”
A Blessing in Disguise
Riki Goldstein “I never thought the song would catch on as it has”
Ishay and Motti Strike a Common Chord
Riki Goldstein Bringing together two worlds of Jewish music
What’s your favorite Motzaei Shabbos niggun?
Riki Goldstein From the holy and separate back to the mundane
Rightfully Mine
Faigy Peritzman Don’t regret the job you didn’t land; it was never yours
Growing Greener Grass
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Nurture your blessings and watch them blossom
My Way or the High Way
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt We know what we want — but do we know what He wants?