Morocco’s Chief Rabbi Passes Away, HaRav Amar Tells Story Of His Release from Prison

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Chief Rabbi of Morocco Rabbi Aharon Monsonego passed away at the age of 90 at the Shaarei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem early Tuesday, August 6.

Monsonego already in an advanced age and frail health was taken to hospital where he passed away.

Born in 1929, Monsonego was the son of Rabbi Yedidya of Fez. Between 1945 and 1952, he studied at the Talmudic and Science High School in Aix-les-Bains, eastern France, where he also taught between 1950 and 1952.

In 1952, Monsonego returned to Morocco following the call of Itshak Chalom, president of the Jewish community of Casablanca. Monsonego ran the Talmud Torah school in Casablanca, which, at that time, had more than 1,500 students. Rabbi Aharon Monsonego has been head of Morocco’s chief rabbinate since 1998, when he was appointed to replace Shimon Suissa, his predecessor.

Due to his worsening health, Monsonego decided to leave Morocco for Israel four years ago, in order to be able to live his last years with his children.

Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Yerushalayim HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shlomo Amar was among those being maspid the rav. Rav Amar told the story of his imprisonment at the age of 12, until Rav Monsenego intervened and had him released.

“In his last position he was elected rabbi of Morocco, his father was already the Chief Rabbi of Morocco,” Rabbi Amar told Kikar Shabbos News. “At this time of his father, Rabbi Aharon was supervising all the torah schools”.

Rabbi Amar returned to the moments when he was imprisoned as a boy and Rabbi Monsenego came to release him: “At the time, when I was a 12-year-old boy, I attended the N’vei Shalom Yeshiva in Casablanca, where Rabbi Aharon was also an inspector. When he arrived in the year 1940, Egyptian President Nasser came to visit Morocco, they made a convoy of honor in the streets and everyone went out. We, too, went out with the rabbi to see the convoy and the honor they had given him.”

Rabbi Amar said that “the Egyptian president brought hatred in Morocco, hatred of the Jews, and on Shabbos Parshas Shemos, when he was supposed to return to Egyp, our yeshiva was near the airport, and we went for a walk after eating near the yeshiva and they took us to jail on Shabbos. They put us in jail together with our rabbi at the yeshiva, they beat us on Shabbos, took us in a vehicle, causing great sorrow.”

Rabbi Amar recalled that “at night they took us out, the one who arranged our release was Dr. Ben Zaken, who was the king’s physician, and also a minister in the local government. David Amar, who was the head of the Jewish community, came with Rabbi Monsenego, and they took us and released us from prison. He was most influential in the country. They drove us to the yeshiva by car.”

“My acquaintance with the rav began. I visited Morocco and Spain and he was with us on Shabbos. He was a true talmid chacham and a true Yirei Shomayim. He was the son of a very important family. However, in recent years, he became very weak and came here, to Bayit Vegan and Kiryat Sefer.”

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)