CHIEF RABBI, HACHAM SHAUL KASSIN 5681 – 5779 / 1921-2018

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By: Rabbi Yosef Galimidi Edmond J.

I had the honor of meeting the great Hacham Shaul Kassin, zt”l, almost 30 years ago, during my time as the Rabbi at Shaare Ezra Sephardic Congregation in Miami Beach, Florida. The Chief Rabbi Hacham Shaul Kassin, zt”l, would come and spend some time with us during the winter months. When the Rabbi would arrive, his presence would elicit a certain respect and kavod. He arrived each day promptly at 6:00am to the Knis, with a frequent stop by the mikveh. It was
myduty and pleasure to be there awaiting his arrival
each morning.

I would always invite the Rabbi to sit in my chair, yet he refused, explaining this chair belongs to the Rabbi of the shul, saying, “I am just a visitor.” The Rabbi would then proceed to take his seat in a chair in front of me. I would watch him pray from his siddurwith great kavana, concentration, and great spiritual awakening. The Rabbi had a way about how he walked. He walked with such zerizut, alacrity, which made it difficult to keep up with him! Truly it was a trait to be emulated.

Fast forward after many winters together, I was honored to become the Rabbi of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue of Turnberry, in Aventura, Florida. Although the great Rabbi knew me well, and approved my position, he insisted I must fly to New York to meet with him personally. I found myself not only in front of the Great Rabbi, but standing before twelve to fifteen Rabbis from the Sephardic Rabbinical Council, all sitting in a semi-circle, just as the Talmud tells us of the Sanhedrin. As I sat at a small table with the Great Hacham Shaul Kassin, zt”l, right in front of me, he expressed two important responsibilities of my new position.

Firstly, he explained the need to make sure that all matters are dealt with properly, according to the traditions of Aram Soba. Secondly, he explained my responsibility to make sure that the Syrian Edict of Conversion remains active, and called upon me to always look, watch,
and protect.

Since that time, on almost a weekly basis, Ihad to protect or activate the Edict in some way. Miami is a melting pot, a city of refuge, where people arrive from all four corners of the world. Hacham Shaul Kassin, zt”l, had a tremendous dedication to the Syrian community, and specifically to the Edict. It is our duty to filter and protect this with our utmost power to continue the Chief Rabbi’s legacy, by protecting the Syrian Community and keeping the Edict alive. We continue to make this a primary focus every day.

Hacham Shaul Kassin, zt”l, was a great and holy man who loved the community and loved his kahal, and always greeted people with a smile. The Rabbi had a big hand in bestowing the name of our Synagogue, the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue, as a tribute and honor to Mr. Edmond J. Safra, a”h, upon his passing in 1999. There is no doubt that there was a special connection between the two, as they both returned their souls on the 24th of Kislev.

The Rabbi always had a tremendous amount of humility, especially given his status and age. This is uncommon, and is not something we come across often. The passing of Chief Rabbi Hacham Shaul Kassin, zt”l, is a great loss to the entire Jewish Community. May his light and honor continue to shine through his children, grandchildren, and all those affected by his dedication to Torah and mitzvot.

Zechuto Yagen Alenu, may His merit shield us.

Rabbi Yosef Galimidi