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Ya'akov Elazar

(1912 – 2002)

Ya’akov Elazar was the last of a generation of Sephardi historians and personalities who lived through the course of the 20th century in the Ottoman, British, and Israeli periods and were active in the Sephardi life of Jerusalem. He was the last authority on active Sephardi life in Jerusalem; his death at the age of 90 symbolized the end of an era.

A descendant of the Salonikan Elazar rabbinic family, which moved to Jerusalem in 1878, and the Abulafia family of Tiberias on his mother's side, he lived and breathed the Sephardi life of Jerusalem. He was one of the younger members of the He-Ḥalutz ha-Mizrachi movement. From 1931 to 1936, he taught Hebrew in the revived Sephardi Jewish community of Hebron. He was elected to Va'ad ha-Kehillah in Jerusalem (1937), and the Asefat ha-Nivḥarim of the yishuv (1944). On "Black Saturday" (June 29, 1946), after 700 leaders of the Jewish yishuv were arrested, he gathered some 3,000 people in Jerusalem within hours for prayer and public protest against the British authorities.

He spoke the Jerusalemite Judeo-Spanish dialect, was an active researcher and authority on the Sephardim of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Sephardi courtyards, and was active in the Sephardi community of Jerusalem. His books include Diyyur ve-Klitah be-Yishuv ha-Yashan 18421919, Ḥaẓerot Bi-Yrushalayim ha-Atikah, and Yamei Avra: Ha-Shevitah ha-Aravit AprilOktober 1936. He wrote about the Ereẓ Israel Sephardi chief rabbis, the Rishonei le-Ẓiyyon, and advocated that the younger generation know and follow their teachings. He received semikhah for sheḥitah from Chief Rabbi Jacob *Meir and published a bibliography of him in 1997, feeling that his former teacher was already forgotten.

As a Jerusalem Street Names Committee member, he proposed names of past Sephardi figures for streets. He received the distinction Yakir Yerushalayim and is buried in the section of prominent Jerusalemites in the Har Menuḥot cemetery in Jerusalem. He was the uncle of the American Sephardi leader and political scientist Daniel Elazar and a cousin of Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff David Elazar.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.