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Rabbi Yeshua Hadad, 81, Leader of Sephardic Community in Milan, Italy

Rabbi Yeshua Hadad, 81, Leader of Sephardic Community in Milan, Italy

A scholar and shochet, he arranged Torah schools throughout the city

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Rabbi Yeshua Hadad (Photo: Chabad.Italia)
Rabbi Yeshua Hadad (Photo: Chabad.Italia)

Rabbi Yeshua Hadad, leader of the Sephardic Jewish community in Milan, Italy, and one of the senior Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis in Europe, passed away on Oct. 31. He was 81 years old.

He was born in 1936 to Mahlouf and Iza Hadad in a small town in the mountains of Eastern Morocco, growing up in a Torah-observant family. After initial learning at home, at the age of 11, young Yeshua set out by horse-drawn cart to Casablanca, where a Torah school had recently been founded by Chabad emissaries to the city. Thirsting for a more rigorous program, he relocated to the city of Meknes—the “Jerusalem of Morocco”—where he studied in the Chabad yeshivah that had been founded by Rabbi Michoel Lipsker, the first Chabad emissary in Morocco. He also studied at the feet of Rabbi Baruch Toledano.

In an interview with Jewish Educational Media (JEM), he said: “I went there and discovered what I loved. We learned Talmud and chassidut, Torah and yirat shamayim. Rabbi Lipsker guided us how to bring Jews closer to Chassidism, the ways of the Baal Shem Tov.”

By the age of 14, he was certified as an expert shochet (kosher ritual slaughterer), a designation generally not given to anyone under 20.

At left is Rabbi Baruch Toledano, the rabbi of Meknes, Morocco. Hadad is on the right.
At left is Rabbi Baruch Toledano, the rabbi of Meknes, Morocco. Hadad is on the right.

In the mid-1950s, Hadad went with a group of eight boys to study at Yeshivat Tomchei Tmimim Lubavitch in Brunoy, France, under the directorship of mashpia Rabbi Nissan Nemanov, who taught many thousands of students during his lifetime and was renowned for his piety. Hadad stayed for seven years.

He would later reflect about those years that “we had nothing to eat, but oh, did we learn diligently.”

During that time, when the famed Kabbalist Rabbi Israel Abuhatzeira (the Baba Sali) visited France, he would spend the Hebrew month of Elul and the High Holiday season as Nemanov’s guest. For two years in a row, Hadad was chosen to be his chavruta, his study partner, for those weeks between the hours of 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. As he listened to his young study partner read the teachings of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Kabbalist would exclaim in Arabic: “Rabbi Zalman, how did you ascend so high to bring down such precious jewels?”

The two men remained close for years. Hadad would often visit the sage in Israel, joining him for meals and other celebrations.

Hadad, center, receives a dollar from the Rebbe.
Hadad, center, receives a dollar from the Rebbe.

‘Like a True Father’

While in France, Hadad wrote to the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—that he would like to study at the Central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim Lubavitch at Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. The Rebbe agreed to his request, and in 1958, Hadad arrived on the shore of the United States via the Queen Elizabeth.

There, the young man received his rabbinical ordination from the rosh yeshivah, Rabbi Yisrael Yitzchak Piekarsky, who went on to report to the Rebbe that “I have never seen such a student in the past 10 years.”

The Rebbe then directed Hadad to study for the advanced rabbinic degree of dayanut. All the while, he supported himself and his family back home by working as a shochet in Boston and other communities.

Upon completion of his studies four years later, he was asked to go to Milan to head the growing Sephardic Jewish community there, joining Chabad emissaries Rabbi Gershon Mendel Garelik and Rabbi Moshe Lazar.

In 1962, Hadad married Rachel Maman, who was born in Casablanca but had been living in France. Knowing that the young rabbi did not have any means of support, the Rebbe personally arranged that the wedding be paid for by a wealthy member of the Milan Jewish community. “The Rebbe cared for me just like a true father,” Hadad would say.

Hadad speaks with Rabbi Shimon Lazaroff, center, head Chabad emissary of Texas. (Photo: Chabad.Italia)
Hadad speaks with Rabbi Shimon Lazaroff, center, head Chabad emissary of Texas. (Photo: Chabad.Italia)

‘Full of Joy and Pride’

For the next five decades, Hadad served as rabbi of the Synagogue of Via Guastalla, providing kosher certifications in Milan and elsewhere in Italy, and opening a Talmud Torah network operating out of five different locations, educating nearly 200 children.

“Once I brought an album of pictures to the Rebbe, showing him the students in the Torah schools that I had arranged throughout the city, 193 students in total,” he recalled in his interview with JEM. “I wrote out the names of all the children and the names of their mothers, as well as the names of the teachers and the syllabus. The Rebbe studied it for some time, reading each and every name. I looked at the Rebbe’s face, and saw that it was full of joy and pride. After he finished reading, the Rebbe asked: ‘Is this your organization?’ When I replied in the affirmative, he asked: ‘And what is it my fault that I did not know about this until now?’ ”

As he inspired more and more congregants to keep Shabbat, Sephardic synagogues sprung up in other areas of the city.

Hadad moved to Israel in his later years, where he remained in touch with the current Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Shlomo Amar, also a graduate of the Chabad schools in Morocco.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by their children: Rabbi Menahem Hadad (Brussels, Belgium); Chana Hadad (Milan, Italy); Miriam Bentolila (Kinshasa, Congo); Rabbi Michael Hadad (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Sara Hadad (Jerusalem); Rabbi Yossef Hadad (Milan, Italy); Avigayil Dadon (Lod, Israel); Eliyahu Hadad (Milan, Italy); and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

For five decades, Hadad served as rabbi of the Synagogue of Via Guastalla.
For five decades, Hadad served as rabbi of the Synagogue of Via Guastalla.


By Chabad.org Staff
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