Rabbi Saadia Ben-Chiyun passed away in March after being hospitalized and battling COVID-19 for weeks after the holiday of Purim.

He arrived in the 1970s as a young man to teach in France, first to Strasbourg and then south to Marseille to bolster its Jewish community there.

He served as rosh yeshivah, head of the “Sages of Provence” yeshivah named for the legendary medieval rabbis of Provence in southern France. These sages included such figures as Rabbi Shlomo of Montpellier (also known as Rabbi Shlomo Min Hahar) and Rabbi Menachem Meiri, a famed Talmudist whose works are still widely studied today.

Ben-Chiyun came to a city that had been decimated; a third of its Jews had been killed during the years of World War II and the Holocaust.

Immigration from North Africa eventually caused Marseille to more than double in size, becoming one of the largest Jewish communities in France. It was there that Ben-Chiyun taught Torah to young men at his yeshivah and young women at the girls’ high school.

Most of his family had moved to Israel, but Ben-Chiyun had over the years reassured his community, students and school that he wouldn’t leave them, and remained dedicated to his teaching.

He is survived by his wife and their three children.

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