Yosef, Rabbi Ovadia

(1920- )
   Born in Baghdad, he was taken by his parents to Jerusalem when he was four years old. He was ordained as a rabbi at the age of 20. In 1945, he was appointed a judge in the Sephardi (see ORIENTAL JEWS) religious court in Jerusalem. In 1947, he was elected head of the Cairo religious court and deputy chief rabbi of Egypt. In 1950, he returned to Israel and was appointed a member of the rabbinical court of Petah Tikva and of Jerusalem. In 1965, he was appointed a member of the Supreme Rabbinical Court of Appeals in Jerusalem and in 1968 became Sephardi chief rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yafo. From 1972 to 1983, he served as the Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel. In 1970, he was awarded the Israel Prize for Torah literature. He was instrumental in the founding of Sephardi Torah Guardians (SHAS) and remains the party's chief spiritual and political adviser.
   Yosef generally prefers compromise; his religious rulings, for example, invoke the language of conciliation. He lives in a self-contained world of religious affairs and SHAS politics. He is one of the generation's leading Torah scholars. SHAS was formed in late 1983 by disaffected Sephardi members of Agudat Israel. Though initially hesitant about its success, Yosef soon gave his blessing to the new party, which he saw as a means of redressing perceived Ashkenazi discrimination against religious Sephardim. At a conference on halacha on 13 August 1989, Yosef invoked the concept of pikuah nefesh, declaring it permissible to return parts of the land of Israel if that will prevent war and save lives.
   A survey of Israeli youth conducted in November 2006 found that Yosef was considered the "most influential Israeli" by 25 percent of Israeli youth.
   See also Political parties.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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