Harav Yosef Chaim Sitruk, Zt”l, Former Chief Rabbi of France

The French chief rabbi Joseph Sitruk wipes away a tear during a reinterment ceremony in Jerusalem for Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old French Jew kidnapped and fatally tortured by a gang exactly a year ago on February 09. 2007. Halimi, a resident of a Parisian suburb, was lured by a young woman who entered the shop where he worked and persuaded him to meet her in another suburb, where he was kidnapped by a gang of youths, most of them immigrants. The abductors held Halimi hostage for three days and tortured him. Once the kidnappers concluded that the victim's parents were unable to pay the ransom they demanded, they dumped Halimi, who died of his wounds on his way to hospital. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90 *** Local Caption *** àéìï çìéîé àæëøä éäåãé àðèéùîéåú öøôúé çèåó øöç øá éåñó ñéèøå÷
Harav Yosef Chaim Sitruk, zt”l. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Harav Yosef Chaim Sitruk, zt”l, long-serving Rav of various kehillos in France and the country’s Chief Rabbi for over twenty years, was niftar Sunday morning in Paris after a lengthy battle with a serious illness.

Rav Sitruk was born in Tishrei 5705/October 1944 in Tunis and was named Yosef; the name Chaim was added to his name in 2001, after he suffered a stroke.

Rav Sitruk was awarded semichah in 1970 following his studies in yeshivah, and was appointed Rabbi of Strasbourg. Later he became the assistant of then-French Chief Rabbi Max Warchawski.

In 1975, Rav Sitruk was appointed Chief Rabbi of Marseille.

In 1987, he was elected to the post of Chief Rabbi of France. He was subsequently re-elected for two more seven-year terms. He also served as the president of the Conference of European Rabbis.

He initiated various Yom HaTorah events, which brought together thousands of people to dedicate a day to Torah learning. His charisma earned him a certain reverence, especially among Sephardi Jews.

Rav Sitruk had a close connection with leading Rabbanim in Eretz Yisrael; notably with Hagaon Harav Ovadia Yosef, zt”l. The last public event he attended was during a visit of the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Harav Yitzchak Yosef, in Paris, to mark 20 years of the founding of the mosdos of Rav Sitruk in France.

The levayah will begin Sunday in Paris and will continue Monday in Yerushalayim, where the Rav is to be buried on Har Hazeisim, near the kever of his mother.

He is survived by his wife and nine children and many grandchildren.