Hacham Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi

< Iyar 5784 May 2024 >

A Short Tribute

Hacham Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi, known by his nickname Manitou, asborn to his mother and to his father, Hacham David, on 25 Sivan, 5682 (June 21,1922) in Oran, Algeria. He received a traditional Jewish education at the Etz Haim Talmud Torah and then in French state schools. He went on to study Talmud with Rabbi Moshe Fingerhut and Kabbala with his family, as well as philosophyand psychology in academic institutions.

In 1940 (5700) he joined the Jewish Scouts Movement, which at the time operated clandestinely against the Nazis. He received the nickname Manitou, which means "Great Spirit" in the language of the Algonquin
Amerindians, in the Scouts Movement.

In 1943 (5703) Hacham Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. He participated in battles for the liberation from the Nazis and was wounded in Alsace.

In 1945 (5705), at the end of the war, he immigrated to France. As part of his efforts in rehabilitating the French Jewish community, he established the School for Young Jewish Leadership in Orsay jointly with Robert Gamzon.

Hacham Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi married Esther (Bambi) and continued to teach Torah, philosophy and Jewish identity. Along with Emmanuel Levinas and André Neher, Hakham Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi led the French School for Jewish Thought.

In 1968 (5728), following the Six Day War, he immigrated to Israel and went to live in Jerusalem. Hacham Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi established the Ma'ayanot Institute and Merkaz Meir for Israel studies.  During that period; he also taught French-speaking students in Machon Meir. Hacham Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi became
the spiritual leader for many of Israel's French speakers, and continued to teach in France as well.

Hacham Leon Ashkenazi passed away in Jerusalem on October 21, 1996 (9 Heshvan 5757) at the age of
74 and is buried on Har Hamenuchot.

Most of his available writings are based on lectures that he gave in various settings. The books deal with Jewish identity as viewed through Midrash and Jewish Thought, and in the differences between the Jewish faith and other religions. His books include Sod Haivri, Midrash Besod Hahaphachim, Sod Midrash Hatoldot, and Misped Lamashiach.


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