A Short Tribute
Hacham Raphael Asher Kovo, son of Hacham Yaakov Kovo, was born in 1797 in Salonica.
He began his Torah studies with his father, Hacham Yaakov Kovo, and his uncle, Hacham David Barzilai.
In 1818, at the age of twenty-one, he wrote a Halakhic ruling releasing an Aguna [a woman bound by marriage to an absent husband]. He was subsequently appointed to be a dayan in Salonica.
In 1849 Hacham Raphael Asher Kovo was appointed Rabbi of Salonica, alongside Hacham Hannanya Saporta. Hacham Hannanya Saporta died in 1856 and Hacham Raphael Asher Kovo continued to officiate alone as the city's rabbi. During his term he organized the city's educational institutions; he encourage Salonica rabbis to write books and even wrote introductions to their books.
In 1857, Hacham Raphael Asher Kovo met with the Turkish sultan and was, at the time, the first to receive the title of Hacham Bashi for the Salonica community. The sultan presented Hacham Raphael Asher Kovo with an honor award, and contributed money to Salonica's Jewish educational institutions.
Hacham Raphael Asher Kovo passed away on 19 Tevet, 5635 and was buried in Salonica. A collection of Hacham Raphael Asher Kovo's halakhic Responsa and several of his written sermons appear in the book Shaar Asher.