A Short Tribute
Hacham Yehuda Ben Yaakov Nechama, known as HaRi"N, was born in Salonika. He studied at the city's Talmud Torah and in its yeshivot, where he was trained as a teacher and ordained as a rabbi. As a young man, he read extensively to enrich his knowledge and acquired mastery of the English, French and Italian languages. His field of commerce was books, and he amassed a huge library. His business was known throughout Europe and many came to him to purchase, print and translate books.
Hacham Yehuda Ben Yaakov Nechama married one of Yaakov Modliano's daughters, a descendant of a distinguished family that immigrated to Salonika from Livorno. When his father died, Hacham Yehuda Ben Yaakov Nechama took over his father's business and expanded its scope and diversity. His commercial dealings took him to different cities, where he would visit the greatest Jewish sages of his time.
Hacham Yehuda Ben Yaakov Nechama was one of the community's more active individuals and became involved in its institutions. He served as a member of the Community Committee and was active in the city's charities, in Bikur Cholim in particular, serving as its president. He established a branch of the Kol Israel Haverim Alliance Universelle in Salonika. In 1864, he founded a local committee to establish a school, led by Dr. Moshe Alatini, with whom he obtained the support of Hacham Asher Kovo, Salonika's Hacham Bashi [Chief Rabbi]. In 1873, they established an Alliance school for boys.
Hacham Yehuda Ben Yaakov Nechama strove to develop and spread the Hebrew language and, in 1865, founded and edited a journal with his colleagues whose purpose it was to transmit Jewish knowledge. In 1891, he founded the Sephat Emet organization for the revival of the Hebrew language among all Jews through Bible study, journals and books.
Hacham Yehuda Ben Yaakov Nechama passed away on 19 Shevat 5659 (1899) at the age of 73. Thousands of people, including the city's rabbis and the consuls of European countries, participated in the funeral.
In 1890 a great fire broke out in Salonika and destroyed a valuable treasure – many of Hacham Yehuda Ben Yaakov Nechama's writings burned to ashes: Nidchei Israel U'Nefotzot Yehuda – on the history of the Jews, Yehudaie Saloniki – The Jews of Salonika, and a book of Responsa on diverse topics. His published works include Michtavei Dodim Me'Yaiin – original commentary on Torah and Talmud, and Responsa on Halakha, Hasafa Ha'Ivrit V'Ha'am HaYehudi [The Hebrew language and the Jewish People] – a series of booklets published in memoriam of close acquaintances, and Il Lunar – a collection of articles.