Rabbi Abraham Levy, emeritus spiritual head of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation in London, said that Rav Ovadia Yosef’s “halachic authority and knowledge was unequalled and undisputed – he was admired throughout world Jewry, Sephardi and Ashkenazi alike.” He was “at ease with the poor and the great of the state of Israel and did so much to ‘restore the crown’ of the Sephardim to their previous status”.
His visits to London, Rabbi Levy said, had included blessing the children of the Naima Preparatory School and recently he welcomed British rabbinic students from the Judith, Lady Montefiore College programme into his home in Israel.
The congregation’s new senior rabbi, Joseph Dweck, whose wife, Margalit, is a granddaughter of Rabbi Yosef, said the former chief rabbi’s death was a “profound loss. His greatness in Torah was recognised not just by Sephardim of all backgrounds, but by world Jewry. He was among the greatest of our generation.”
As his grandson and student, Rabbi Dweck said, “among the most important lessons he taught me… was that it is easy for a rabbi to establish prohibitions, but a rabbi’s real strength is to teach Torah and rule on law with an emphasis on what is permitted. He lived as he taught, and boldly dealt with issues that many authorities shied away from. Perhaps the most impactful were his rulings for hundreds of cases of agunot (married women whose husbands went missing) after the Yom Kippur war, permitting them to marry.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said that he “was a distinguished former chief rabbi of Israel and spiritual leader to thousands, and was one of the leading poskim [halachic decision-makers] of our time”.