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Rabbi Rephael Elnadav, ZL 

Rabbi Rephael Elnadav was born in Jerusalem in 1921 to a prominent rabbinical Yemenite family. As a boy and a young man he studied in Yeshivat Porat Yosef in the Old City. He obtained his semicha while studying at Yeshivat Shaare Zion in Jerusalem under Chief Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel while also learning the practices of milah, shehita and safrut.


In addition to these talents, Rabbi Elndav also studied hazzanut under the renowned Sepharadi hazzan Rabbi Yaakov Levy. He received further musical training by learning how to play many instruments and diligently studying the different makamot of Sephardic melodies. At a young age he was considered an expert in sepharadi hazzanut. After briefly serving in the Israeli Army during the war of Independence, Rabbi Elnadav was offered a position as the hazzan in the main Sephardic synagogue in Tel Aviv called Ohel Moed. Throughout his tenure in Ohel Moed, Rabbi Elnadav built up his reputation as a world known expert in Sepharadi hazzanut.


In 1955 Rabbi Elnadav was offered to be head hazzan and main Rabbi of the growing Sephardic community in Cuba. After months of persuasion by the Cuban community the rabbi accepted and moved his young family to Cuba. In Cuba he was involved in every aspect of religious life including hazzanut, talmud torah, halachic issues, kashrut, performing marriages and divorces, etc. He truly gave his life to improve the spiritual life of the Cuban community. However, life became difficult under the newly formed Castro government and Rabbi Elnadav knew that it was only a matter of time until he would be forced to relocate.


In the mid fifties Mr. Isaac Shalom, ah, leader of the Syrian community heard Rabbi Elnadav perform in Jerusalem and expressed an offer that if the Rabbi ever wanted to move to America he would always be welcome to serve as hazzan at the new Shaare Zion which was under construction. In 1959, with life being almost impossible in communist Cuba, Rabbi Elnadav accepted Mr. Shalom's offer and began a significant career as Chief Hazzan of the Syrian Community.


His tenure as hazzan had a tremendous impact on the growing community. He instituted many new minhagim and tunes in the tefila and enabled everybody to build a relationship with Hashem. Today many people say that they learned how to pray by Rabbi Elnadav. It was through his devotion and compassion in tefilah that Shaare Zion and many other synagogues grew in holiness and stature. He also helped compiled the famous shir ushbacha (red book) which is considered the master text on hazznut and makamot for our community. He continued his career as hazzan in Shaare Zion until he retired in 1980.


Throughout his years in Shaare Zion and even in his retirement, Rabbi Elnadav was a teacher in Magen David Yeshivah and the Yeshivah of Flatbush. The Rabbi was a tremendous talmid hacham who loved teaching Torah to the youth and raising their spiritual level. In addition, the Rabbi spent later years of his life involved in many projects involving hazzanut and sifrut. It is because of his dedication and perfection that our community is considered the standard in Sephardic hazzanut all over the world. The Rabbi passed away in 2012 and an arayat was held in Shaare Zion as a tribute him. The Rabbi left behind a fine family and a tremendous legacy to our community.




Written by Joe Mansour 

Copyrighted. All Rights Reserved. Congregation Shaare Zion.

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Tue, June 25 2024 19 Sivan 5784