Hacham Yedidiya Shofet הרב החכם ידידיה שופט

Eden Memorial Park Cemetery

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Hacham Yedidiya Shofet was the former Chief Rabbi of Iran and the worldwide spiritual leader of Persian Jewry.

Early Life and Biography

Rav Yedidia Shofet was born on 14 November 1908 in Kashan, Iran and was descended from twelve generations of Persian rabbis. Hakham Shofet was a remarkable rabbi who was reported to have known the entire Torah by heart and was a world authority on Jewish law and practice. He promoted unity and acceptance among all Jewish people.

According to Shofet's 2001 memoirs, written in Persian by Manucher Cohan, he was born in the central Iranian city of Kashan into a family with 12 generations of rabbis. Over the years, Hacham Yedidiya Shofet gradually gained prominence among Iran's Jews and non-Jews for his eloquent speeches and his ability to connect easily with all who approached him for help. Ultimately, he became a liaison and spokesperson for Iranian Jews before the Shah, government officials, and Islamic clerics. There's no such equivalent position for an Iranian Jewish leader in the United States.

In Iran, Hacham Yedidiya Shofet commanded enough respect to intervene when Jews were in dire trouble, for example, with the Iranian government. He was instrumental in persuading the Shah and other government officials in the early 1950s to allow Iraqi Jews, who had been forced to leave Iraq, to find temporary refuge in Iran before eventually immigrating to Israel, said Ebrahim Yahid, a close colleague of Hacham Yedidiya.

"We had many rabbis, teachers and hachamim in Iran, but he was the most open minded and most beloved of them all," Yahid said. "He was even respected by the most fanatic Islamic clerics in Iran who did not have friendships with Jews -- all because of his gentleness and humility."

Following the 1979 Iranian revolution, Hacham Yedidiya Shofet, along with thousands of other Iranian Jews, eventually immigrated to Southern California. While no longer working as a liaison for Iranian Jews, he continued to serve as a symbolic religious figure, urging Iranian Jewish families to preserve their Jewish tradition. In the United States, Hacham Yedidiya Shofet, with his son and other community leaders, helped establish the Nessah Educational & Cultural Center (Congregation Nessah Israel), first in Santa Monica and then in Beverly Hills, California.

Over the final five years of his life, Hacham Yedidiya Shofet was gradually forced to retire from community work due to failing health. His son took over day-to-day leadership duties.

He died on 24 June 2005 in Los Angeles; thousands attended his funeral. At his funeral, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, referred to Hakham Shofet as the "Prince of Torah." Hakham Shofet is buried at Eden Memorial Park in Los Angeles and Jews around the world continue to visit his grave to ask that he pray on their behalf.


"Replacing Hacham Yedidia is impossible. The closest we can come to him is his very able son, Rav David Shofet, who has dedicated his life to Iranian Jewry like his father did," said Andy Abrishami, a Nessah board member and the elder Shofet's son-in-law. "It's hard to be a rabbi under any circumstances, especially when you're a rabbi for Iranian Jews, because their expectations are much higher, but he [David Shofet], with his humility and dedication, has captured the Iranian Jews' favor."