Ex-con rabbi becomes Morocco's first chief rabbinic judge in 100 years

Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto, a descendant of Moroccan Jewish sages was installed in a official ceremony, the only Muslim government country in modern times to recognize a Jewish rabbinic authority.

April 17, 2019 02:07
2 minute read.
Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto

Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto being installed at chief rabbi of Morocco at Beth-El synagogue in Casablanca, April, 2019. (photo credit: SCREENSHOT/YOU TUBE)


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Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto was installed as Morocco's chief rabbinic judge, the first in 100 years, in a special ceremony in Casablanca attended by leaders of the Jewish community, senior government officials as well as Moroccan military and police officials according to an official press release.

The special Moroccan Royal Emissary to the event, Serge Bardugo, and the Casablanca regional governor installed Rabbi Pinto in a ceremony held at the historic Beth-El Synagogue on Sunday. Pinto was released from Israeli prison two years ago after sitting a year in jail after reaching a plea bargain with the State Prosecutor. 
Rabbi Pinto was appointed Supreme Chief Rabbinical Court Master on behalf of the King and is the only Muslim nation to have such a position in modern times.  

Bardugo, who served as Minister of Tourism and is currently President of the Jewish Community in Morocco stated “I would like to thank the Gaon Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto, who has accomplished this venerable project. Less than one month ago King Mohammed VI said ‘In this world, where we seek milestones, the Moroccan Kingdom has never ceased to pursue the love and adoration which exists between the sons of Abraham, an affinity which unites them all’. The visits to the synagogues, mosques and churches teach us that everyone here lives a life of genuine partnership. The Kingdom of Morocco vouches for the sons of all religions, wherever they may be, to enable them to uphold their traditions’."

Wearing a traditional fez and surrounded by Moroccan dignitaries, Rabbi Pinto thanked God, his family, the Jewish community and Morocco's King Mohammed VI in a speech before the hundreds gathered.

The 45-year old Israeli-born Rabbi Pinto is a great-grandson of Chaim Pinto, a venerated Moroccan rabbi. On his mother's side he is the great-grandson of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, known as the Baba Sali, a renowned Moroccan rabbi who served the Israeli Moroccan community for decades. The Baba Sali's grave-site in Netivot attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year.

Pinto's business ventures and charismatic personalty made him a sought-after sage for both politicians and celebrities in Israel and the United States. His business dealings also landed him in legal trouble. He was convicted of attempted bribery in a plea bargain in 2016 and served one year in prison.

Morocco was once home to between 250,000 to 350,000 Jews who lived there for generations. The Moroccan Jewish community was a haven for Sephardic Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition.

In 1948, the establishment of the State of Israel prompted riots against the Jewish community and thousands left the country a trend that continued throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Today, Moroccan Jews make up the largest group of Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews in Israel and second largest ethnic Jewish group behind Polish Jews in the country.

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