I enclose as promised, the report of the commemoration by Midrash Ben Ish Hai in New York of the 90th Anniversary of Hakham Josef Hayyim. with three photographs taken on the occasion.
The Yom Hillula of Morenu Rabbenu Hakham Yosef Hayyim 'a"h was commemorated at a special event held by Midrash Ben Ish Hai on 13 Elul 5759, the 24th August 1999 in New York. Members of the Hakham's family came especially from Geneva and Montreal, with guests and friends from England, Canada and the United States. A crowded audience, including a number of Rabbis, gathered to pay tribute.
Mr Naim Levy from Montreal and Mr Jouri Lawi from Geneva, great grandsons of the Ben Ish Hai - as Hakham Yosef Hayyim is known, after his most famous work - both addressed the gathering with deep emotion. While some of the elder members of the family were unable to come and were missed, some of the younger generation were present, and all were together in spirit. Mr Salman Abraham, also a great grandson, and family were also present. The brothers Jack David and Joseph Hayyim David in London, known as "Beit el Hakham", great grandsons from the male line, though unable to come, appeared on video addressing the audience each with a special message from the life of Hakham Yosef Hayyim, 'a"h.
Dr Samuel E Moshe presented the packed programme, and related several stories from the life of the Ben Ish Hai. The Midrash Ben Ish Hai choir directed by Rabbi Ya'aqob Menashe - ages ranging from 7 to 70! - presented a lively selection of some of the many shbahoth (pizmonim) written by Hakham Yosef Hayyim, with a specially prepared music accompaniment, and was enthusiastically applauded. One guest in the audience even telephoned her father in Brazil during the performance so that he could hear the shbahoth being sung!
Videos were shown, courtesy of Mr Jouri Lawi, of his participation in a Hillula a few years ago in Jerusalem - reciting Qaddish at the memorial grave at the Mount of Olives and the blessing of the Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu at Hekhal Shelomo. Hazzan Hayim Salman who had come from Israel for the occasion rendered a song he had especially composed in the Iraqi tradition in honour of Hakham Yosef Hayyim, the Ben Ish Hai. A video presentation of Rabbi Sinai Halberstam, supporter and guide of Midrash Ben Ish Hai since its inception, stressed the universal regard for Hakham Yoseh Hayyim 'a"h not only in Babylonian and Sephardi communities but also in Western and Hassidic Jewry.
Rabbi Ya'aqob Menashe spoke quietly and feelingly of the long regard for the Ben Ish Hai he had imbibed from his father, and the special choice of the name when founding his Midrash over ten years ago. Then followed the lighting of candles and Qaddish recited by the three grandsons present, Mr Naim Levy and Mr Joory Lawi, and Mr Salman Abraham, and the Hashkaba by Rabbi Ya'aqob Menashe. The warmth and deep reverence was felt by all the standing audience.
The wonderful atmosphere of the evening was enhanced by the songs and music of the times, the much appreciated Baghdadian catering of Mr Aodi Zilkha and a display of the life and works of Hakham Yosef Hayyim especially prepared by Mr Hayim Habousha. The Hillula reflected the organisational expertise of the Hillula committee and the care and devotion of Rabbi Ya'aqob Menashe and Rabbanith Ruth Menashe. As our guests remarked, "It was beyond all expectations" - a fine tribute to the living heritage of our great spiritual leader and sage, Hakham Yosef Hayyim 'a"h, the Ben Ish Hai.
Left to right: Abdallah and Francine Simon; Naim Levy; Jouri Lawi, his son Roget Lawi; Hakham Ya'aqob with Rabbanith Ruth Menashe
Reciting the Hashkabah prayer for Hakham Yosef Hayyim Standing in front row from left to right: Jouri Lawi; Salim Abraham; Naim Levy; (great grandsons of Hakham Yosef Hayyim) and Hakham Ya'aqob Menashe
The Midrash Ben Ish Hai Men and Boys' Choir under the direction of Hakham Ya'aqob Menashe, performing Shbahoth and pismonim penned by Hakham Yosef Hayyim, the Ben Ish Hai
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