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In Memory of Dr. Baruch Haim Shalom Mazor -- a teacher and spiritual leader of Beth Abraham 1930 - 2017







sephardic synagogue boston brookline


Baruch was born in 1930 in Jerusalem Israel.  His Parents Raphael and Farha came to Palestine from Zakho a small town in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1926.  His father, Raphael, was the son of Hacham Baruch the “Hacham Bashi” the official Chief Rabbi of the town during the Ottoman rule of the area and the beginning of the British mandate, following   the First World War.  Baruch was decedent of a long chain of Rabbis that spans at seven generations.

Baruch grew up in the midst of an active religious Kurdish community in Jerusalem.  As the first born, he accompanied his father to all the frequent life cycle events of the community. These included all the prayer services throughout the year.   On Shabbat, it would include not only Shacharit, Minha and Arbit but also the chanting of  Bakashot at dawn,   Tehillim in the afternoon and the Mishmarah.  Mishmarah is the Kurdish custom of reading a portion of the Prophets on Shabbat afternoon, so to complete the reading of the Books of the Prophets in one year.  This generally took place at the home of a family observing the 11 months of mourning.  This was how young Baruch grew up to love and sing the entire Jewish Sephardic liturgy and many of the traditional chants.

As a child, Baruch attended a religious grammar school.  When Baruch completed his 8th grade school, his father, Raphael had become a construction worker, building the New city of Jerusalem.  Through his father's membership at the Histadrut, the Jewish Workers Union, Baruch was granted a scholarship for the Beth Hinuch High School in Jerusalem.  It was uncommon for a boy of Kurdish origin to cross boundaries in those days. The school was attended, almost entirely, by secular and Ashkenazi children of members of the dominant Labor Party.  Here Baruch was exposed, for the first time, to the studies of science and secular subjects.  Here he also made friends with member of HaTenuah HaMeuchedet, a socialist youth movement. With his peer group, Baruch became involved in the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel.  He was once arrested by the British Police for posting “Illegal” posters in the streets of Jerusalem.  With this peers, his Hevre, Baruch also joined the Palmach, the elite fighting force of the Haganna, the predecessor of the IDF.  During the war of Independence Baruch was injured in one of the battles in Jerusalem.  After a long recovery,   and with the establishing of the State of Israel, Baruch completed his military duty as a military office worker.

During this time, Baruch started his academic education.  He was, probably, the first Kurdish student to attend the Hebrew University.  Here, he majored in Arabic Studies and upon graduation, in 1958, he became one of the leading teachers of Arabic in the best high schools in Jerusalem.  Yehoram Gaon, the famous Israel singer, was one of his students.  He also was a military secretary of the ancient village of Abu Gosh, in the outskirts of Jerusalem, now famous for its music festival and its hummus restaurants.  

The opportunity arose for Baruch to come to Boston and teach at the Hebrew College.  His interest in furthering his Arabic-Islamic studies brought Baruch to Harvard on a Fulbright scholarship.  At Harvard, Baruch met Prof.  Isadore Twersky z”l,  who drew him back to religious life.  Baruch received his Ph. D. from Harvard University in 1975.  His thesis subject was the covered the works of Rabbi Seadia Ben Daud, of Aden, Yemen, one of Maimonides followers,   furthering   Judeo-Islam dialogue and Judeo-Arabic literature.

Later on, Baruch taught at several universities such as Brandeis, Boston University and University of Pennsylvania.

In 1963, when Mizrahi Jews from the Middle East arrived to Boston area, Baruch initiated High Holiday Sephardic Services, gathering at the little chapel of The Talner Rebbe Congregation Beit David, located on Corey Road, in Brookline.  After several years, this Minyan, joined a group of mostly Egyptian Jews, met at the Southern House and later at the former Chateau Garrod, on Beacon Street.  With the fall of the Shah in Iran, and the escape of the Jews from Iran, the Boston Sephardi community expanded.  This created a need for a regular meeting place for Shabbat and daily prayers.  Young Israel of Brookline, became the first home of the Sephardic Congregation in the Boston area.  Today, thanks to the hard work of many people and their love of the Sephardic tradition there are now three congregations in metropolitan Boston.

In the mid 1980’s, Baruch had a column at the Jewish Times of Boston, titled the “Curve of the Crescent, Gleanings from the Arabic Press.” He selected and reviewed Arabic newspapers, such as Al-Ahram of Egypt, and reported on matters of Jewish and Israeli interest.

Dr. Baruch Mazor has been the teacher and spiritual leader of the Sephardic Congregation of New England,   known today as Beth Abraham, since its inception.   He has been a part of the lives of most of the people here. He taught many young people and adults, encouraged participation and learning.  Baruch was a master of proper Hebrew pronunciation and grammar. It was said of him that. Even in his illness in his last days, he would still call out a correction for any reading that was less than perfect.

Ahead of others, to encourage reading of the Torah and the prophets, he recorded the readings of the entire yearly cycle. These recordings are available now on the Beth Abraham website.  His warm voice and perfect pronunciation is a rare gift for us.

For many he was a part of their life cycle events, circumcisions, baby naming, redemption of the first born, Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, and for others, he was there to comfort for Yhartzeits, shiv’ahs and funerals.  Dr. Mazor was honored in 2010 at a community wide tribute which ascribed to him the title: “Guardian of Sephardic Heritage, Champion of the Hebrew Language, Teacher and Spiritual Leader”

Dr. Baruch Mazor died on 7/28/2017, and was buried in the Sephardic Congregation section of the Crawford Street Cemetery in West Roxbury. Dr. Mazor was the husband of the late Dr. Miriam Dushman Mazor (photographed above) and a loving father to Rachel (Jonathan) of Brooklyn, NY and Raphael (Brad) of Long Beach, CA. Cherished grandfather of Elijah and Naomi and beloved brother of Eliashiv (Adrienne) of Peabody, MA, and was adored by his sisters in Israel, and his many nieces and nephews.

Attribution: Eliashiv Mazor, Rachel Mazor, Batya Mazor Haffaman and Dr. David Sheena

Donate to Beth Abraham in Memory of Dr. Baruch Mazor

Fri, May 24 2024 16 Iyyar 5784