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The treasure next door

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

"Shalom Sivan, My name is Yotam Mahler. I grew up on a kibbutz in the Galilee. I always knew that I was the grandson of the great-grandson of Rabbi Yaakov Meir, but I did not know much about him. Only in recent years did I investigate my family roots.

Yesterday, the 9th of Sivan, was the anniversary of his passing. He was the Chief Sephardic Rabbi at the time of Rav Kook but was much less well known. Rabbi Meir was a leader, a kabbalist, and traveled to lend support to Jewish communities in Salonika, Bukhara, North Africa, and many other places. He was also active in promoting the revival of the Hebrew language and passed away 83 years ago.

Several months ago I moved to the Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem and began to search for more information about him. Yesterday I called a tour guide whom I found on the Internet and he gave me the phone number of the gabai (synagogue manager) Yaakov Cohen, who opened the doors of the Kahal Zion Synagogue on Rehov Mashiach Borochoff, located on the first floor of what is called the Sephardic Orphanage.

Yaakov Cohen told me that he remembers from his childhood that descendants of Rabbi Yaakov Meir would pray there. He showed me a Torah scroll that bore the name Rabbi Yaakov Meir, who had personally acquired it for the synagogue. I learned about this on the anniversary of his passing, a mere 100 meters from my residence in Nachlaot. I was stunned, startled, yet joyful, not knowing what to say. Within 24 hours I had gone from knowing nothing about my esteemed ancestor's legacy to discovering his Torah scroll right next door.

I write these words so that others will appreciate this special man and also in order to remind everyone that sometimes the most precious treasures are to be found close by."


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