After reading the articles on the Pew study about the state of American Jewry and how slowly secular Jews are disappearing, I also read about the passing of Rabbi Ovadia Josef (“What Pews Does — And Doesn’t — Tell Us, Oct. 11, “A ‘Gaon’ In Every Sense,” Oct. 11).
It was a testimony to the influence and longevity of the life of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that the health updates on an ailing rabbinic leader were headline news in Israeli newspapers and broadcasts in recent weeks. Outside of haredi, or ultra-Orthodox circles, in which Rabbi Yosef played a prominent role for more than a half century, most Israelis have little interest in aging rabbis.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s funeral in Jerusalem on Monday was the largest in recorded Jewish history; it drew an estimated 800,000 attendees, fully one-tenth of Israel’s entire population, with barely five hours’ notice. Thousands rent their garments in mourning. Jews around the country sobbed. The media held vigil in the hospital corridors during the rabbi’s last hours, as disciples and politicians came to take leave.