Stephen Shalom, Sephardic Jewish Leader & Peace Promoter, Dies at 93 - The Jewish Voice
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Stephen Shalom, Sephardic Jewish Leader & Peace Promoter, Dies at 93

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Stephen Shalom, Sephardic Jewish Leader & Peace Promoter, Dies at 93

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Stephen Shalom, a leader of the U.S. Sephardic Jewish community who promoted Middle East peace and religious tolerance, passed away on Sunday at the age of 93, as was reported by the JTA.

His family released this in a public statement.

As an heir to a handkerchief manufacturing fortune known as New York Accessory Group, Mr. Shalom shared his wealth and business experience for the purpose of assisting a variety of Jewish and pro-Israel philanthropies. Taking a leading role, Mr. Shalom dedicated his time and resources to the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York (now the UJA Federation of New York), the World Sephardi Federation and Israel Bonds. He was also involved with the American Jewish Committee; HIAS, the Jewish immigration advocacy group; the Jewish Agency, and the Joint Distribution Committee, as was reported by the JTA.

According to the report, Mr. Shalom was a Brooklyn native of Syrian descent as his parents had immigrated from the town of Aleppo. Throughout his life, he encouraged Sephardic Jewish leaders in Israel to join in the peace-making efforts that the government of Israel had dedicated itself to in order to bring out a long-awaited peace between the Jewish state, the Palestinians and Arab nations in the region.

Mr. Shalom was of the belief that Sephardic Jews needed to increase their influence in Israel by taking part in the peace process in order to offset the power and influence that Ashkenazic Jews held and to reflect an image of Mizrahi Jews who sincerely desired peace with their Arab neighbors.

“As Sephardics were increasing in number” in Israel “particularly in the early ’50s as they left the Arab lands — there were about a million Jews in Arab lands — I always thought they would be the bridge between the secular and the more Orthodox” and Jews and Arabs, Shalom told the American Jewish Committee in an oral history project in 1991, according to the JTA report. “It hasn’t happened that way.”

JTA also reported that Mr. Shalom encouraged his friend and the late Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, (of blessed memory), to offer his blessing to Middle East peace talks. HaGaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef, zr’l, was the most influential Sephardic rabbi in Israel and his influence was felt around the world.

Mr. Shalom helped establish the Tami Party, a Sephardic religious party that existed in the first half of the 1980s and that promoted religious moderation, according to the JTA report.

Throughout his life, Mr. Shalom had a litany of stellar accomplishments but the one he was most proud of was when he worked with former Brooklyn Congressman Stephen Solarz, according to the JTA report. With the blessing of former President Jimmy Carter, Mr. Shalom and Rep. Solarz were able to bring 400 Jewish women who wanted to marry within their faith to the United States from Syria in 1977.

JTA reported that Mr. Shalom is survived by two daughters, Alice Franco and Frances Shalom, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. A son, Robert, died in 2020. He was buried at the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem.

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