Rabbi Sitruk
Rabbi SitrukPhoto: Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90

Rabbi Yosef Haim Sitruk,who served for many years as the chief rabbi of France, passed away this morning (Sunday) in a local hospital at the age of 71.

About fifteen years ago Rabbi Sitruk suffered a stroke and the name Haim (life) was added to his original name, as is the tradition when a person is severely ill. Recently Rabbi Sitruk was hospitalized locally and this morning passed away.

The Shas party published a statement in the name of the party and Rabbi Shalom Cohen, head of the Porat Yosef yeshiva and the Shas council of Torah sages, in which they mourned the loss of "this great man, the illustrious Rabbi Yossef Haim Sitruk of blessed memory, who served as the chief rabbi of France for decades and ably led his community."

Rabbi Sitruk served as the rabbi of Strasbourg and Marseilles before becoming the French chief rabbi. He "elevated French Jewry in the manner and tradition received from previous generations, worked with pleasantness and charm to bring people to love of God and maintained strong connections with the French government in order to promote the needs of the French Jewish community," according to the Shas party statement.

Rabbi Sitruk also maintained a warm relationship with the late former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, with whom he consulted frequently on communal issues.

A few months ago Rabbi Sitruk was interviewed on the Paris-based Radio J and termed the gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv an "abomination" and an "attempt at the moral extermination of the People of Israel". He called for "a radical response" to the parade.

"The Torah states that homosexuality is an abomination and deems it a human failure," he explained. "The danger appears to me serious enough that everyone ought to openly express their outrage at such a transgression."

Rabbi Sitruk was speaking as tens of thousands of people marched in Tel Aviv at the 23rd gay Pride Parade. "I hope that listeners will respond in a radical way to this abomination," he added. His statements received a mixed response in the local Jewish community, with observant Jews supporting them.