Alcalay (Alkalaj), Isaac

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ALCALAY (Alkalaj), ISAAC (1882–1978), rabbi. Born in Sofia, he studied at the Vienna Rabbinical Seminary and in 1909 was appointed chief rabbi of Serbia. While occupying this post he served as emissary of the Serbian government (1915–18), visiting the U.S. in 1918 on a mission on behalf of Serbian Jewry (which he described in the American Jewish Year Book, vol. 20, pp. 75–87; later published separately). In 1923 he founded the Rabbinical Federation of Yugoslavia and became its first president, helping to edit its annual Jevrejski Almanah (cf. volumes for 1920–30). In 1923 he was elected chief rabbi of Yugoslavia by King Alexander, a position of political importance at the time (see *Yugoslavia). He continued his activities abroad, attending the first Sephardi Congress (held at Vienna in 1925), where he was elected vice president of the World Sephardi Federation. When King Alexander made him a senator, Alcalay was the only Jew to sit in the Yugoslavian Upper House (1930–38). Until the Holocaust, Chief Rabbi Alcalay was a central figure and a unifying force for Yugoslav Jewry. He fled the country when the Germans occupied Yugoslavia in 1941 and, after a short stay in Palestine, settled in the U.S. in 1942, where he served as rabbi of the Sephardi community of New York. He later unified and organized the Sephardi communities there and became the chief rabbi of the Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America in 1943. He published a study on travels of Jews through the Balkans at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries (1928). In 1970, Alcalay was awarded a medal by Yeshiva University of New York. In 1971, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, the Association of Yugoslav Jews in the U.S. issued a souvenir journal in his honor.

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Alcalay (Alkalaj), Isaac

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